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School of Geography

PhD opportunity: Microbial activity at the ice-soil interface in a High-Arctic setting

21 October 2019

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  • James Bradley, Queen Mary University of London, UK
  • Anne Jungblut, Natural History Museum, UK
  • Kate Heppell, Queen Mary University of London, UK


  • Queen Mary University of London, UK.
  • The Natural History Museum, London.

Summary: The Arctic is currently experiencing amplified effects of climate change, including dramatic warming, the widespread retreat of glaciers, and the thawing of permafrost. These changes exert cascading effects on microbial communities: altering ecosystem processes and biogeochemical cycles. This project will investigate the specific changes to microbial activity as melting glaciers give way to newly exposed soils, and permafrost destabilizes and thaws. The PhD student will be trained in state-of-the-art genomic, isotopic labelling, and florescent tagging techniques to determine how environmental stimuli affect microbial communities at interfaces (ice to soil) and transitions (spring to summer) in the Arctic. Key research gaps and questions include: How does the transition from ice to soils following glacier retreat alter the structure and activity of Arctic microbial communities? How do microbial communities adapt and respond to thawing permafrost soils? The project will involve remote Arctic fieldwork in Svalbard, and the student will collaborate across multi-disciplinary teams in London (Queen Mary University of London and the Natural History Museum) and internationally (Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Germany). The project would suit a student with interests in environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry and environmental change.

For further information please contact James Bradley (

Policy Impact of Research: This research has relevance for decision making on climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as conservation.

Application Deadline: Apply before 15th November 2019 for full consideration. We anticipate interviews to be held during the week beginning 22nd November. We anticipate a start-date of January 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.


  • The Natural History Museum, London.
  • Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany

Funding: This is a fully-funded 3.5-year position.

Eligibility Criteria and Candidate Profile: The position is open to candidates of any nationality. Candidates must hold a degree in the physical sciences (e.g. Biology, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Geography). We are looking for highly motivated, independent students with good communication skills. Previous research experience and knowledge of microbiology and biogeochemistry is highly desirable.

How to apply:

To apply, please click here

Your application must include a Personal Statement (2 pages max), Research Proposal (1 page max), Curriculum Vitae (2 pages max), and the names and contact details of up to two academic references. In your personal statement, please identify your research interests, outline relevant skills, training, experience and qualifications, and explain why you are interested in this programme and how it fits your career development plans. In your research proposal, please briefly outline how your research will address one or more of the themes described above.

English Language: If you are from a non-English speaking country, you will need to provide evidence of English language ability according to the QMUL policy for postgraduate students. For candidates who have not yet met these requirements, we will include this as part of your offer conditions.

Benefits: The benefits of this project to you and the future of your career are numerous. Here are a few key aspects:

  • Working on the forefront of Arctic microbiological research among an international team.
  • Develop and apply innovative techniques in microbiology in the lab and field.
  • Participate in remote Arctic fieldwork.
  • Training and participation in international research events including conferences and workshops.
  • You will benefit from training offered by the host institution (QMUL), the Natural History Museum, and Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich (Germany).
  • You will be fully integrated into the research and outreach programs of two leading London institutions, including access to world-class laboratories at the Natural History Museum.
  • You will participate in international secondments to other organisations including the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany, where you will receive expert training in novel isotope labelling techniques.
  • Outreach activities targeted at a wide audience.
  • You will be employed by the host organisation for 42 months.
  • A competitive salary plus allowances.
  • University fees are covered by the studentship.

For further information on the research area, please visit: