PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in

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Project description

Biopores are well known as hot-spots of (micro-) biological activity in soils. Recently, their role within major biogeochemical element cycles including of carbon, nitrogen, silicon, iron and manganese, and for the water budget and water dynamics are discussed. Besides burrows of higher animals and insects like termites or soil dwelling ants, root channels and earthworm burrows are the most abundant and ubiquitous biopores. The latter not only because of their abundance – there may be as much as 70 earthworm burrow per square meter- but also because of their role for the hydraulic and physicochemical conditions of the pore network of soils, i.e. the topological features and interface properties associated with the burrow walls and their coatings. Thus, fluid flow and transport of dissolved and colloidal matter must be severely affected by the presence of such biopores. Due to the fact that biopores may act as hydraulic and pneumatic short circuits across soil horizons and horizon boundaries, the may even function as links of the different subsurface compartments expanding even beyond the subsoil. Yet, it is still unclear under which environmental boundary conditions biopores contribute to water flux and transport of solutes and colloids.

The PhD project will aim on the role of biopores for water flow and matter transport upon (extreme) weather events. Special consideration will be put on the mobilization and transport of biocolloids upon steady rain, thunderstorms and snowmelt. As the initial soil conditions are of utmost importance, spatially and temporarily resolved information on the soil milieu will be monitored. Both laboratory bench scale experiments and field observations employing lysimeters will be used to assess the factors and levels that favor biopore flux and transport in and beyond the soil environment.

Possible collaborations

Aspects of earthworm ecology may be studied together with Nico Eisenhauer. Water, energy and matter fluxes may be studied together with Anke Kleidon-Hildebrandt. Composition and analysis of DOC together with Gerd Gleixner. The microbial ecology of earthworm burrows together with Nico Eisenhauer, Kirsten Küsel and Steffen Kolb. Aspects of model development and simulation of soil carbon budget and dynamics with Markus Reichstein. Modeling subsurface fluid, solute and energy dynamics together with Sabine Attinger.

Microbial diversity in effluents, SIP, and specific gene markers will be studied with Tillman Lüders, Michael Schloter or Kornelia Smalla.


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. For this particular PhD project we seek a candidate with

  • a MSc degree in Biogeoscience, Geoecology, Soil Science, Environmental Science, Forest and Agriculture Sciences, Micro-Meteorology and related fields
  • sound Education in soil science with special emphasis in soil physics
  • knowlegde in geostatistical design, time-series analysis and multivariate techniques or skills in field survey and field experimentation are highly welcome
  • very good communication skills in English, both written and spoken

After you have been selected

The IMPRS-gBGC office will happily assist you with your transition to Jena. The conditions of employment, including upgrades and duration follow the rules of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and those of the German civil service. The gross monthly income amounts about 2000 EUR, which will cover all your expenses in Germany.
The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

PhD researcher running a repetited infiltration experiment in the Elbe-Floodplain to assess the role of biopores for seepage and matter fluxes (© Katharina Reichel & K.U. Totsche, Hydrogeology, FSU Jena).
PhD researcher running a repetited infiltration experiment in the Elbe-Floodplain to assess the role of biopores for seepage and matter fluxes (© Katharina Reichel & K.U. Totsche, Hydrogeology, FSU Jena).

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application