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  2. Radboud Universiteit (RU)
  3. PhD Candidate for Drivers and Consequences of Changing Plant-Microbe Interactions in Peatlands

PhD Candidate for Drivers and Consequences of Changing Plant-Microbe Interactions in Peatlands

Peatlands store vast amounts of carbon – twice as much as all the world’s forests. However, rapid climate change is affecting this storage function. As a PhD …

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Houtlaan, Nijmegen, Gelderland
Tijdelijk contract / Tijdelijke opdracht
Uren per week:
40 uur
€ 2434 - € 3111 per maand


Peatlands store vast amounts of carbon – twice as much as all the world’s forests. However, rapid climate change is affecting this storage function. As a PhD Candidate, you will focus on how the climate and environment affect plant-soil biotic interactions in peatlands. Your research can further highlight the importance of protecting these areas and their vital role as a natural carbon sink.

Metre by metre, peatlands store more carbon (C) than any other terrestrial ecosystem. The rapidly changing climate is, however, affecting the C storing function of peatlands. Peatland carbon dynamics pivot around processes - primarily production and decomposition - that are modulated by above- and belowground biotic communities. While the importance of links between plant and soil biotic communities on ecosystem processes is recognised, little is known about the role of these links in maintaining key ecosystem processes. Moreover, our recent work shows that plant and microbial communities do not respond in parallel to changes in enviro-climatic conditions, resulting in a rewiring of plant-soil biotic networks. How such rewiring plays out on C dynamics remains unresolved.
In this PhD project, you will unravel how climate and the environment affect plant-soil biotic interactions. Specifically, you will quantify the functional role of plant-soil biota interactions in peatlands and assess how these interactions are affected by environmental and climatic conditions. In the light of this, you will identify core network interactions, their temporal stability, and enviro-climatological thresholds at which rewired network interactions aggravate important ecosystem processes, particularly carbon dynamics. The above list of duties is intended to describe the general nature and level of work performed in this project. It is not construed to be an exhaustive list, and ample opportunity will be given to explore novel ideas and to break new ground in the field of peatland ecology and plant-soil interactions. In addition to the tasks as outlined above you will have a 10% teaching load.


We are seeking an enthusiastic, highly motivated candidate ecologist with a strong and proven interest in community ecology, microbial ecology and/or ecosystems ecology. You should hold or be about to complete an MSc degree (or equivalent) in ecology, microbiology, environmental sciences, or a related field. The ideal candidate is pro-active, results-oriented with attention to detail, and performs well in large teams. We specifically look for a person with an appetite for field work -often remote- in natural or semi-natural peatlands across Europe; a driving licence is required to be able to travel to field sites. Some basic knowledge about peatland vegetation would be favourable. Previous experience with molecular techniques (DNA extractions, sequencing), and soil functional analyses (GHG measurements, MicroRespTM) is preferred. You must be proficient in communication in written and verbal English. The following additional skills will be advantageous: good statistical skills; expertise in statistical modelling in the context of ecological network data; a good command of an open-source programming language (R, Python), or the willingness to learn such a language. Our group is dedicated to FAIR data policies, and we expect PhD candidates to familiarise themselves with FAIR data management and coding during their PhD.

Radboud University is committed to establishing and maintaining a diverse and inclusive community that collectively supports and implements our mission to do great science. We welcome, recruit, develop and advance talented people from diverse genders and backgrounds.


  • Employment for 0.8 (5 year contract) - 1.0 FTE (4 year contract).
  • The gross starting salary amounts to €2,434 per month based on a 38-hour working week, and will increase to €3,111 from the fourth year onwards (salary scale P).
  • You will be appointed for an initial period of 18 months, after which your performance will be evaluated. If the evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended by 2.5 years (4 year contract) or 3.5 years (5 year contract).
  • You will receive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus.
  • You will be able to use our Dual Career and Family Care Services. Our Dual Career and Family Care Officer can assist you with family-related support, help your partner or spouse prepare for the local labour market, provide customized support in their search for employment and help your family settle in Nijmegen.
  • Working for us means getting extra days off. In case of full-time employment, you can choose between 29 or 41 days of annual leave instead of the legally allotted 20.

Additional employment conditions Work and science require good employment practices. This is reflected in Radboud University's primary and secondary employment conditions. You can make arrangements for the best possible work-life balance with flexible working hours, various leave arrangements and working from home. You are also able to compose part of your employment conditions yourself, for example, exchange income for extra leave days and receive a reimbursement for your sports subscription. And of course, we offer a good pension plan. You are given plenty of room and responsibility to develop your talents and realise your ambitions. Therefore, we provide various training and development schemes.

Additional information

For questions about the position, please contact Bjorn Robroek, Assistant Professor at +31 24 365 28 60 or bjorn.robroek@ru.nl.


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