PhD Student in Soil Science

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. It is renowned for its excellent education, its cutting-edge fundamental research and its efforts to put new knowledge and innovations directly into practice.

The Sustainable Agroecosystem Group directed by Prof. Dr. Johan Six is an international multidisciplinary research unit at the Department of Environmental Systems Science. Applications are invited for a PhD Position in Soil Science – Microbial Ecology Forest ecosystems cover approximately 30% of Earth’s land surface and provide innumerable ecosystem services, yet they are vulnerable to climate extremes. Of particular concern are the potential increases in tree mortality associated with drought-induced physiological stress. High mortality rates of Scots pine trees have been recently observed in several inner-Alpine valleys in Europe. This PhD project will be embedded within the framework of the SNF Ambizione project “When trees die: understanding how plants and microbes interact and influence soil biogeochemical processes” granted to Dr. Emily Solly.

The main aim of the Ambizione project is to simultaneously assess the currently little explored mechanistic responses of Scots pine trees and microbial communities to drought and their effects on the cycling of carbon and nitrogen. The planned work will involve the use of controlled greenhouse experiments on small-scale Scots pine soil systems, and will rely on the analysis of soil samples collected in Scots pine stands in two inner-Alpine dry valleys of Switzerland. The analytical work will be conducted in close collaboration between Dr. Emily Solly, who will focus on the analysis of the responses of tree growth and soil biogeochemical processes to water scarcity, and the PhD candidate.

The PhD candidate will assess how water limitation influences the community composition, abundance and activity of the soil microbiome and its interconnected effects on tree mortality. Cutting edge molecular genetic methods will be adopted to study the responses of the soil microbiome to drought. Furthermore, state-of-the art isotopic labeling techniques will be used to trace alterations in the carbon and nitrogen transfer between plants/soil organic matter and the microbial community. The PhD candidate will work in the research group of Prof. Dr. Johan Six. Daily supervision will be given by Dr. Emily Solly and Dr. Martin Hartmann will supervise the high-throughput DNA and RNA sequencing. The project will profit strongly from collaborations with the highly interdisciplinary Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape research WSL.

We are looking for a highly motivated and team-oriented PhD student interested in a scientific career. A degree in Environmental Sciences, Biology, Microbiology, or Ecology and a strong interest in soil microbial ecology are needed. Experience in DNA or RNA sequencing, bioinformatics, statistics, biogeochemical analysis, and general laboratory manipulation experiments is of advantage. Furthermore, very good oral and written communication skills in English are required.

We look forward to receiving your online application by including the following documents: CV, certificates and transcripts of your Master and Bachelor course(s), title and abstract of your Master thesis, motivation letter describing how the past experience and research interest fits the profile sketched in this call, and contact details of two referees. Optionally you can additionally upload: publications to which you have contributed, certificates regarding your proficiency in English.

The earliest starting date of this four year PhD is September 2019. The position will remain open until filled. Evaluation of candidates will start in mid April 2019. Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For further information
about the Sustainable Agroecosystem Group please visit our website: Questions regarding the position should be directed to Dr. Martin Hartmann by email at (no applications).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *