Taxonomic and functional genomic investigation of soil microorganisms associated with Acute Oak Decline

A three-year project is a collaboration between UWE Bristol, Forest Research and the charity Woodland Heritage: Ref 1920-OCT-HAS01

Closing date: 17 June 2019

Start date: 1 October 2019

About the studentship

This is an exciting opportunity for a fully-funded PhD student to join an inter-disciplinary team working on oak tree health in the UK. Susceptible native oak species in Britain are suffering from a syndrome called Acute Oak Decline (AOD) caused by a polymicrobial complex, with insect involvement from a bark-boring beetle. Environmental factors including rainfall, and several factors relating to temperature and chemical deposition, predispose oak species in the UK to AOD. However, the relationship between soil bacteria and AOD has yet to be determined.

Clear patterns between the microbiome composition and tree health status have been observed on a sample of trees, but higher resolution of the components of these microbial communities and their assigned function are needed.

The main objectives of the project are:

  1. identification of microorganisms in rhizosphere/rhizoplane soil associated with AOD symptomatic trees
  2. analysis of the soil microbiome
  3. taxonomic classification of any potential novel species
  4. functional genomics on main bacterial groups to determine key functions.

The successful applicant will be based in the new Lab Zone at UWE Bristol, learning cutting-edge molecular techniques, bioinformatics and bacterial taxonomy. The three-year project is a collaboration between UWE Bristol, Forest Research and the charity Woodland Heritage. The student will join in several trips to affected woodlands to gain field experience of AOD first-hand, working closely with experts from Forest Research.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please contact Prof Dawn Arnold on

Funding details

The studentship is available from 1 October 2019 for a period of three (3) years, subject to satisfactory progress. It includes a tax-exempt stipend which is currently £14,777 per annum. In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years at Home/EU rates, along with reasonable transport costs for visiting project partners.

For home/EU applications only.

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants should have a good honours degree (2:1 or equivalent) in biological, environmental or biomedical disciplines and a strong interest in molecular microbiology, genomics and bioinformatics.
  • Home/EU applications only

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted use the reference number 1920-OCT-HAS01. You will need to upload your research proposal, degree certificates and transcripts and proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application, so please have these available when you complete the application form.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is Monday 17 June 2019.

Further information

If you have not heard from us by 30 June 2019, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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