PhD positions in the SoilProS project – NIOO-KNAW – Wageningen: The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) is a top research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). NIOO-KNAW focuses on fundamental and strategic research on individual organisms, populations, communities, and ecosystems.

The departments of Terrestrial and Microbial Ecology offer three PhD positions in the SoilProS project (Soil Biodiversity analyses for Sustainable Production Systems) financed by NWO-TTW (Perspectief programme).

1. Soil biodiversity in agricultural soils

2. Ecosystem functioning and carbon storage in agricultural soils

3. Biogeochemistry of agricultural soils

Project description:

Current agricultural practices largely bypass the role of biota and biodiversity in soils and substrates. The result is that food production systems lack certain components of soil biodiversity, increasingly emit greenhouse gases and nutrients, while being poorly buffered against drought and rainfall events, and soil-borne diseases. Restoring these important conditions and functions of soils and substrates is currently less limited by what we can measure than by how to interpret the data.

In the SoilProS project, 7 PhD candidates, one Postdoc and three technicians will work closely together within the fields of soil biodiversity, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology and artificial intelligence supported by a broad range of stakeholders from governmental bodies to various companies in the agricultural sector.

At this moment, we will hire three out of the 7 PhD students to start perform field sampling campaigns, as well as greenhouse and laboratory studies. The candidates will analyze how soil biodiversity and functioning is impacted by agricultural practices. At the same time, the collected data will provide input for the AI approach. The outcome is that we enhance soil sustainability.

The three PhD candidates will be based at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), at the departments of Terrestrial and Microbial Ecology. The projects will be linked to larger initiatives, including Digital Soil Calibration Centre, the NWA-NWO project ClipsMicro, and EU-projects SOLO and SOB4ES. The candidates will closely collaborate with University of Amsterdam, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University, Technical University of Twente, the Centre for Soil Ecology, SoilProS stakeholders, and other national and international initiatives.

PhD project 1. Soil biodiversity in agricultural soils (vacancy number: 1308)

You will collect and (molecularly) analyze soil biodiversity from agricultural and grassland soils, as well as substrates, determine community and functional composition in relation to physical and chemical soil properties, and relate soil biodiversity to soil-borne disease suppression.

You will carry out the research in farmers’ fields, field experiments of associate partners, greenhouse and lab environments, perform molecular analyses in the lab and perform statistical and artificial intelligence-based data analyses. Experience with molecular analyses, data analyses, and field- and greenhouse work is required.

PhD project 2. Ecosystem functioning and carbon storage in agricultural soils (vacancy number: 1313)

You will be responsible for measuring ecosystem functions (e.g., nutrient availability and cycling, carbon storage, microbial carbon-use efficiency) in soil samples collected from the field using chemical techniques and laboratory incubations. You will use state-of-the-art techniques to determine the stability of carbon in the soil. Experience with chemical analyses (e.g., GC, IRMS, PLFA, and/or RockEval etc) is required.

PhD project 3. Biogeochemistry of agricultural soils (vacancy number: 1316)

Samples collected in the field will be subjected to standardized soil physico-chemical analyses. Next to this you will be responsible for measuring greenhouse gas emission in field and greenhouse, assess activities of relevant microbial groups (e.g. nitrification, methane oxidation) as well as diversity and abundance of the microbes involved. Next to executing soil chemical analytical, biogeochemical as well as molecular biological analyses you will analyse these data using bioinformatic and multivariate statistical tools.      

The following expertise will be needed or developed: soil physico-chemical analyses, chemical analytical analyses (e.g. GC), molecular biological (e.g. PCR, QPCR, sequencing).

General requirements:

We are looking for highly motivated candidates with MSc degrees in soil (microbial) ecology, biogeochemistry or a related discipline. For all candidates we require good communication, writing and presentation skills. We expect you to be fluent in English and have a driver’s license B. Speaking Dutch will be an advantage.

The candidates should have experience with statistical analyses, including multivariate quantitative analysis. If not available, candidates have to be willing to learn these techniques. Experience with (coordinating) fieldwork are important assets. The candidate should be able to function well in a multidisciplinary research team and be able to communicate about results and research questions with a wide variety of stakeholders.

Appointment:

This is a temporary appointment, initially for 1 year and upon satisfaction to be prolonged for a maximum of 4 years (1.0 fte). The preferred starting date is 1 April 2023.

 
Information:

For more information please contact (project 1) Prof.dr. Wim van der Putten (Tel. +31 317473599, email w.vanderputten@nioo.knaw.nl), (project 2) Dr. Ciska Veen (+31 317473607, email c.veen@nioo.knaw.nl) (project 3) Dr. Paul Bodelier (tel. +31-317473485, email p.bodelier@nioo.knaw.nl).
Applications:

Your application, in English, should include a cover letter detailing your motivation for and expectations from this position, your CV and contact information for two references. Please indicate for which project you are applying by stating the vacancy number in your letter of motivation.  The closing date for application is 12 February 2023.

Terms of employment
Depending on education and experience the minimum salary is €2.541,00 and the maximum salary is €3.247,00 gross per month for a full-time appointment (scale P cao Nederlandse Universiteiten/KNAW). This is exclusive of 8% vacation allowance, 8.3% year-end bonus, travel allowance, internet allowance, home working allowance and pension accrual with ABP.

The KNAW offers its staff an excellent package of secondary benefits. A package that meets the different needs of employees depending on their stage of life, lifestyle or career ambitions. For example, by working an extra two hours a week, it is possible to increase the number of days off from 29 to 41 days a year (with full-time employment).  

Diversity & Inclusion
The KNAW considers a working environment in which everyone feels welcome and appreciated of great importance. A working environment in which attention is paid to individual quality and where development opportunities are paramount. Together we strive for an inclusive culture in which we embrace differences.

We would therefore like to invite candidates who want to contribute to this through their background and experience. In the event of equal suitability, preference will be given to the candidate who thus enhances diversity within the Academy.

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