PhD and Postdoc Opportunities in Soil Microbial Ecology and Soil Organic Matter related to agriculture and climate change. The Soil Biogeochemistry and Ecology Lab at McGill University and the Quebec Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are seeking candidates for one PhD position and one Postdoctoral Fellow. Both positions are part of a multidisciplinary project examining the interactive effects of crop diversity and altered precipitation regimes on soils, microbial processes, pesticide use, and agronomic performance.

Our goal is to determine if and how increased crop diversity attenuates the responses of soil carbon, microbial communities, and pesticide use to changing precipitation patterns. The positions are funded through the FRQNT-MAPAQ Partnership Research Program-Sustainable Agriculture. Both the PhD and Postdoc will be co-supervised by Drs. Cynthia Kallenbach (McGill) and Mary-Cathrine Leewis (AAFC).

PhD Opportunity:

This position is focused on understanding how soil microbial community composition and function is affected by altered precipitation and how microbial responses to changing precipitation might be modified by increasing crop diversity. The student will work within the DART (Diversity And Rainfall Treatments) field trials at McGill University. Using a combined approach of molecular microbial ecology (including metagenomic and amplicon sequencing) and functional assays (e.g., microbial growth, enzyme assays), we will examine microbial responses associated with soil organic matter cycling, nutrients, and pesticide retention.

Successful candidates should have a strong interest in basic and applied soil microbial ecology, and in applying bioinformatic skills to hypothesis testing. The candidate will collaborate with other graduate students and postdocs on the project. The student will be based at McGill University and will spend time at the AAFC lab. There are several opportunities for farmer and stakeholder engagement. A MSc in microbial ecology or related fields is preferred but not required.

Start date: September 1st 2022 but flexible. For students starting the McGill graduate program in Winter 2023, please note that the application deadline for international students is July 15th 2022 and for Canadian residents it is September 1st 2022.

Postdoctoral Opportunity:

This position is funded for a minimum of 2 years and is focused on understanding how increasing crop diversity influences the response of soil organic matter to reduced and increased precipitation. We will consider mechanisms related to soil organic matter retention and destabilization, distribution within the soil profile, and across soil organic matter molecular and functional pools. The candidate should have a particular interest in learning methods in soil organic molecular chemistry such as pyrolysis GC/MS.

The candidate will be part of a larger team working within the crop diversity by precipitation DART field trial and will be expected to collaborate with other PhD students and project co-PIs. Opportunities in outreach and engagement, networking, and career development will be supported. Successful candidates should have a strong interest soil carbon and soil chemistry. Experience with stable isotopes and applying GC/MS techniques is a benefit.
Start date: Summer 2022 but flexible.
Salary: Salary may vary by experience. Minimum salary is $45,000 CAD annually plus benefits.

About the Soil Ecology and Biogeochemistry Lab:

Our group is in the Natural Resource Sciences Department at McGill University. Our research couples soil ecology and biogeochemistry to understand soil organic matter turnover and accumulation and microbial-plant interactions affecting carbon and nutrient cycling in the context of agricultural systems and in response to global change. The lab is dedicated to providing a safe and supportive environment that celebrates a culture of inclusivity, communication, and equality.

About AAFC:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) provides leadership in the growth and development of a competitive, innovative and sustainable Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. In this context, the research carried out at the Quebec Research and Development Centre (RDC) aims to boost agricultural productivity and sustainability in a cold, humid climate and environmental performance through the development of field crop systems that incorporate perennial forage species. Quebec RDC activities are aligned with the “Forages and Beef” and “Agricultural Ecosystem Productivity and Health” sectors and aim primarily to increase agricultural productivity, improve environmental performance and combat value chain threats by reducing risks to agricultural production.

About McGill:

McGill University is Canada’s premiere university for research excellence and teaching and one of the top 50 universities worldwide. The Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Science is located at McGill’s Macdonald Campus, just 30 km from vibrant downtown Montreal, providing students with both cultural and recreational opportunities. McGill University is committed to diversity and equity and welcomes applications from: women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity, visible minorities, and others who may contribute to diversification.


If you are interested in one of these positions, please apply by completing this google survey and we will contact you! Please direct any questions about the positions to and with “RQRAD Position Application” in the subject line.
We will start reviewing applications on June 1 but applications will continue to be reviewed until the position is filled.

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