Cardiff University President's Research Scholarship: The consequences of increasing atmospheric CO2 for litter quality, processing and detritivory in soils and waters (PhD Studentship)
Reference Number: R436
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Key Award Information
The Cardiff University Climate Change Network is offering the following President's Research Scholarship:
Project Title: The consequences of increasing atmospheric CO2 for litter quality, processing and detritivory in soils and waters.
Project Description: Decomposing leaf litter is a major energy source for organisms in temperate soils and rivers. Climate change (CO2 concentration, temperature and UV-B intensity) influences markedly the quality of plant tissue, measured as nitrogen, water and carbohydrate content, and secondary plant compounds. Interactions between insect herbivores and plants grown under conditions of ambient and elevated CO2 show changed herbivore performance correlated with tissue composition effects. While well established in above-ground terrestrial systems, little, if any, study has been directed to the effect of such litter being incorporated into soil and freshwater food webs (e.g. by leaf-fall). This lack of information limits reliable prediction of the ecological impacts of future climate change scenarios on these two ecosystems.
This PhD will attempt to appraise i) how CO2-mediated changes in litter-quality persist through decomposition? and ii) the consequences of any changes in litter quality for litter-dependent invertebrates in soils and freshwater? The project will: (i) use controlled CO2 environments to produce litter of varying quality; (ii) use factorial experiments in the laboratory and field to assess changing C:N ratios and phenolic substances during decomposition in soil and water (in collaboration with Prof. Sue Hartley, Sussex University); (iii) measure effects on the fitness of detritivorous invertebrates from soils and streams; and (iv) predict effects on ecosystem processes in soil and freshwater environments. As well as having considerable significance for understanding the effects of changing CO2 on major ecological processes the combination of field and laboratory results will provide an opportunity to verify the accuracy of prediction on the basis of controlled environment extrapolation.
The student will be trained in well-established techniques (microcosm and controlled environment studies, chemical analysis), as well as developing new study approaches for observing the role of decomposing litter in freshwater systems. The study is genuinely multi-disciplinary linking scientists with complimentary interests both within and between Schools. The student will gain experience from contact with and training at Sussex University.
Supervisors: Dr Hefin Jones, Dr Rupert Perkins, Prof Steve Ormerod (External Advisor: Prof. Sue Hartley, Sussex University)
Jones and Ormerod have established reputations in the ecological consequences of climate change in terrestrial and aquatic environments, respectively. Perkins provides expertise in the photo-physiology of aquatic primary producers as well as chlorophyll fluorescence technology. Hartley has an international standing in plant-herbivore interactions. The work proposed arises from a combination of ideas and hypotheses from previous, successful projects, now placed in a novel, interdisciplinary context. In combination, the three Cardiff University supervisors have trained over 25 PhD students successfully (with a number of current students in progress). As well as scientific technique and approach training, the student will be expected to present research findings at national and international conferences (for example, British Ecological Society and INTECOL), as well as taking full advantage of the University’s Research Students’ Skills Development Programme. The collaboration with Sussex University will involve learning new chemical analysis techniques, as well as spending periods of time in Hartley’s laboratory.
This award will cover UK/EU Fees plus a Stipend matching the UK Research Council minimum (£13,590 for 2010/11)
Residency: This award is available to all UK and EU students.
Academic Criteria: Applicants must have either a 1st class Honours Degree in a relevant subject, or a 2:1 Honours Degree with an MSc or MSci degree in a relevant subject.
How to Apply
To apply, prospective applicants must first send a CV and Covering Letter to Ms. Liesbeth Diaz (Diaz@cardiff.ac.uk):
School of Earth & Ocean Sciences
Tel: 029 2087 5772.
Fax: 029 2087 4326.
For more information on this project:
More information is available on the website: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/earth/degreeprogrammes/postgraduateresearch/presidential/projects/pschol04.html
Alternatively, please contact Dr Hefin Jones:
Tel: 029 2087 5357
For more information on Cardiff University research into climate change:
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