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Stable isotope biogeochemistry and hydrogeology

   Dept of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering

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  Prof C Rocha  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Duration: 4 years full-time. These are structured PhD programs, funded by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, and the GSI (Geological Survey Ireland,, through Project GRADS & SMARTS (GRoundwater Age DistributionS for the Sustainable MAnagement of gRoundwaTer reSources in Ireland)

Stipend: €18,500 pa + tuition fees for 4 years

Project: The research will support the sustainable management of groundwater, particularly with respect to anthropogenic contamination and especially with regards to nitrate (fertilizer) pollution and advance the quantification and monitoring of climate and environmental change impacts on the local water cycle, and support environmental forensics seeking to understand sources, pathways and timing of contaminant flows, including nitrate, through groundwater bodies to receptor ecosystems.

Methodology will be varied, spanning hydrochemistry, radiochemistry and stable isotope analysis using Cavity-Ring-Down Spectroscopy (CRDS) technology. Samples to analyse will include water, collected in surface and groundwaters as well as from precipitation, soils and sediments. The candidates will work in the newly established Environmental Tracer and Forensics Laboratory in TCD, with capacity to quantify stable isotope ratios (δ13C in CO2, δ15N, δ15Nα, δ15Nβ, δ18O in N2O, and δ18O, δD in H2O) and natural radio isotope activities (222Rn, 223Ra, 224Ra, 228Ra and 226Ra in water) as environmental tracers of groundwater flow in both laboratory and field settings at high temporal resolution and precision in parallel with the classical hydrochemical suite of analytes (NO3-, Cl-, DO, etc).


The candidate will be responsible for the core tasks below:

·      Organisation and collection of samples

·      Conduction of field sampling, soil incubations, sample and data analysis.

·      Maintenance and up-keep of equipment

·      Helping with the coordination of a citizen science campaign

·      Drafting study outcomes for submission to peer-review journals

Entry requirements:

 We seek candidates with an excellent undergraduate degree or a Masters in a relevant discipline (e.g., hydrogeology, earth and ocean sciences, environmental/analytical chemistry, environmental engineering, or similar). A good foundation in chemistry and an interest in biogeochemistry are highly desirable, and experience with water quality monitoring, sample and data collection in field settings will be highly valued. The ideal candidates will demonstrate good communication skills in English, the ability to work independently as well as in team settings, and, most importantly, a growth mindset and good interpersonal and teamwork skills. Broad interest in general and interdisciplinary science would be appreciated – the project will combine aspects of biogeochemistry and hydrology. A clean E.U driving licence is essential.


• A first-class (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in environmental sciences/engineering, earth and ocean sciences, environmental/analytical chemistry, or another discipline directly relevant to the topic

• Excellent communicative (written and oral) competence in English

• Excellent research, protocol design, and organisational skills

• Ability to work and drive to field locations (ability to drive in Ireland, and/or complete license exam by start of PhD position)

• Be a pro-active, self-directed individual and able to work alone as well as part of a team in a collaborative, structured environment


• A Master’s degree (completed or in progress) in environmental chemistry or hydrogeology, or related discipline directly relevant to the topic

• Demonstrable experience of using an IRMS and experience in isotope environmental chemistry

• Demonstrable experience of performing statistical analysis (use of R, python, Excel, GraphPad, etc)

• Evidence of publication (or in press) in international peer-reviewed journals

How to apply:

Please email a letter of introduction and a current CV, indicating your research experience and including the names of referees, to Dr. Carlos Rocha at [Email Address Removed] with the subject line ‘Grads & Smarts PhD application'.

Closing date for applications: 5th March 2022

Expected start date: 1st April 2022

Interviews will be conducted in March 2022 for an expected start date in and around the 1st of April 2022. Informal discussion is encouraged – please email Dr. Carlos Rocha with any questions you might have.

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