The Cryosphere Ecology group ( at the Department of Ecology, Charles University, in Prague is seeking a highly motivated student to investigate the phylogenetic and functional diversity of microbial communities in the Greenland Ice Sheet subglacial ecosystem and their role in carbon cycling, as part of the new 5-year project “Microbial Production and Release of Methane from the Greenland Ice Sheet” (MARCH4G).

The basal environments of ice sheets produce and store large reserves of CH4, which have the potential to raise atmospheric CH4 concentration and thus further climate warming, if released during periods of deglaciation [1]. The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is retreating rapidly, losing mass at over 400 km3 per year. Recent field measurements have shown subglacial CH4 of microbial origin is released at the ice sheet margin [2,3]; however, no estimate of the CH4 footprint of the entire GrIS currently exists.

The principal aim of MARCH4G is to quantify the potential of the GrIS bed to produce and release CH4 and affect the global CH4 cycle. The underlying hypothesis is that global climate change and resulting increasing melting of the GrIS causes export of subglacial CH4 of microbial origin to the atmosphere. To test this hypothesis, MARCH4G will 1) map CH4 efflux around the ice sheet and determine its origin and age, 2) directly access the Greenland ice sheet basal ecosystem via hot-water drilling and retrieve subglacial sediment unaffected by the contact with the atmosphere, 3) constrain the biological sources and sinks of subglacial CH4 and their environmental controls using a combination of field measurements and laboratory experiments, and 4) use biogeochemical modelling to upscale obtained field and experimental data to estimate CH4 cycling beneath and export from the GrIS and its significance for the global CH4 budget. MARCH4G will integrate formerly separated aspects of Greenland ice sheet research into a large-scale multidisciplinary project and constitute a major leap in our understanding of the fast-changing Arctic ecosystem.

The PhD student will investigate the microbial communities in the Greenland Ice Sheet subglacial ecosystem and their role in carbon cycling using state-of-the-art molecular techniques (quantitative PCR, metagenome and metatranscriptome sequencing, bioinformatics). They will take part in field work in Greenland, collect samples of subglacial sediment and glacial runoff, assist in long-term experiments led by a postdoctoral researcher in the group, and perform molecular and bioinformatic analyses of acquired field and experimental samples. They will be based at the Department of Ecology, Charles University, Prague, and supervised by project leader Marek Stibal.

The successful applicant will have a background in molecular microbiology and ecology. They must have obtained a degree equivalent to a M.Sc. in a relevant field by September 2021 (interested students who are at present in their final year of undergraduate studies are thus eligible). Good knowledge of written and spoken English is essential for candidates of any nationality (this language is fully sufficient for living in Prague and working at the department, and Czech candidates must be equally able to fluently communicate with their foreign colleagues). The position is available for four years, starting in October 2021.

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