Postgraduate research opportunities

Our Geology and Environmental Sciences PhD programmes are suitable for students wishing to pursue a PhD which aligns to one of our Earth Systems Research Group themes. Often staff work across themes and are happy for you to get in contact with them to discuss your proposed research. Staff contact details are contained within each of the theme pages.  

Our Human Geography PhD programme is suitable for students wishing to pursue a PhD which aligns to one of our Human Geography Research Group themes.

PhD opportunity: Healthy Peat Microbiota

PhD opportunity: The hydroecology of glacial demise

Supervisor: Karen Cameron

Funded status: Fully funded scholarship (IAPETUS2)

 

Project details:

Scottish peatlands are deep, expansive and crucial stores of carbon. They cover around 20% of the land, yet they contain over half of the total carbon stored within all Scottish soils. Damage to these fragile ecosystems, through drainage, physical disturbance or burning, upsets their ecological balance, and results in amplified release of stored carbon through greenhouse gas emissions. Careful management and restoration of these valuable natural resources is one of Scotland’s main strategies towards achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Microorganisms play a vital role in the ecology of peatlands and in the release of greenhouse gases. This project will study relationship between peat microbiota, their environment and the formation and fate of greenhouse gases in healthy, damaged and restored peat landscapes. It will address a critical gap in our current knowledge of these systems, which will better equip management and restoration strategies, enhancing the success of future Scottish peatland projects.

Deep down in waterlogged, oxygen-starved peat layers, methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas, is produced when organic matter is consumed by methanogenic microorganisms. Higher up, where oxygen is available, methanotrophs can convert slow moving, diffuse CH4 into the less potent but more abundant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2; 34 times less potent), before it is released to the atmosphere. In contrast, CH4 that bubbles up to the surface by ebullition moves too fast to be oxidised by methanotrophs, and so it is released to the atmosphere unchanged. The microbial ecology of diffusion and ebullition systems has yet to be reported, and the impact of damage to them and their ability to be restored to their original microbial condition is as yet unknown.

The main objectives of this project will be to:

1) Compare the microbial composition and activity of healthy peat systems sampled from CH4 diffusion and ebullition sites.

2) Investigate the impact of peatland destruction on microbial community structure and greenhouse gas cycling activity.

3) Determine the effectiveness of peatland restoration projects on restoring the microbial composition and activity to expected former states.

 

This project will adopt a range of multidisciplinary techniques to establish the composition, activity and drivers of greenhouse gas cycling microbiota within diffusion and ebullition CH4 release peat target sites, at damaged peat sites, and at peat restoration project sites in Scotland. The following approaches will be used:

1) Greenhouse gas flux measurements from a range of target sites

2) Greenhouse gas composition analysis and development of redox potential profiles

3) Microbial community composition profiling and functional potential analysis using molecular biology techniques

4) Linking carbon cycling activity to microbiota through stable isotope probing 

5) Impact analysis of peatland damage to the microbial ecology of these systems 

 

How to Apply

Applicants are HIGHLY encouraged to get in touch with Dr Cameron prior to applying. Emails can be sent to karen.cameron@glasgow.ac.uk. Further application details can be found at https://iapetus2.ac.uk/how-to-apply/ 

 

Funding Notes:

IAPETUS2’s postgraduate studentships are tenable for up to 3.5 years. A tax-free maintenance grant will be provided during this period, set at the UK Research Council’s national rate. Tuition fees will be covered for both home and international students.

PhD opportunity: Microbial migration and adaptation through glacial loss

Level: PhD

Title: Microbial migration and adaptation through glacial loss

Supervisor: Karen Cameron

Funded status: Fully funded scholarship (IAPETUS2)

 

 

Project details:

As glaciers melt, the microorganisms that they support get transported to downstream locations which feature vastly different environmental conditions. This project will focus on the ecological impact of glacial melt on glacial microbial communities as they travel from supraglacial environments to subglacial and periglacial environments, on their journey towards the coast.

Surface ice environments in the Polar regions fluctuate between 24 hours of light, and 24 hours of darkness. Wide ranging Arctic air temperatures influence glacial melt and therefore water availability. In the subglacial environment, perpetual darkness and high pressures feature, owing to the meters of ice that lie above. Once in the periglacial environments that lie adjacent to glaciers, the light returns, additional nutrient sources become available, and Arctic air temperatures have recently reached the high-teens to low-twenties (°C) during summertime.

 

This project will investigate three main themes:

1)     Mechanisms that facilitate the release and capture of microbiota within glacial and periglacial environments.

2)     The ability of transported communities to survive under the light, temperature, pressure, atmosphere and nutrient conditions presented in downstream locations.

3)     Community establishment within downstream environments.

 

Through this project, the student will gain skills in microbial ecology, including fluorescent microscopy, molecular biology and ecological modelling. State-of-the-art low temperature/high pressure experimentation will furthermore be performed, alongside analytical geochemistry techniques and geochemical modelling.

How to Apply

Applicants are HIGHLY encouraged to get in touch with Dr Cameron prior to applying. Emails can be sent to karen.cameron@glasgow.ac.uk. Further details can be found at  https://iapetus2.ac.uk/studentships/microbial-migration-and-adaptation-through-glacial-loss/ and application details can be found at https://iapetus2.ac.uk/how-to-apply/

Funding Notes:

IAPETUS2’s postgraduate studentships are tenable for up to 3.5 years. A tax-free maintenance grant will be provided during this period, set at the UK Research Council’s national rate. Tuition fees will be covered for both home and international students. A research budget will be available.