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Understanding the role of nitrogen speciation in controlling the biodiversity of freshwater algal communities

   Envision DTP

  Dr E Mackay, Dr Imke Grefe  Wednesday, January 12, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Lancaster United Kingdom Biochemistry Biodiversity Ecology Environmental Biology Environmental Chemistry Biological Sciences Environmental Sciences Pollution

About the Project

The project: Freshwater ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain are among the most threatened ecosystems globally. Nutrient pollution via excessive inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus is perhaps the most significant pressure acting on these ecosystems. However, our understanding of how different nutrient elements influence the stability and diversity of primary producer communities in freshwaters, including algae, remains limited. This is particularly true for the multiple inorganic and organic nitrogen compounds in freshwaters. Whilst nitrogen availability and speciation play a key role in shaping algal communities by favouring the growth of different algal groups, much less is known about how these factors impact wider community stability and diversity. This project will investigate the role of nitrogen speciation in shaping algal community diversity and stability in lakes and rivers across a nutrient enrichment gradient in the English Lake District. Combining fieldwork, experimental manipulation of environmental conditions in the laboratory and field, and stable isotope analyses and enumeration of algal samples, the project aims to develop new understanding of the role for nitrogen in controlling freshwater algal communities.

The PhD opportunity: You will join a multi-disciplinary team across the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) and Lancaster Environment Centre, one of the largest groupings focused on environment-orientated research in Europe. Your research will be based within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the English Lake District, with access to leading analytical and experimental facilities in both UKCEH and Lancaster University. You will be trained and become expert in a wide range of ecological and biogeochemical research techniques, including taxonomic identification of algae and stable nitrogen isotope analysis. Building on existing links provided by the research team, you will have the opportunity to engage with multiple external partners around your research, including the National Park Authority, Environment Agency and water companies.  


Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in Ecology, Environmental Science, Natural Science, Geography, Chemistry or Biology

You should have a strong interest in aquatic ecology or biogeochemistry. A full UK driving licence is required to access field sites. It will also be an advantage to have good communication skills, a practical attitude and to be pro-active and self-motivated.


Please feel free to contact Dr Ellie Mackay or Dr Imke Grefe if you’d like to discuss any element of the project or your application.

To apply for this project follow this link

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