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Volcanic fertilisation of tropical forest biomes


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  Dr A Smith, Dr P Wynn  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Tropical rainforest biomes are some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, but these systems are also particularly vulnerable to changing climatic and environmental conditions. This studentship will aim to answer fundamental questions about how volcanism may alter the composition, structure, flowering dynamics and productivity of tropical forests, by supplying them with much needed nutrients such as phosphorus (P) during ash falls. The student will undertake fieldwork at Bulusan Lake in the Philippines, collecting soil samples and coring this pristine lake to extract a record of climate, volcanic and biological history spanning the last 2000 years. Once back in the UK, the student will be based at the British Geological Survey (BGS), utilising the world leading laboratory facilities at the National Environmental Isotope Facility and the National Core Scanning Facility to interrogate the geochemical signatures trapped in these sediment cores. There will be placement time at the University of Copenhagen to extract and analyse modern and ancient DNA. This multiproxy approach will allow the student to uncover critical information regarding the modern P cycle and soil P limitation, as well as the true impact volcanic events have had on the P cycle in the palaeorecord and in turn the development and flowering of the surrounding tropical forest. These findings could potentially offer a “step change” in our understanding of tropical forest development in volcanically active regions.  

We are looking for a highly motivated individual who is confident working in the field, travelling internationally and working in laboratory environments to develop their geochemical and microbiological skills. There will be significant training on soil sampling, lake coring and laboratory methodologies and the successful applicant must expect to spend lots of time in the laboratory undertaking a diverse range of analysis, in addition to some bioinformatic analysis (related to aDNA analysis). The successful candidate will be expected to present their findings at national and international conferences.

We are looking for someone with a biological sciences, physical geography, chemistry or environmental sciences background, preferably with some laboratory and fieldwork experience, and an interest in learning bioinformatic analysis.

For enquires please contact: Dr Andrew Smith via email [Email Address Removed] or phone 01159363541.

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