PhD position in the Restoration of Soil Microbial and Invertebrate Biodiversity in Urban Greenspaces

Exposure to soil biodiversity in urban greenspaces can promote human and wildlife health by impacting their microbiomes. However, the development of soil biodiversity following aboveground restoration is poorly understood, as are the pathways through which people are exposed to this biodiversity. Using more than 80 forest restoration sites spanning the complete latitudinal range of New Zealand’s main islands, this project will characterise soil biodiversity from across an urban forest restoration chronosequence. The candidate will investigate associations between plant, animal and microbial biodiversity and ecosystem functions during ecosystem development, by using a combination of morphological and molecular approaches. This will provide the opportunity to test a range of exciting and novel ecological questions about the spatial and temporal variability in soil biodiversity, and the links between biodiversity across trophic levels with ecosystem functions and services provided by soil microbial communities.

The successful candidate will work within the broad, multi-disciplinary ‘People, Cities & Nature’ research programme centred around restoring urban nature, specifically within the research aim ‘Restoring Health-Promoting Soil Biodiversity’. The PhD student will conduct field sampling of soil microbes and microfauna in forest restoration sites throughout nine cities in New Zealand, which will contribute to the larger project investigating links between soil biodiversity and human health.

We are seeking an independent and highly motivated applicant with:

  • An Honours or MSc degree in ecology, environmental science, ecological genetics/genomics, or related fields
  • Experience in ecological field work and/or lab and field experiments
  • Experience in analysing large datasets, including genomic data (preferably in R)
  • Experience in soil ecology
  • Excellent communication skills in English (written and spoken)
  • An open mind and a general willingness to learn and work in a team
  • A full driver’s license

The fully funded position is open to international and domestic students and will be based in the EcoDiv Lab at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, Aotearoa New Zealand. The position is anticipated to begin by 1 September, 2022. Hamilton has an ideally central location making it a fantastic travel hub for the North Island of New Zealand. This position involves a combination of lab, computer, and field work, which gives considerable opportunities to travel around restoration sites across New Zealand. There are also ample opportunities for collaboration with researchers within New Zealand and overseas (such as Australia and the Netherlands).

Interested candidates should send applications as a single PDF document comprising 1) a letter of motivation that clearly outlines your interest in the advertised project, 2) a curriculum vitae, including scientific publications if applicable, 3) academic transcripts, and 4) contact details for two academic references to Dr Andrew Barnes (andrew.barnes@waikato.ac.nz). Deadline for applications: 31 May, 23:00 NZST