The abundance and distribution of different types of microalgae impact carbon cycling, water quality, and aquatic food webs. One of the best ways to understand and predict how algae will respond to future perturbations to aquatic environments is to analyze the ways they have reacted to the diverse conditions that have existed over geologic time. As a consequence, we must rely on indirect indicators – proxies – of past ecologic and environmental change. This PhD project aims to test the ability of algal lipid biomarkers and their stable isotopic composition to record changes in algal biodiversity over time. Towards this goal, the PhD student will validate and cross-calibrate proxies for phytoplankton ecology using samples from modern algal biomass and apply these proxies to sedimentary records from lakes in Switzerland and New York state. The PhD student will participate in fieldtrips to collect sediment cores from lakes in the Swiss Plateau and in central New York. The project involves extensive laboratory work with a focus on biomarker purification and stable isotope analyses. Depending on the interests and background of the student, they will also have the opportunity to analyze ancient algal DNA from sediments.
We are looking for a researcher with a master's degree in geosciences, environmental sciences, chemistry, biology, or a related discipline. Candidates should have a solid background and interest in (paleo-)limnology and biogeochemistry in aquatic systems. Experience with stable isotope and/or organic chemistry laboratory techniques will be an advantage given the laboratory focus of this PhD-project. The ability to work both independently and within a team, as well as good communication skills including fluency in English are essential.
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