Postdoctoral Research Associate (Fixed Term)

University of Cambridge

United Kingdom

September 30, 2022


Postdoctoral Research Associate (Fixed Term)

A position is open for a Postdoc Research Associate in Nature-based climate solutions in managed peatlands, in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Although peatlands can act as a long-term carbon sink because conditions inhibit organic matter decomposition, cultivation can result in large and rapid losses of centuries-to-millennia old soil organic matter. Many peatlands have been drained and cultivated for agriculture because of their underlying high soil fertility resulting from the accumulated organic matter. As peatlands are dried and cultivated, there are massive losses of carbon from the decomposition of the newly exposed peat. Understanding how to mitigate these losses and even reverse them is thus a key goal in leveraging peatlands as a nature-based climate solution¿a persistent sink of carbon to offset anthropogenic emissions.

This project will take place in the fens of southern England, located near Cambridge where a multi-institution network of researchers and farmers are working to develop climate-smart farming pathways. The farms in the fens are primarily based on drained peatlands, which have lost a large amount of their initial peat. However, the future of carbon in the remaining peat remains unclear and could be stabilized or even recovered if management is changed.

The Postdoctoral Research Associate (PDRA) will lead a project that aims to understand a unique characteristic of the fens: the incorporation of peat with soil minerals during cultivation. Although the draining of peat can promote aerobic respiration and decomposition, the association of organic matter with clay minerals may offset a part of this decomposition because of physicochemical barriers to decomposition.

To understand the soil carbon consequences of peatland agriculture, the PDRA will sample soils across a network of farms and conduct analyses of the physicochemical properties of soil organic matter in the lab as well as conduct assays to characterize microbial activity and 'decomposability' of the soils. This will be paired with field measurements of soil greenhouse gas fluxes to estimate the net fluxes of carbon in the fields. Within-field compared to nearby ditches will serve as a contrast to assess how water table depth influences the changes in carbon stocks and fluxes.

The PDRA will be engaged with a large research community at Cambridge that involved multiple stakeholders in British agriculture as well as a network of academics that are a part of a NERC Changing the Environment program aiming to understand the implications of land restoration in the UK. The PDRA will be hosted within the ecology research groups in Plant Sciences.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years in the first instance.

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Please notice that if you have not received any news from us 1 month after the closing date you should consider that on this occasion your application has not been successful.

Please quote reference PD33106 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

Further information
  • Further Particulars
  • Department/Location

    Department of Plant Sciences








    9 September 2022

    Closing date

    30 September 2022

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