Postdoctoral research assistant in biogeochemistry of calcifying nannoplankton

University of Oxford – Earth Sciences

Earth Sciences, South Parks Road, Oxford

Location: Oxford

Salary: £32,817 – £36,914 p.a, Grade 7

Hours: Full Time

Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract

Placed On: 6th May 2021

Closes: 25th June 2021

Job Ref: 150797



Calcifying phytoplankton, such as coccolithophores, are a fundamental component of the marine carbon cycle. Yet, we have little understanding how changing climate affects calcification and how it is going to evolve under the environmental pressure imposed by global warming and ocean acidification. Currently there is little mechanistic understanding of how energy and carbon flow between photosynthesis and calcification in coccolithophores, and how this dynamic coupling is affected by resource limitation and environmental stress. Our knowledge gap on the environmental sensitivity of the coupling between photosynthesis and calcification means that we still do not know whether coccolithophore calcification increases or decreases in response to ocean acidification, despite 20 years of research.

PUCCA (Photosynthetic Underpinnings of Coccolithophore Calcification) will take advantage of advances in cutting-edge techniques that document and mechanistically interrogate the sensitivity of coccolithophore calcification rates to the environment. A new physiological model of carbon isotopic fractionation in coccolithophores allows the reconstruction of species-specific calcification rates from the sedimentary record. Additionally, methods have advanced that can extract and characterise biochemical molecules from fossils over a hundred million years old which will allow the interrogation of controlling environmental parameters.

The successful candidate will be responsible for identifying which environmental parameter(s) drive the highest coccolithophore calcification rates during the Cenozoic, and across the modern ocean. As approaches, they will use ocean sediments as a recorder of coccolithophore stable isotope vital effects, extracted polysaccharides and other organic molecules, as a measure of the physiological sensitivity of calcification to different environmental regimes. They will also document how the sensitivity of calcification rates to environmental parameters is influenced by cellular resource allocation strategies using culture experiments of a range of strains of Emiliania huxleyi subjected to environmental limitation. These experiments will provide the foundation for calibrating organic molecules for the environmental impact on their structure and composition.

The successful candidate will hold, or be close to completion of, a relevant PhD. They will also have experience in stable isotope palaeoceanography and/or nannofossil palaeontology. Familiarity/prior experience with physiology (ideally of coccolithophores), and an understanding of organic/biochemistry, and biomineralisation will be an advantage. They will have the ability to manage their own academic research and associated activities and have excellent communication skills, including the ability to write for publication and present research proposals and results.

For further details of the responsibilities/duties, please see job description. This post is fixed term for 3 years from 06 September 2021 (or as soon as possible after). Candidates should apply online by midday on Friday 25 June 2021. Interviews will be held in mid-July 2021.

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