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Combining carbon, hydrogen and Hg compound specific isotope analysis to understand MMHg origin.

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Saturday, February 29, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

All humans are exposed to toxic monomethyl-Hg (MMHg) when we consume marine fish. The origin of MMHg in marine ecosystems is however not well understood. MMHg formation is likely microbial, but could be abiotic. Which microbes methylate marine inorganic Hg is not known, and the role of the gaseous dimethyl-Hg form as a precursor or product of MMHg is also not known. The isotopic composition of Hg, carbon and hydrogen carry information on the sources and transformation pathways of MMHg, and are the topic of investigation in this PhD project.


To develop novel carbon (δ13C) and hydrogen (δD) isotopic tracers of the ’methyl’ group of the MMHg (CH3Hg) compound; to couple novel C/H isotopic tracers with Hg stable isotopic analysis; to explore and fingerprint the fundamental mechanisms at the origin of MMHg formation under laboratory-controlled experiments, in the field, during oceanographic cruises and in biological samples originating from different ocean basins.

Methodology and Expected Results

This PhD project involves analytical chemistry, method development, analysis of environmental, biological samples, and minor fieldwork. The ESR will (i) validate methodologies for the 3D (δ13C-δDδ202Hg/Δ199Hg) isotopic analysis of MMHg in natural samples at low concentrations (zooplankton); (ii) study 3D (δ13C-δD-δ202Hg/Δ199Hg) isotopic variations of MMHg during abiotic and biotic Hg methylation experiments, under controlled laboratory conditions; (iii) document the 3D isotopic variations of MMHg in marine organisms collected from different study sites of ESR 4, 5, 6, 7. The trophic ecology and habitat of these organisms will also be documented by complementary analysis of δ13C, and δ15N signatures on individual amino acids.

Planned secondments

IRD (A. Lorrain), 2 months, investigation of the 3D (δ13C-δD-δ202Hg/Δ199Hg) signatures of MMHg in marine food web in relation with marine predators foraging ecology; SU (S. Jonsson), 1 month, the role and interaction of CH3Hg with DOM; UPPA (D. Amouroux), 3 months, Hg/C isotopic fractionation during lab biomethylation reactions.

Eligibility Criteria

GMOS-Train is looking for a broad international representation of early stage researchers. The network clearly acknowledges its responsibility for the recruitment of the researchers,
their working and living conditions, as stated in the document “The European Charter for Researchers - Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers”. Gender equality and
minority rights will also be promoted in the selection process. There is no age limit.


The positions are open to all nationalities. However, your application has to comply with the European Commission’s Mobility Rules, meaning that at the time of recruitment you must not have resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the
country of the host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the reference date (indicative start of the employment contract, Month Date 2020).
Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account (European Commission’s Guide for Applicants).

Early-stage Researcher (ESR)

In case you have already gained prior work experience in academia, you shall be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career at the
time of recruitment by the host organisation and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. Full-time equivalent research experience is measured from the date when you
obtained the degree entitling you to embark on a doctorate, even if a doctorate was never started or envisaged. Part-time research experience will be counted pro-rata (European
Commission’s Guide for Applicants).

Relevant University Degree

Master’s degree or equivalent in Environmental and Health Science or related fields.

Selection Process

In case an individual researcher is interested in several advertised ESR projects, he/she may apply for a maximum of three specific ESR projects and list their order
of preference.

The selection committee will check applications against the following criteria:

- Scientific background and potential as indicated by candidate experience.
- Fit to a research project.
- Evidence of ability to undertake research.
- Evidence of working within groups or teams.
- Impact and benefit of the proposed training to the candidate’s research career.

Three candidates will be short-listed for each research project and invited to an interview (interviews by video link will be held if candidates are not able to travel).

Interviews will consist of two parts:
1) a short presentation by the candidate followed by questions and answers, and
2) competence-based interview.

How to apply

Please find details about the ESR project descriptions, application process and modalities at

All applications must be submitted by means of on-line application on the official GMOS-Train project website:

Deadline for application is February 29th 2020.

Funding Notes

Prestigious EU fellowship.

Highly competitive and attractive salary and working conditions.

Excellent training programme covering health and environment science and state-of-the-art technologies.

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