Leeds Centre for Crystallization

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PhD positions

How do Arctic soils form? Linking bulk and molecular scale mineralogical and geochemical processes

Liane Benning (School of Earth and Environment)

The studentship aims to develop a combined field and laboratory framework for our understanding of changes in key geochemical and mineralogical parameters that lead to the development of pristine soils in Arctic settings.

We have the following three prime objectives:

  • To quantify the depth- and age-dependent variations in bulk elemental composition and μ-scale mineralogy in both core samples and surface samples collected at the two sites described in the main proposal.

  • To investigate the links between the presence and the signatures of pigments and recalcitrant OM, and the μ-scale mineralogical characteristics of the samples.

  • To develop a model for soil formation in Arctic environments linking high-resolution micro-spectroscopic observations to bulk analyses.


This studentship is linked to, but independent of, a funded NERC Research project that targets the detailed metagenomic characterization of the diversity and function of soil biosignatures in glacial fore-fields. The goal of this tied studentship is to complement the metagenomic work with an in-depth geochemical (inorganic and organic) and detailed mineralogical characterization of the progressive stages in new soil formation. We will do this by linking macro-scale evaluations of mineral weathering indexes and Fe chemistry with μ-scale characterizations of soil reactions at the mineral-fluid-OM interface.

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