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PhD Arctic Greening – Microbiota-Plant-Interactions

100%, Zurich, fixed-term

Climate warming is transforming the Arctic at an unprecedented rate. Previously barren landscapes are “greening” as a result of longer snow-free periods and increases in plant growth. Although the Arctic is warming almost everywhere, patterns of Arctic greening and changes in the Arctic biosphere are highly diverse. As Arctic landscapes continue to change, we need to understand the biological and physical-chemical feedbacks associated with the Arctic’s transition into this novel state. 

Project background

For a new project funded by ETH Zurich’s highly competitive internal Research Grant Program, we are looking for three highly motivated PhD candidates to work on interdisciplinary approaches to develop a deeper understanding of the evolutionary, ecological and biogeochemical processes underlying Arctic greening. One of the main objectives of this project is to test how far the observed vegetation changes throughout the Arctic are tied not only to warming, but to changes in soil properties and soil microbial communities. 

We will study ecosystems of the High-Arctic Svalbard Archipelago and northern Norway to determine the underlying interactions between plants, soils and microbial communities across geoclimatic gradients. For this we will work in interdisciplinary teams using experiments that have been designed to assess the response of Arctic ecosystems to warming and how soil-vegetation-microbial interactions will govern the pace and shape of Arctic greening, Arctic biodiversity changes and biogeochemical cycles. The project is led by a consortium of researchers from ETH, WSL and NINA.

Job description

Your primary PhD supervisor will be Cara Magnabosco and your main responsibilities will be to access microbial responses to warming across plant-soil systems and feedbacks to plant performance and biomass productivity. This includes the following tasks:

  1. Characterise microbial community composition and evolution across geochemical gradients 
  2. Assess determinants of plant C input to soils at different developmental stages
  3. Quantify effects of soil biota on plant performance under warming
  4. Determine microbial responses to warming across plant-microbial-soil systems

Your profile

  • Fluent in English (oral and writing) and excellent communication skills 
  • High level of motivation for the scientific content of the project
  • Interest in participating in scientific communication (written and spoken)
  • Strong communication, collaboration, active listening, and problem-solving skills
  • Proven field work experience and/or proven ability to operate effectively in remote/harsh regions
  • Independent, self-organized, solution oriented work approaches
  • Experience with/motivation for interdisciplinary work
  • Creativity and flexible thinking
  • Flexibility and willingness to stay abroad for longer periods of time for work
  • Ability to independently conduct statistical data analysis 
  • Valid driving licence

For the "Microbiota-Plant-Interaction PhD", the following specific skills are required:

  • Background in biology and ecology
  • Understanding of soil property effects on biological processes (asset)
  • Experience in statistics and computational biology
  • Laboratory experience
  • Ability to conduct large plant-microbial-soil system growth experiments

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.
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We look forward to receiving your online application with the following documents:

  • Motivation letter (max. 1 page) that explains why you apply for this position (you are welcome to apply for more than one of the positions), why you excel in meeting the project requirements, and why we should hire you
  • MSc or equivalent degree that includes thesis and research work (listing courses taken and grades)
  • Title and a short description of 1 selected research project that you carried out or contributed to, reporting on rationale, results and own contribution (max 1/2 page)

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

Further information about the Geobiology group can be found on our website. Questions regarding the position should be directed to the primary supervisor Prof. Cara Magnabosco, (no applications).

Applications will be reviewed from the beginning of October onwards until the position is filled.

In line with our values, ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.

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