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Were tropical peatlands responsible for the atmospheric CH4 concentration increase during the last deglatiation? Geography PhD studentship.


College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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Dr A Gallego-Sala , Dr J Love , Dr Richard Tennant No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Background:

Atmospheric methane (CH4) concentrations have varied widely and abruptly in response to natural climate cycles, e.g. the last deglaciation1; but the causes of this variations have remained controversial2. We know tropical wetlands are likely to play an important part of the methane budget at present time3,4. Because of the anoxic conditions found within their sediments, wetlands are the main natural emitter of methane and more than half of the annual methane emitted to the atmosphere at present is from tropical wetlands3. They are also the main driver for interannual variability of methane and have been shown to be very sensitive to climatic change4. But the role of tropical peatlands in driving atmospheric methane concentration during the last deglaciation is still heavily debated5,6,7. This project will aim to use the peatland record to investigate the importance of tropical peatlands in methane production during the last deglaciation.

Project Aims and Methods:

The successful candidate will join a multi-disciplinary team of scientists to investigate methane production in tropical peatlands using the following approaches:

1) Collection of tropical peat core spanning the last deglaciation period (~16-20 Ka BP) until present times in a tropical setting. This may involve field work in Indonesia.

2) Quantification of changes in methane production and consumption during the deglaciation period using biomarkers and compound specific isotopes in these peat samples8.

3) Quantification of wetland hydrological cycles through time (which has a major impact on the methane cycle) using testate amoeba9 in these peat samples.

4) DNA sequencing of the paleo-microbiome in order to determine the presence of different methanogenic archaea groups through time10.

The student will be encouraged to be involved in the final design of the project, including bringing in their own ideas in order to influence the direction of the research according to their interests.

Collaborative partner:

CEH will offer a unique opportunity for training on modern-day methane emissions, as part of an on-going project with Natural Resources Wales on Lowland Raised Bogs. This will add another aspect to the project that will allow the student to develop a calibration of the paleo-proxies using modern-day data.

Training:

This project will provide training in cutting-edge laboratory methods including biomarkers, testate amoeba and DNA sequencing. The student will also be provided with extensive training in field skills with the opportunity to conduct field work in Indonesia (not mandatory). The student will be encouraged to participate in NERC GW4+ DTP training courses to develop both technical and personal skills essential for a successful scientific career. Funding is also provided for the student to present their research at a major international conference. The student will be supported to apply for travel grants to support further travel opportunities.

Useful links:
For information relating to the research project please contact the lead Supervisor (Prof. Gallego-Sala) via email: [Email Address Removed]

Prospective applicants:
For information about the application process please contact the Admissions team via [Email Address Removed].
Each research studentship project advertisement has an ‘Apply Now’ button linking to an application portal.

Please note that applications received via other routes including a standard programme application route will not be considered for the studentship funding.

Funding Notes

NERC GW4+ funded studentship available for September 2021 entry. For eligible students, the studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,285 per annum for 2020-21.

References

Background reading and references:

1.Brook et al. Science 273, 1087–1091 (1996).
2.Schaefer et al. Science 313, 1109–1112 (2006).
3.Bloom et al. Science 327, 322–325 (2010).
4.Ciais et al. in Stocker eds. 465–570 (2013).
5.Reyes & Cooke PNAS 108 4748-4753 (2011).
6.Xu et al. Sci. Rep. 6, 30431 (2016).
7.Brook et al. Global Biogeochem. Cycles 14, 559 (2000).
8.Zheng et al. Geol. 48, 82-86 (2020)
9.Swindles et al. Ecol. Indicators 91 636-644 (2018)
10.Hales et al. App & Env Microbiol 62 668-675 (1996).


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