Website Wageningen University & Research (WUR)

Are you a highly motivated researcher and excited by the prospect of implementing novel methods; do you have a MSc degree in soil science, biogeochemistry, ecology, microbial ecology or a related field? And do you like variation in your activities with laboratory, field and analytical work? Then this could be the ideal PhD position for you!

We are hiring a PhD student who will work on a project at the interface between soil ecology and biogeochemistry to understand how the ecology and biology of soil microbial communities interact with physico-chemical soil processes to shape the dynamics of soil organic matter and the carbon it contains.

Soil organic matter and the carbon it contains are key to a range of functions or ecosystem services provided by soils, such as climate regulation, soil fertility, nutrient cycling and regulation of the water cycle. Managing terrestrial ecosystems to optimise soil carbon fluxes is therefore key to developing sustainable (agro)ecosystem management strategies. In the last two decades, our view on the role of soil microbial life in controlling soil organic matter has shifted. Yet, the role of the tremendous diversity of these microscopic soil organisms and the ecological interactions this diversity implies remains elusive. Investigating the role of this diversity and ecological interactions in regulating soil carbon dynamics, this project will bridge fundamental knowledge gaps in soil science, climate science and ecology, and will inform farmers and policy makers of the potential benefits of promoting soil life for climate change mitigation, adaptation and sustainable production.

The project is a collaboration between the Soil Biology Group in Wageningen University, the department of environmental biology in Institute of Environmental Science Leiden University and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO). Isolife, a Wageningen-based state-of-the-art stable isotope labelling facility is also a partner of this project. It will be a challenging and stimulating project comprising laboratory and field experiments and combining a range of cutting-edge analytical techniques (including stable isotope of C and O tracing and DNA metabarcoding and network analyses) with many opportunities to develop new skills.

Another PhD student will be hired at the same time on the same project, but will be registered in Leiden University. Within the project the PhD student at Wageningen University will have a stronger focus on stable isotope tracing and soil physico-chemical processes. The PhD student that will be hired at Leiden University will have a stronger focus on microbial ecology and network analyses. However, note that the close collaboration involved in this project means that both PhDs are likely to gain skills and knowledge on all aspects of the project and to travel between the Wageningen and Leiden to some extent. You can apply using the link farther down in this letter if you have a preference for the focus of the Wageningen position, or using the link in this advert if you have a preference for the position in Leiden.

Preferred starting date is October 15th 2022.

Contact information



This vacancy will be listed up to and including Sunday 4 September 2022. Interviews will be scheduled between 19 and 23 September 2022; if you are unavailable this week, please indicate this in your cover lette

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