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ONE Planet DTP - The role of soil ecology and microbiology in sustainable carbon capture (carbonate precipitation) within artificial soils incorporating industry wastes (Ref: OP20305)

Project Description

Project Description:
In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions it is recognised that sequestration of carbon (geoengineering) is a vital requirement for the future of the planet in mitigating the effects of climate change. Alongside this imperative, as we work towards the Sustainable Development Goals, we must also reconsider what we currently define as wastes and aim to reuse these resources to increase contributions to a circular economy. Mineral wastes used to produce artificial soils, e.g. crushed concrete from demolition waste, steel slag, or basaltic quarry fines, have previously been recognised for their carbonate precipitation properties and contribution to carbon sequestration (e.g. Manning et al. 2013 INT J GREENH GAS CON 13:309-317).
Building on previous research at Newcastle University (, this PhD project will make use of plots of artificial soils created in 2015 composed of mixes of mineral wastes. These plots have been investigated for their geotechnical properties and carbon storage. At a broad scale the artificial soils were effective in precipitating carbonates, yet the fundamental processes leading to carbon capture have not yet been defined at a higher resolution. This project will study carbonate precipitation in artificial soils at a molecular level. Using a combination of new experiments and sampling from existing sites, carbonate formation will be quantified using standard techniques (e.g. Calcimeter, LECO), in addition to monitoring the soil geochemical and geotechnical properties. DNA sequencing tools will be used to determine microbial community composition, and correlation with the geochemical data will elucidate the role of microbes in carbonate precipitation. The ability of artificial soils to support functional soil communities (e.g. protists, amoeba, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworms) and their role in carbonate precipitation will also be investigated. The student will benefit from the opportunity to work across groups with wide-ranging expertise, including: (i) Newcastle University (geomicrobiology: Dr Neil Gray; Dr Angela Sherry); (ii) Northumbria University (soil ecology and urban ecosystem services: Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller; Dr Mark Goddard); and (iii) Abertay University, Dundee (geotechnical engineering: Dr Ehsan Jorat).
Prerequisites: Applicants must meet eligibility criteria of the One Planet DTP: . The project is suitable for a student with a background in soil ecology, biogeochemistry or microbiology. Experience of next-generation sequencing is desirable. For more information, please contact Dr Miranda Prendergast-Miller ().

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. OP.....) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

We have a minimum of 12 (3.5 year) PhD fully funded studentship awards available for October 2020 entry. Each award includes fees (Home / EU), an annual living allowance (for 2019/20 this is £15,009) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, as required)

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