Two PhD positions for research on Soil Microbial Diversity in Germany

We offer two positions for PhD candidates to conduct research in the field of Molecular Soil Microbial Ecology with emphases and DNA based methods and bioinformatics

The Institute for Biodiversity of the Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, is seeking as soon as possible two scientists (doctoral candidates) for conducting research in context of the project Monitoring biodiversity in agricultural landscapes (MonViA), with 65% of the regular weekly working hours (currently corresponding to 25.35 h per week). These positions are meant to develop, in addition to the tasks of the project, the preparation of PhD theses.

The Thünen Institute is a German research institution under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The Institute pursues research approaches with the aim of safeguarding and sustainably using natural resources and providing results for political decision-making. The Institute of Biodiversity investigates biological processes in agro-ecosystems. The positions are assigned to the working group "Microbiology and Molecular Ecology".

Agriculture is considered to be a major factor for modifying and reducing above ground biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems and beyond. Germany has currently no comprehensive data describing the status and trends of biodiversity in agroecosystems. Therefore, 12 Institutes of the Thünen Institute and Julius Kühn Institute and the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food have joined forces in the MonViA initiative for developing a modular approach for characterizing biodiversity in agroecosystems (www.thuenen.de/en/bd/arbeitsbereiche/monitoring/). 

Agricultural soils are also strongly modified by inputs of fertilizers and pesticides as well as by soil tillage. It is still not clear how much these processes affect the soil inhabiting microbial communities and the ecosystem services they provide, including the cycling of nutrients, the maintenance of soil structure, the degradation of pesticides and the support of plant growth.

Therefore, the objective of the intended studies within the MonVia initiative is to understand how land-use and agricultural management across different spatial scales affect soil microbial communities and their ecosystem services. The study concerns bacteria, archaea, fungi and protists, and aims to characterize their abundance, diversity and interactions with biotic and abiotic properties of soils. It also includes consideration of their ecosystem services, and the efficiency of their energy usage. The focus of the project will be on the impact of agricultural land-use and management on the microbiologically mediated cycling of carbon and nitrogen also considering the potential emission of greenhouse gases. Nucleic acid-based methods, including qPCR, PCR, NGS sequencing as well as bioinformatic and statistical analyses represent the major monitoring tools.    

Responsibilities:
•    Organization and implementation of soil sampling in Germany in cooperation with technical and scientific staff of the Thünen Institute of Biodiversity

•    Testing and application of methods for extraction of DNA from soil samples and PCR-based detection of microorganisms, as well as their functional potentials with relevance for ecosystem services

•    Performing bioinformatic analyses to determine the abundance and species richness of microbial communities from soil samples (alpha diversity) and the difference between various soil samples (beta diversity)

•    Identification and quantification of key abiotic and biotic factors influencing structural and functional microbial diversity through network analysis and multivariate statistics

•    Producing reports and presentations for internal and external meetings, including those of the MonViA initiative and at international conferences

•    Preparation of manuscripts for publication in international and national scientific journals

Required qualifications:

•    A university degree (Diploma, M.Sc.) in biology, environmental sciences, agricultural sciences or a similar discipline

•    Strong interest in soil microbiology and agricultural ecology

•    Good knowledge of the ecology of soil organisms and the use of DNA-based methods to characterize their abundance, diversity and function

•    Experience with bioinformatic methods for the analysis of DNA sequences from high-throughput sequencing is desired

•    Knowledge of statistical data analysis using R is desirable

•    Ability to work independently and as part of a team, good organizational skills

•    Very good communication skills

•    Very good knowledge of spoken and written English – knowledge of the German language is not a requirement but advantageous

We offer the opportunity to work on socially relevant issues at the interface between science and practice. The successful candidates will work in an international research team connected to a network of national and international research institutions. To further the professional and personal development of its employees, the Thünen Institute offers a family-friendly work environment, flexible working time models and opportunities for professional training and further education.

The employment is within the context of the regulation of the collective agreement for the civil service (TVöD). Compensation will be according to salary group 13 TVöD.

The Thünen Institute promotes the professional equality of women and men. People with disabilities are given special consideration if they are equally qualified; from them only minimal physical aptitude is required.

For further information please contact Prof. Dr. Christoph Tebbe (phone +49 531-596-2553; christoph.tebbe@thuenen.de).

In order to apply, please combine a curriculum vitae in tabular form, letter of motivation presenting your professional development, the contact information of two referees as well as copies of certificates into a single (!) pdf-file and send it to bd@thuenen.de until 29.07.2019, quoting code number 19-XYZ_BD addressed to the

Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Institut für Biodiversität, Herrn Prof. Dr. Jens Dauber, Bundesallee 65, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany

Application deadline:
Start date: ASAP
Location: Braunschweig, Germany