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Several competitive PhD positions are currently open, so please visit findAPhD website or follow me on twitter!

Please check this advert if interested in microbial cultivation and genomics: 

 https://www.findaphd.com/phds/project/super-dtp-the-impact-of-environmental-change-on-the-ecological-and-evolutionary-dynamics-of-symbiotic-sponge-communities/?p168822 

(sorry, only open to UK students)

Sustainable Agriculture

Agriculture has a considerable environmental impact, including on climate change (with contribution to greenhouse gas emissions), nutrient and microbial leaching, land degradation, soil and water pollution. Our research contributes to understanding the impact of agriculture (through fertiliser use and synthetic nitrification inhibitors in diverse land-use environments) and sustainable agriculture (via Biological Nitrification Inhibition) on microbial communities and associated ecosystem processes. We also analyse other aspects linked to sustainable environments, such as plant-pollinator networks and microplastic pollution.

Biological nitrification inhibition

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The competition for N in soils has led to the evolutionary adaptation in a wide range of plants to improve N uptake and assimilation by producing biological nitrification inhibitors (BNIs) through rhizodeposition. Current research aims to understand the environmental conditions favourable to BNI in several crops, including rice, wheat, and barley. We apply diverse techniques to evaluate BNI efficiency and aim to determine the impact of BNI compounds on soil microbial community, soil nitrogen (N) fluxes and other functions. 

Synthetic nitrification inhibition

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A large amount of nitrogen fertiliser applied in agriculture undergoes nitrification by ammonia oxidising microbes in the soil, leading to significant N losses via leaching and emission of nitrous oxide, an important greenhouse gas. Synthetic nitrification inhibitors reduce nitrification in the field, but their efficacy varies with soil physical properties and with the inherent nitrifier population (AOB, AOA or Comammox). We study the impact of nitrification inhibitors in varying soil conditions to better understand niche differentiation between nitrifers and how changes in microbial communities relate to nitrification and nitrous oxide emissions

Land use intensification

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Soils are under increasing pressure to deliver multiple ecosystem services, but land use intensification can cause soil degradation. Agricultural activities can cause soils to become depleted in organic matter and key nutrients, leading to soils contributing to the eutrophication of aquatic systems and to greenhouse gas emissions. Our research aims to understand the response of the soil microbiome to land use intensification and identify key management strategies that shape microbial community assemblage. Sustainable management helps to select for a microbiome with traits supporting the efficient cycling of nutrients, reducing their loss from soils and supporting climate change mitigation. Our research also examines whether microbiomes obtained from pristine soil ecosystems can be recruited as bioinoculants to restore microbiome function in degraded soils.

Floral microbiome

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The floral microbiome has been underexplored despite the possible importance in the flower/pollinator interaction networks. Our work mostly focuses on the plants from the Paramo, in the high Andean altitudes. Understanding of the processes affecting community assembly of floral microbiome holds potential for improving crop productivity, enhancing plant resilience to environmental stresses, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.

Microplastics

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Most plastic end up in soils as waste from landfilling, litter, composts, and mulches, breaking down into millions to billions of. We aim to understand the impact of microplastics on microbial transport in soil. For this, we engineered a DNA tracer which mimic bacteria size, without having the classical biological processes such as growth or death.

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