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PhD scholarship, Microbial Ecology - 2018BAPFWETEX141Posted by: University of Antwerp
Posted date: 2018-Apr-12
The Faculty of Sciences at University of Antwerp has a full-time vacancy in the Department of Biology for a talented
PhD scholarship in the area of Microbial Ecology
"Microbial ecosystem functioning at oxic-anoxic interfaces in peatlands": Peatlands represent a globally significant pool of soil carbon that has been accumulating for millennia, and are an important sink for carbon dioxide and source of atmospheric methane. Some of the organic material that is deposited in peatlands is degraded by the ambient microbial community, while some is sequestered. Efficient decomposition is hampered by the lack of oxygen, and micro-organisms living at the oxic-anoxic interface in peatlands have evolved a variety of strategies to overcome this obstacle and effectively decompose organic matter. Recently, new mechanisms have been discovered how microbes can overcome the problem of staying in contact with oxygen while “mining” for electron donors and other resources in anoxic environments. Examples are long filamentous bacteria that are capable of long-distance electron transport as well as fungi that can act as O2 transporting vessels. These mechanisms may be important near the inundation layer as well as at the oxic-anoxic interface around plant roots. Within this project the evolutionary and ecological background of microbial strategies to overcome O2 limitation in peatlands will be studied in detail. The PhD student will explore which evolutionary strategies are used and how they may affect the geochemical cycling of carbon and other elements in peatlands.
Approaches: The microbial ecosystem at the interface of oxic and anoxic layers in peatlands will be studied using the following multidisciplinary approaches: in situsampling of oxic-anoxic interfaces in various peatlands in Northwestern Europe, laboratory incubations of peatland sediments with controlled oxic-anoxic interfaces, characterization of the pore water and solid phase geochemistry, determination of redox gradients by microsensor profiling, state-of-the-art microscopy, amplicon sequencing of microbial groups/genes, meta-genomics and/or meta-transcriptomics.
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