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Impact of soil and grassland management on microbially mediated soil organic matter mineralisation

  • Full or part time
    Dr N Kennedy
    Dr Fiona Brennan
    Dr D Wall
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 20, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Post summary
We seek a highly motivated and able candidate to undertake a PhD project in soil microbiology. This project will evaluate the impact of soil and grassland management on plant-microbial interactions that mediate soil organic matter mineralisation, using a mixture of isotopic, enzymatic, molecular and next-generation sequencing techniques. Specifically it will investigate the effects of potassium and sulphur soil fertility on soil N supply through SOM mineralisation processes, and the effect of both sward type (monoculture/grass-clover and multi-species) and carbon inputs (organic amendments, humics, fulvics etc.) on N mineralisation. Results from this project will directly feed in to soil management advice for farmers and policy makers for increasing nitrogen use efficiency and reducing environmental losses of nitrogen from grassland systems.
This studentship will comprise part of the DAFM-funded FASTEN (Farm sustainability tools for efficient nutrient management) project and the student will work closely with a wider team of researchers, PhD students, agricultural advisors and technicians. The FASTEN project brings together the complementary resources and expertise sets of the three participating institutes (Teagasc, Waterford Institute of Technology and University College Dublin) and will provide valuable multidisciplinary training and research opportunities in soil microbiology, soil chemistry, environmental science, agronomy and bioinformatics. The student will work within the dynamic research teams at Environment Soil and Land-use Department at Teagasc Johnstown Castle and the Waterford institute of Technology (WIT). These multi-disciplinary teams have vast experience and publications within the fields of soil physics, soil:plant interactions, soil biology, nutrient cycling and agronomy. The student will also interact with other students conducting their PhD at Teagasc Johnstown Castle and WIT in an open and friendly learning environment. The PhD student will be supported to carry out research studies using state-of-the-art equipment, during which they will develop skills in experimental design, laboratory and field techniques,
scientific data collection etc. This work will be a combination of controlled laboratory experiments and field trials with a great opportunity to design, innovative and conduct novel research in the area of soil microbiology and soil health. During this PhD, the student will also receive graduate training and will complete a number of courses tailored towards their area such as soil science, project management, experimental design, data collection and statistical analysis, scientific writing etc. which will benefit their future career.

Standard duties and responsibilities of the scholarship

• Carry out literature review on the impact of carbon inputs (organic amendments, humics, fulvics etc.) on N mineralisation
• Carry out pot, plot, and field trials on the effects of soil fertility and sward type (monoculture/grass-clover and multi-species swards) on N mineralisation
• Analyse soil samples using techniques including stable isotope probing, enzyme profiling, and molecular and next-generation sequencing techniques
• Collaborate with the other members of the broader research project to produce soil management advice for farmers and policy makers
• Write papers with the results obtained and attend conferences and meetings

Person specification



• At least a 2.1 class honours degree or M.Sc. in Microbiology, Soil Science or related discipline


• MSc or other postgraduate qualification in a related area

Knowledge & Experience



• Prior experience in molecular ecology or soil microbiology

Skills & Competencies


• Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language Requirements for details.


• Full Irish/European driving license
• Journal/conference/workshop publications writing and submission experience

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year full-time programme

Stipend: €19,500 p/a
Fees: €4,500 p/a

Further information

For any informal queries, please contact Dr. Fiona Brennan, +353 53 9171332, or Dr. Nabla Kennedy +353 51 84 5509, .

For queries relating to the application and admission process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office via email or telephone +353 (0)51 302883.

Website: View Website

Application procedure

Please download the Research Postgraduate Application Form from the WIT Website and return completed applications to quoting “WD_2020_06” in the email subject line. Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted.

Related Subjects

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