We are currently offering a fully funded, fixed-term PhD position starting November 2022 for 3 years. The successful candidate will be enrolled in the PhD Program in Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences of the University of Torino, Italy. The workplace: Soil Science and Biogeochemistry Group. Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Torino, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, Grugliasco (TO), Italy

Project background: Understanding soil processes driving organic C sequestration and GHG emissions in arable systems is fundamental to enhance ecosystem functions that contribute to mitigating climate change. This knowledge is also essential to identify management practices that can increase the environmental sustainability of cropping systems.

Apart from sustaining global food security through rice production, paddy soils represent major contributors to global GHG emissions though, at the same time, hold an important potential to sequester C. The balance between C source and sink functions of rice agro-ecosystems is however not always clear due to several knowledge gaps on the soil processes that regulate belowground C cycling as a function of the different agricultural practices and soil types used for rice cultivation. Moreover, soil processes driving the trade-off between methane emissions and C sequestration are still not fully understood, especially due to the complex interactions and feedbacks between plants, soils and microorganisms.

Job description

Specifically, this PhD project will focus on belowground C allocation by rice plants and the contribution of root-derived C (including rhizodeposition) to labile and stable organic matter pools as a function of different agricultural management practices. The research will provide novel insights into the factors that control C cycling in the rice rhizosphere and root detritusphere, even through the use of stable isotope tracing techniques, in order to elucidate the implications of belowground C inputs on driving methane production and C sequestration in these redox-dynamic environments.

The project is flexible and could take on a methodological or applied focus depending on the interests of the student. Research outcomes will integrate our understanding of the effects of agricultural practices on the environmental sustainability of rice cropping systems, and contribute scientific knowledge essential to improve our conceptual model of soil C cycling and budgets in rice paddies.
The PhD program also provides a broad selection of learning opportunities (including courses in bibliographic research tools and statistical analysis) while maintaining a research focus.

Required profile:

We are looking for a well-motivated and highly-qualified PhD student committed to pursuing soil science research. The ideal candidate should have a solid background in soil science, and a broad interest in the sustainability of agricultural cropping systems, with a MSc degree in Agricultural Sciences, Agroecology, Geosciences, Environmental Chemistry or other related fields. Experience with field sampling and chemical laboratory analysis (in particular soil organic matter fractionation and stable isotope mass spectrometry) will be considered an asset.

The candidate must have the ability to work independently with flexibility as part of a team, and a willingness to learn new skills related to soil biogeochemistry. The candidate is expected to demonstrate critical thinking and a working proficiency (both oral and written) in English.

The candidate will have the opportunity to publish his/her results in peer-review journals and present them at national and international conferences. The University of Torino seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply.

How to apply:

Interested applicants are to send a motivation letter and CV to Daniel Said Pullicino by email to daniel.saidpullicino@unito.it. Informal inquiries are welcome by email or phone (+39)011.670.8685. Further information about our research group can be obtained by visiting www.raer.unito.it . Details regarding formal application procedures, that will open on the 28 April (deadline 31 May, interviews mid-June), will be provided.

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