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Do Minerals Promote the Preservation of Organic Carbon in Marine Sediments?

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Peacock
    Prof S Poulton
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

This PhD is focused on the carbon cycle in the marine environment, and specifically will investigate whether minerals are able to promote the preservation of organic carbon in marine sediments. Understanding what controls the preservation of organic carbon in the oceans is of prime importance because the balance between carbon preservation and degradation exerts a first order control on atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen, and therefore on Earth’s climate and oxygenation.

This position is fully funded for 3.5 years, including stipend and tuition fees, and comes with a research budget. The successful candidate will work alongside a leading research team based at the University of Leeds, UK, led by Dr Caroline Peacock, and will spend time at the UK’s world-class Diamond Light Source synchrotron, where we will perform cutting-edge experiments to investigate mineral-carbon interactions. The project will address some of the fundamental challenges in understanding how organic carbon interacts with minerals. We will use cutting-edge technology, including synchrotron spectroscopy, to investigate how dissolved organic carbon is taken up by minerals, and whether this association can protect carbon from microbial degradation. The PhD will involve extensive laboratory work and the candidate will be trained in a multitude of experimental geochemical methods, advanced molecular-level analytical techniques, and state-of-the-art geochemical modelling.

Background Required:
We seek excellent applicants with a strong background and research interests in marine geochemistry, biogeochemistry, or a closely related discipline, and those with previous experimental geochemistry or biogeochemistry experience are particularly welcome. Excellent command of both spoken and written English is essential.

Key words: Geochemistry; Biogeochemistry; Marine; Carbon Cycle; Minerals

Funding Notes

University of Leeds and Diamond Light Source synchrotron co-funded project open to UK and EU candidates only. This 3.5 years funding award will include a tax-free stipend at enhanced UKRC rates (~£16,300 for 2016/17), full tuition fees and a research training and support grant.


Arndt S., Jørgensen B.B., LaRowe D.E., Middelburg J.J., Pancost R.D. and Regnier P. (2013) Quantifying the degradation of organic matter in marine sediments: A review and synthesis. Earth-Science Reviews 123, p53.

Burdige D.J. (2007) Preservation of organic matter in marine sediments: controls, mechanisms, and an imbalance in sediment organic carbon budgets? Chemical Reviews 107, p467.

Chen C., Dynes J.J., Wang J. and Sparks D.L. (2014) Properties of Fe-organic matter associations via coprecipitation versus adsorption. Environmental Science & Technology 48, p13751.

Hedges J.I. and Keil R.G. (1995) Sedimentary organic matter preservation: an assessment and speculative synthesis. Marine Chemistry 49, p81.

Keil R.G. and Mayer L.M. (2014) Mineral matrices and organic matter. In: Treatise on Geochemistry v2; v12 Organic Geochemistry, p337. Elsevier.

Keil R.G., Montluçon D.B., Prahl F.G. and Hedges J.I. (1994) Sorptive preservation of labile organic matter in marine sediments. Nature 370, p549.

Lalonde K. Mucci A., Ouellet A. and Gélinas Y. (2012) Preservation of organic matter in sediments promoted by iron. Nature 483, p198.

Mayer L.M. (1994a) Surface area control of organic carbon accumulation in continental shelf sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 58, p1271.

Mayer L.M. (1994b) Relationships between mineral surfaces and organic carbon concentrations in soils and sediments. Chemical Geology 114, p347.

Mikutta R., Mikutta C., Kalbitz K., Scheel T., Kaiser K. and Jahn R. (2007) Biodegradation of forest floor organic matter bound to minerals via different binding mechanisms. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 71, p2569.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 79.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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