PhD Position in Nitrogen Isotope Biogeochemistry and Phytoplankton Ecology

University of Basel
Basel, Switzerland
May 02, 2021
May 30, 2021
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time
The Aquatic and Isotope Biogeochemistry Research Group at the Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel invites applications for a PhD position in the field of nitrogen isotope biogeochemistry and phytoplankton ecology. The student will be part of a project investigating the validity of the diatom nitrogen isotope paleo-proxy in the marine and lacustrine environments through a combination of experimental and field studies. Research is planned in collaboration with scientists from Umea University, Sweden (Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences) and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Germany (Climate Geochemistry Department).

Your position
The analysis of the nitrogen (N) isotope composition of fossil shells (such as diatoms) is a powerful tool to study the aquatic N cycle of the past, but a thorough ground-truthing of the diatom N isotope proxy is still lacking. This PhD project aims to investigate nitrogen isotope fractionation in living diatoms during growth in the natural environment and in laboratory cultures. The goal is to determine relationships among the N isotope composition of the nitrate in the water, the diatom biomass and diatom shell-bound N. The project involves extensive laboratory work, where the PhD student will set up and maintain diatom cultures for isotopic analyses. The PhD student will also have the opportunity to join oceanographic cruises on a sailing research yacht, as well as field trips to Swiss lakes to collect water and phytoplankton samples. The overall goal of this project is to improve our understanding of how the isotopic signature of diatom shell-bound N is acquired during growth, which will contribute to validating the diatom N isotope proxy as a tool for paleoclimate reconstructions in both the marine and lacustrine environments.

Your profile
We are looking for a highly motivated candidate with a master's degree in environmental sciences, geosciences, biology, chemistry, or a related discipline. Candidates are expected to have a solid background and interest in limnology, oceanography, and biogeochemistry in aquatic systems in general. Experience with phytoplankton culturing and expertise in stable nitrogen isotope/mass-spectrometric techniques will be an advantage. Clean and precise work in the laboratory are a must. The ability to work both independently and within a team, as well as good communication skills including fluency in English are essential.

We offer you
The PhD project (100%) will be part of a research project funded for 4 years by the Swiss National Science Foundation. We offer an international, multidisciplinary work environment and excellent research infrastructure. Compensation will be according to the guidelines of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

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