The post holder will work on a new project entitled “Distributed Real Time Soil (DiRTS) Monitoring”, which is funded under the joint UKRI-NERC and USA-NSF programme-Signals in the Soils.
The project presents collaborative research involving the University of Birmingham, Tufts University (USA) and Keele University (UK) to develop an integrated sensor for in situ monitoring of nitrate, ammonium, potassium, salinity and moisture in soils. The integrated sensor is currently under-development at the partner universities (Tufts and Keele). The post holder at the University of Birmingham will deploy the newly developed sensor in soils for in situ nutrient sensing and validate its performance against passive and traditional soil nutrient measurement approaches (e.g., Diffusive Equilibrium in Thin films (DET) and soil sampling, extraction and subsequent spectroscopic analysis). Following testing and validation of the sensor in soils, the post holder will design and undertake studies for the concurrent measurement of soil nutrients, nitrogen cycling and greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O) fluxes from forest and agricultural ecosystems. A component of this research will involve fitting the sensor inside the greenhouse gas auto-chambers at the Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) facility of BIFoR for the concomitant sensing of nutrients and N2O fluxes using a PICARO greenhouse gas analyser. These studies will address fundamental weaknesses in our understanding of the role of in situ nutrient sensing in controlling nutrient availability, N2O emission and nitrogen transformation processes in soils including forest soils under future elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations expected by 2050. The BIFoR-FACE experimental forest is currently fumigated with elevated CO2 concentration of +150 ppm above the ambient atmospheric CO2 concentration to mimic future climates expected by 2050 and beyond. Thus, this project offers excellent opportunities for research at a globally unique experimental facility and developing high impact collaborative research outputs.
The research will also involve the use of stable isotopes of nitrogen (15N) for source portioning N2O fluxes for integration with the sensor mote to shed light on the co-variation of mineral nitrogen dynamics relative to the dominant microbial pathways of N2O production and consumption in soils. This knowledge is central for devising strategies for N2O emission reduction from soils.
The post holder will coordinate project activities with project partners at Tufts and Keele Universities to ensure efficient sharing of results in line with project milestones. Analysis of data is required as well as the ability to lead the production of manuscripts for publications and the presentation of results at conferences.
The successful candidate will have a PhD degree in the areas of Environmental Analytical Sciences, Soil Science, Biogeochemistry and/or Environmental Chemistry with a record of accomplishment of successful research evidenced by relevant publication(s). Experience in nutrient cycling and sensing, analytical methods development, greenhouse gas fluxes, field experimental instrumentation, environmental analytical techniques, isotope tracing and data analysis in biogeochemistry and nutrient sensing is desirable. Given the collaborative nature of the project, excellent communication and interpersonal skills are required as well as the ability to meet deadlines, solve problems as they arise, lead and prepare publications and work effectively with other members of the team and relevant projects at BIFoR-FACE. The University of Birmingham is committed to enabling the career progression of post-doctoral researchers through opportunities for continuing professional development and mentoring.
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