A funded PhD available to investigate the impact of agricultural practice on soil biological health & functioning SoilMicrobiome: “Farming for soil health: assessing the impact of agricultural practice on soil microbial biodiversity and functioning” Ref 2022002. We seek a highly motivated and able candidate to undertake a PhD project in soil microbiology that will build on an existing research programme addressing questions around the impact of agricultural management on soil biodiversity and functioning within grassland systems.

As international efforts towards carbon neutrality and environmental sustainability intensify, a key focus is to develop climate-resilient agricultural systems that are capable of maintaining food production and farm incomes, while minimising environmental impacts.

Particularly challenging will be maintaining agricultural productivity against the backdrop of substantial policy-mandated reductions in fertiliser and chemical inputs, while enhancing carbon sequestration and reducing greenhouse gases. With their intrinsic role in nutrient cycling, plant health, climate regulation, and stress resilience, soil microorganisms are at the core of meeting these challenges and will be increasingly relied on to underpin production, climate-resilience and sustainability.

Soil microbial diversity is strongly impacted by agricultural management but to what extent and how it affects the provision of ecosystem services is still poorly understood. This project will use molecular and computational approaches, in combination with phenotypic assays, to assess the impact of soil management (including those considered to represent more sustainable approaches) on microbial biodiversity.

Further, we will assess how management-induced gradients of diversity manifest in microbial multifunctionality (e.g. plant productivity, C & N cycling, drought resilience and disease suppression) and shape functional trade-offs. The project will provide the knowledge base to inform management practices and maximise microbial functioning within existing and future grassland systems. Results from this project will directly feed in to soil management advice for farmers and policy makers for enhancing soil biodiversity and maximising microbial functioning within existing and future grassland systems.

This project brings together the complementary resources and expertise sets of the three participating institutes (Teagasc, NUI Galway and Rothamsted Research) and will provide valuable multidisciplinary training and research opportunities in soil microbiology, soil chemistry, environmental science, agronomy and bioinformatics. The student will join a successful research group, and lively graduate training communities, and will also receive training in other aspects of scientific work, e.g. result dissemination, writing for publication and conference presentations.

Requirements:

Applications are invited from graduates holding at least a 2.1 class honours degree or M.Sc. in Microbiology, Soil Science or related discipline. Prior experience in molecular ecology or soil microbiology would be advantageous. A full driving licence would be beneficial and fluency in English is essential.

Award:

The PhD Scholarship is a joint research project between Teagasc, NUI Galway and Rothamsted Research. Supervision will be provided by Dr Fiona Brennan (Teagasc), Dr Florence Abram (NUIG), Dr Orla O’Sullivan (Teagasc), Dr David Wall (Teagasc) and Dr Tim Mauchline (Rothamsted). The scholarship funding is €24,000 per annum and includes University fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum and is tenable for 4 years.

Further Information
Dr Fiona Brennan, Phone: +353 53 9171332; email: fiona.brennan@teagasc.ie

Application Procedure:

Applicants should submit a CV (including the names of two referees) and covering letter detailing their qualifications, research experience and motivation to: Fiona Brennan (fiona.brennan@teagasc.ie) Closing date: June 27th 2022

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