QUADRAT DTP: Investigating the role of archaea in peatland microbial ecosystems.

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof C Allen, Prof Cecile Gubry-Rangin  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This fully funded, 42-month PhD project is part of the QUADRAT Doctoral Training Partnership.

This project is fundamentally concerned with understanding the carbon cycle in peat wetland (including blanket bog) microbial ecosystems – both restored and naturally produced. We can see archaea playing two key roles:

  1. They are critical for methanogenesis – the pathway for conversion of deposited organic carbon into methane, a greenhouse gas. Because peatlands are highly anaerobic this process might be expected to dominate. Methanogenesis leads to slow release of carbon from organic material in a fully functioning wetland ecosystem.
  2. Archaea may also play a role in the sequestration of methane into both soil organic matter (SOM) and carbon dioxide in such an ecosystem. While the role of eubacteria in this activity is well established, the function of archaea in also facilitating sequestration of methane is relatively novel.

The critical division between (1) and (2) is the presence or absence of oxygen: (1) is anaerobic, (2) tends to be aerobic[CG1] . Yet, functioning peatlands are considered as net carbon sinks:  so here we expect anaerobic methanogensis  to be rate limiting to the aerobic process. In restored or drained peatland however, this may not be the case.  Carbon turnover i[CG2] n drained or highly aerobic peatland may utilise other, faster carbon release mechanisms to generate carbon dioxide.

In this project we hypothesise that the profile of archaeal microbial communities can be used as a diagnostic tool to differentiate between a restored and naturally occurring peat wetland[CG3] . If this is the case, then the profiling of archaeal communities in a restored peatland may be a useful tool to validate the peatland restoration process. We will use metagenomic analysis to directly assess the relative roles of these communities – both in terms of abundance and functional gene activities. We propose that the differences between restored peat wetland, drained/non-restored wetland, and ancient/undamaged wetland, will be quantitatively measurable and definitive in terms of the profile of archaeal communities present. Peatland/blanket bog sites have already been identified in Northern Ireland that can be employed in this study.

Candidate Background:

  • Experience and training microbial bioinformatic processes related to soil metagenomics
  • A demonstrated interest in the microbiology of archaea
  • Environmentally aware and understanding of carbon sequestration approaches

Candidates should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Masters level.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact Professor Chris Allen ([Email Address Removed]) for further information.



  • Please visit this page for full application information: How To Apply – QUADRAT
  • Please send your completed application form, along with academic transcripts to [Email Address Removed]
  • Please ensure that two written references from your referees are submitted. It is your responsibility to ensure these are provided, as we will not request references on your behalf.
  • Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications.
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.
  • If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed]

Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

This opportunity is open to UK and International students (The proportion of international students appointed through the QUADRAT DTP is capped at 30% by UKRI NERC).
Funding covers:
• A monthly stipend for accommodation and living costs, based on UKRI rates (£18,622 for the 23/24 academic year. Stipend rates for the 24/25 academic year have not been set yet)
• Tuition Fees
• Research and training costs
QUADRAT DTP does not provide funding to cover visa and associated healthcare surcharges for international students.


• Dandare S., Young J.M., Kelleher, B., Allen, C.C.R. (2019) The distribution of novel bacterial laccases in alpine paleosols is directly related to soil stratigraphy. Science of the Total Environment. 671 p19.
• Sheridan P.O., Meng, Y., Williams, T.A, Gubry-Rangin, C. (2023) Genomics of soil depth niche partitioning in the Thaumarchaeota family Gagatemarchaeaceae. Nature Communications. 14 (1) p7305.
• McAnallen, L., Doherty, R., Donohue, S., Kirmizakis, P. & Mendonça, C., (2018) Combined use of geophysical and geochemical methods to assess areas of active, degrading and restored blanket bog. Science of the Total Environment. 621, p762
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