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Effect of applying vivianite and P-containing Fe(III)oxides on P bioavailability and dynamics in different agricultural soil types

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Erik Smolders (Leuven University (KULeuven), Belgium)

Co-supervisor: Prof. Dr. Stephan Kraemer (University of Vienna, Austria)

Employer: Leuven University (KULeuven), Belgium

Project description: This project is part of the European H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network P-TRAP (Preventing Phosphorus Input to Surface Waters – New Concepts in Trapping, Recycling and Management). P-TRAP tackles two urgent interlinked global problems: Potential shortages of phosphate for producing agricultural fertilizers and the decline of surface water quality upon excess phosphate input. P-TRAP targets the P flux from artificially drained agricultural areas and the internal P load of lakes. By this, P-TRAP aims at intercepting the undesired flux of phosphate from agricultural systems into surface waters and developing a phosphate recycling strategy.

The project of ESR 2 is dedicated to the effect of applying vivianite and P-containing Fe(IIII)oxides on P bioavailability and dynamics in different agricultural soil types. To capture P losses from agricultural soils, Fe containing products will be applied and these P-containing Fe products can be used again as fertilizers, thereby closing the P cycle in agricultural soils. The ESR will evaluate the agronomic potential of these P-Fe products. The research will include field and plant experiments, biogeochemical and spectroscopic analyses. The project will be performed in close collaboration with international partners and involves secondments at academic partners in the consortium but also at companies which are partner organizations in the P-TRAP project.

Qualifications: We seek an enthusiastic PhD student holding an MSc degree (at the start of the contract) that ensures appropriate background knowledge in soil sciences, soil fertility, soil chemistry and/or agronomy. You have a solid knowledge on biogeochemical processes in soils. Experience in conducting plant experiment in agronomic perspective is helpful but not required.

You approach scientific problems with determination and eager to develop multidisciplinary skills. You must be willing to travel abroad for secondments and measurement campaigns, and to present your research to an international research community. As this project requires close collaboration within the consortium, candidates are expected to be excellent team players. You also have excellent written and spoken English skills.

According to EU eligibility criteria, researchers may be of any nationality, BUT must be at their early carrier stage and may not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Belgium for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the application deadline.

Terms of employment: You will be offered a PhD position at the KULeuven, while being subjected to the requirements of the Arenberg Doctoral School. More information on these requirements can be found at https://set.kuleuven.be/phd/researchers/phd_researchers. The fixed gross monthly salary is €2,150 and monthly allowances for mobility and family are available, when applicable.

Facilities for sports and child care are available on our campus (where the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences is situated), which is located only 15 minutes away from the historical city centre of Leuven. You will also profit from the training activities within P-TRAP which includes summer schools and other project-wide and local activities and within the PhD training regulated by the Arenberg Doctoral School.

About the organisation: The Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at KULeuven offers academic education and research in which all living organisms are central. The Faculty is located in a green and inspiring environment and special programs for international students and PhD students contribute to successful learning. The Faculty is organised in three Departments: Earth and Environmental Sciences, Biosystems and Microbial and Molecular Systems.

The main mission of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (ees.kuleuven.be) is to carry out state-of-the-art scientific research with respect to the functioning of geo- and ecosystems at different spatial and temporal scales, including the interaction between humans and the environment and the sustainable management of natural resources and aims to make an important contribution to the scientific understanding of societal issues such as environmental pollution, food production, climate change, nature and landscape management, soil and water management, exploitation of underground resources, rural and urban development, international development collaboration and tourism.

You will be working within the Division of Soil and Water Management (ees.kuleuven.be/bwb/), where research topics cover physical, chemical and biological processes in the environment: measuring and modelling transport processes of water and solutes (nutrients – contaminants) in soils, expert systems for efficient crop water use, long-term trends in tropical soil fertility and soil chemistry, risk-analysis studies and speciation of metals and phosphorous species in soil and water, land surface modelling, remote sensing and data assimilation.

How to apply: Please upload your application material by using the vacancy portal of the University Utrecht. Evaluations and interviews will begin May 1st of 2019 and continue until the position is filled. The intended start will be September 1st of 2019.

The application material should include a letter of motivation, a curriculum vitae, copies of university and high-school degrees (including grades) and either two letters of recommendation or contact information of two people that can be contacted for reference. The selection procedure will follow the Code of Conduct for Recruitment. In a first round candidates will be selected first on EU eligibility criteria, second on qualifications. In a second round promising candidates will be invited to a job-interview with the direct supervisors.

Contact: Additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Prof. Dr. Erik Smolders (erik.smolders@kuleuven.be) or Dr. Mieke Verbeeck (mieke.verbeeck@kuleuven.be).