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Name of scholarship/program

Sustainable Agricultural Soil Management by Recycling Algal Biomass to land

Important description
Intensive agriculture depletes soil organic matter, resulting in loss of soil macro-aggregates and their positive effects on soil water and nutrient holding capacity. Soil degradation now limits the productivity of elite modern high-yielding varieties of crops like wheat. Furthermore, loss of soil structure increases risk of flooding and run-off pollution. Run-off pollution leads to nutrient enrichment of aquatic systems and algal blooms. Algal blooms cost the UK an estimated £75-114m per year. The increased application of fertiliser further exacerbates the problem of eutrophication and a major concern for future food security is that phosphorus originates from limited rock reserves. Recovery of algae from polluted lakes and ponds has the potential to break the eutrophication cycle and the technology to do this efficiently is only now being developed. Once recovered, the algal biomass has a variety of uses including addition to soils. Benefits include increasing soil nutrient content, structure, aggregate stability and fertility, whilst reducing nutrient-run-off to watercourses compared to direct additions of manures or inorganic fertilizer. To date there have been no systematic studies of the properties of algae that optimise these benefits. This project aims to link the recovery of algal biomass from eutrophic water to the restoration of soil organic matter, rebuilding soil aggregates and sustainably recycling nutrients. The successful candidate will receive training in algal/microbial/plant biology, soil and water chemistry and environmental engineering, including design and analysis of experimental data for plant growth monitoring. The 4-year project would suit a biosciences graduate with a strong interest in quantitative biology and multidisciplinary approaches to environmental restoration, or engineers with a strong interest in natural resource management, ecology and the biosciences. They will benefit from engaging with Project Sunshine, a multi-faculty initiative looking to develop new ways to overcome global challenges such as food security. The project is co-supervised by Dr Jonathan Leake from the Department of Animal & Plant Science at the University of Sheffield. The University of Sheffield has been named UK University of the Year in the 2011 by the Times Higher Education Awards. The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering is ranked 7th in the UK and the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences is ranked 3rd in the UK for research in the last UK Research Assessment Exercise.

Eligibility and other criteria

Application deadline
* April 7, 2014

Additional information, and important URL

Applicants should have a First Class or Upper Second Class Honours degree in microbiology, bio/chemical/environmental engineering, biology or ecology and excellent mathematical skills. Applicants can be from the UK, EU or Overseas. If English is not your first language then you must have International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 5.5 in each component. Formal applications including a CV and One page Statement of interest and degree transcripts should be submitted by 7 April 2014. http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/online

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