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Microbial technologies for converting P-loaded Fe(III) oxides (EU funded)

Project Description

This project will focus on the development of novel biotechnological routes for the production phosphate-containing agricultural fertilizers. It is part of the European H2020 Marie Slodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network P-TRAP (Preventing Phosphorus Input to Surface Waters – New Concepts in Trapping, Recycling and Management) and is based in Manchester, but will involve research collaborations with other p-TRAP partners in mainland Europe . P-TRAP tackles two urgent interlinked global problems: Potential shortages of phosphate for producing agricultural fertilizers and the decline of surface water quality upon excess phosphate input. P-TRAP targets the P flux from artificially drained agricultural areas and the internal P load of lakes. By this, P-TRAP aims at intercepting the undesired flux of phosphate from agricultural systems into surface waters and developing a phosphate recycling strategy.

In this project the PhD student will work on microbial-based processes for the bioconversion of P-loaded Fe(III) oxides to the readily bioavailable Fe(II) phosphate vivianite. To achieve this, the research programme will optimise both phosphate sorption to Fe(III) oxides, and the subsequent bioconversion to bio-vivianite using appropriate P fertilisers, microbial inocula and bioreactor systems; where possible waste or recycled starting materials will be used. Additional context will be obtained through collaboration with industrial partners where the effectiveness of biovivianite as a P fertiliser will be assessed. Approaches employed will include microbiological techniques (including genomic tools where appropriate), biomineral synthesis and characterisation, biogeochemical analyses and synchrotron spectroscopy. The project will be performed in close collaboration with UK and international partners and will involve secondments at academic and commercial partners in the P-TRAP project consortium, including laboratories in Switzerland and Spain.
We seek an enthusiastic PhD student holding a BSc or MSc degree (at the start of the contract) with appropriate background knowledge in environmental sciences, earth sciences and/or (environmental) microbiology, and with a strong passion for geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry. You have a solid knowledge of microbial/biogeochemical processes in aquatic and terrestrial environments, and an interest in cross-disciplinary environmental science. You approach scientific problems with determination and are eager to develop multidisciplinary skills. You must be willing to travel abroad for secondments and measurement campaigns, and to present your research to an international research community. As this project requires close collaboration within the consortium, candidates are expected to be excellent team players. You also have excellent written and spoken English skills.

According to EU eligibility criteria, researchers may be of any nationality, BUT must be at their early carrier stage and may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in The UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the application deadline.

Please note that applications must be made via the vacancy portal at the University of Utrecht who are coordinating P-TRAP ( This Manchester-based post is ESR 5.
Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Prof. Jon Lloyd via .

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