PhD Researcher (f/m/x) – Determination and characterization of oak-associated microorganisms and their role in plant acclimation and adaptation processes.

Place of work: Halle (Saale) & Working time: 65%

Contract limitations: limited contract / 4 years (ideally starting in September/October 2023)

Salary: Remuneration according to the TVöD public-sector up to pay grade 13 including attractive public-sector social security benefits.

Contact: Your contact for any questions you may have about the job:
Dr. Kezia Goldmann (  or Luis Daniel Prada-Salcedo (

The UFZ: The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) with its 1,100 employees has gained an excellent reputation as an international competence centre for environmental sciences. We are part of the largest scientific organisation in Germany, the Helmholtz association. Our mission: Our research seeks to find a balance between social development and the long-term protection of our natural resources.

The job: The plant microbiome, i.e. the community of associated microorganisms, plays a crucial role for mutual acclimation to environmental changes and the subsequent evolutionary adaptation (A&A). Beneficial microbes can enhance plant tolerance traits against stress, which reinforces shoot and root protection by modifying phytohormonal levels, antioxidant and enzyme production, osmotic adjustment or biofilm formation to increase water and nutrient uptake, gas exchange and water use efficiency.

Since these findings were mainly retrieved from studies on crops or herbaceous plants, it remains little investigated how trees and their microbiomes react to environmental changes, including more frequent and intensified droughts and pathogenic pressures. Hence, this project aims to investigate, how oak-associated microorganisms respond to various environmental conditions and stresses.

Considering the endogenous rhythmic growth and the modularity of the oak, the project intends to determine an oak core microbiome and characterize key stone taxa, which enhance resilience against the applied stressors.

The project uses molecular sequencing tools to monitor bacteria and fungi associated with above- and belowground compartments of clonal oak saplings in an Ecotron and Tree Canopy Exposition Experiments, and along the PhytOakmeter field monitoring sites.

The project is embetted in the Research Unit 5571 “PhytOakmeter” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Your tasks

  • Contribution to joint samplings in the three platforms of the Research Unit
  • Preparation and DNA extraction of soil, root and leaf samples
  • Accessing microbial communities using molecular tools and high-throughput sequencing techniques
  • Bioinformatical and statistical downstream processing of the sequencing data
  • Presenting and publishing of results on international conferences and in international journals

We offer

  • Excellent technical facilities which are without parallel
  • The freedom you need to bridge the difficult gap between basic research and close to being ready for application
  • Work in inter-disciplinary, multinational teams
  • Excellent links with national and international research networks
  • Excellent support and optimal subject-specific and general training with our HIGRADE graduate school

Your profile

  • A scientific University degree (Diploma/ M.Sc.) in biology, microbiology, ecology, bioinformatics, or related fields of science
  • Highly motivated and team-oriented
  • Broad interest in plant-associated microbial communities
  • Good statistical (preferable with R) and analysis skills
  • Very good oral and written communication skills in English
  • Travel availability
  • Driving licence B

Application deadline: 31.05.2023


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