Job Post: Ph.D.-positions in Biodiversity Research (Netherlands Institute of Ecology)

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) funds a large-scale grassland project “The Jena Experiment” ( on the relationship between Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (Grant FOR 1451). On a 10ha field site in Jena, more than 470 grassland plots have been established where plant diversity is manipulated to measure the effect of diversity on multi-trophic interactions and nutrient cycling. Applications are sought for the following position:

Ph.D. position (PhD-TE-013060) – A short description of the position is given below.

The project is an international collaborative research effort of 11 universities and research institutes in Germany, three universities in Switzerland, two in The Netherlands as well as universities and research institutes in Austria, France and Canada. All Ph.D.-students will benefit from an already existing experimental set up and the interaction with other PhDs and researchers in an international research team. The ability to speak and write German will be appreciated but is not indispensable for candidates fluent in English. A full description of the project and more details about the positions can be found under:

Selection of applicants starts 10. April 2013 and continues until positions are filled. Starting dates depend on the position on offer. Applications – in a single pdf-file only – should be sent to the addresses given below.

Ph.D.-positions in Soil/Plant Ecology

We offer a PhD position in Wageningen at the department of Terrestrial Ecology at The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW, Prof. Wim van der Putten), in close collaboration with the Soil Quality department at Wageningen University (Dr. Gerlinde De Deyn) and the department of Ecology and Biodiversity at Utrecht University (Prof. George Kowalchuk).

The research focuses on the role of plant-soil feedbacks in the relation between plant (trait) diversity and ecosystem functioning. Plant species influence the composition of soil biota and these influences have feedback effects to the role of plant species in plant communities and the ecosystem processes that emerge from these communities. Previous research has shown that plant species differ in the strength and direction of plant-soil feedback. However, the roles of different soil microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) have yet to be elucidated.  In the present project, you will relate the composition of soil microorganisms to plant traits in plant communities and consequent ecosystem functioning. We intend to investigate to what extent plant species create specific rhizosphere communities and how these communities differentially impact on plant growth. Candidates should have a MSc degree in soil biology/ecology, microbiology or plant ecology. We are looking for candidates with:

  • good ability to think conceptually and quantitatively
  • good knowledge of plant-soil (biotic) interactions
  • experience with working with soil organisms
  • affinity with state-of-the art soil molecular biological techniques
  • excellent ability to communicate in English, both orally and in writing
  • experience with writing scientific papers is highly appreciated
  • good organisational skills and ability to work independently
  • ability to work in multidisciplinary research teams

Contact: Dr. Gerlinde De Deyn, Dept. of Soil Quality, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 4, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands. Email:

Applications: Please send your application with vacancy number (PhD-TE-013060), including a cover letter detailing your motivation for and expectations from this position, your CV including a summary of your past research, and contact information for three references to The closing date is 10th of April 2013.

Modeling microbial communities and two new papers

There is a lot of emphasis these days in my field on figuring out how to best translate our results from gene-based microbial community studies, into predictive mathematical models of (eco)system functions.  While still not easy, the new methods we now have on hand for microbial community analyses do finally allow us to collect enough data, on enough replicates, that it is no longer impossible.

Thanks to the work of a talented scientist I got to work with at ORNL named Gouping Tang, I can finally say we (mostly Gouping) have been able to make the leap from our data sets to mathematical models.  These two new papers take the data and theoretical model we proposed in a paper led by Tom Gihring in late 2011, and develop full mathematical simulations of our experimental systems.  These data are from a large scale field test we worked on with numerous collaborators that demonstrated the use of emulsified vegetable oil to stimulate reducing conditions in a contaminated groundwater system. This is somewhat bittersweet though as due to funding changes, these may be some of the final opportunities our lab will have for work on metal bioreduction in groundwater microbial communities that I have toiled on ever since leaving graduate school and coming to Oak Ridge.

Here are the citations with the links to PDF files.

Tang, G., Wu, W. M., Watson, D. B., Parker, J. C., Schadt, C., Shi, X., & Brooks, S. C. (2013). U (VI) Bioreduction with Emulsified Vegetable Oil as the Electron Donor–Microcosm Tests and Model Development. Environmental Science & Technology.  (Tang_EST_MicrocosmModel)

Tang, G., Watson, D. B., Wu, W. M., Schadt, C., Parker, J. C., & Brooks, S. C. (2013). U (VI) Bioreduction with Emulsified Vegetable Oil as the Electron donor–Model Application to a Field Test. Environmental Science & Technology. (Tang_EST_FieldModel)

Off to Asilomar Fungal Genetics Conference on Tuesday…

Just finished up my poster for the Fungal Genetics Meeting at Asilomar coming up on Tuesday and dropped the file off at the printer.  Very excited to attend for the first time.  I’ve been hearing great things about this conference for years and it certainly looks to be a great location.  Finally got the excuse I needed to add yet another meeting to my schedule when I was asked to help organize a session on metagenomics.  Looking forward to the session, conference and the chance for a stroll or two on the beach!