DK plus: Microbial Nitrogen Cycling

Microbial Nitrogen Cycling - From Single Cells to Ecosystems

Understanding the contribution of microorganisms to ecosystem processes remains one of the most compelling challenges in ecology and requires a high degree of interdisciplinary research.

The Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Vienna has gathered an exceptional number of renowned experts over the past years with complementary research areas in microbial ecology, functional genomics and aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem research.

Ten faculty members from three departments propose here a joint PhD program with highly integrated, interdisciplinary and international education, training and research, dedicated to creating knowledge and expertise in both microbial ecology and ecosystems research. The resulting collaboration consists of these ten partners, each supervising a number of PhD students with their sub-projects.

All proposed PhD projects focus on the nitrogen cycle and its microbial components, a topic to which most members of the faculty have already made significant contributions. We have identified two major themes: (I) Terrestrial Ecosystems and Eukaryote - Microbe Interactions and (II) Metabolic flexibility and niche differentiation, that will be tackled in the 22 proposed PhD research topics.

All students will enter a program of education and training in generic skills and cutting-edge techniques, including single cell analysis (e.g. Raman and NanoSIMS spectrometry), innovative cultivation strategies, comparative and functional (meta)genomics and -proteomics, as well as community-scale (e.g. Chip-SIP) and ecosystem-scale techniques (e.g. isotope pool dilution techniques, isotope fractionation).

The consortium is committed to provide a highly integrated PhD program combining both molecular environmental microbiology and ecosystems research, in particular through (i) the selection of interdisciplinary research projects, (ii) the selection of an interdisciplinary team of (co-)supervisors, (iii) the implementation of individual study plans, (iv) interdisciplinary workshops and lecture series, and (v) secondments to international laboratories with complementary expertise.

The proposed PhD program will provide an outstanding education, which will shape a new generation of scientists capable of working both conceptually and technically at the interface of molecular microbial ecology and ecosystems research.

Duration: 01.01.2016-31.08.2020

Funding agency: Austrian Science Fund (FWF): W 1257

Project coordinator: Prof. Christa Schleper

Participants: Christa Schleper, Silvia Bulgheresi, Melina Kerou, Logan Hodgskiss, Gabriela Paredes, Michael Melcher, Philipp Weber, Carolina Reyes

Project webpage: DK+ Microbial Nitrogen Cycling