Education and Outreach

Postdoctoral Positions for the Deep Life Initiative of the Deep Carbon Observatory

By Keith Cowing
January 25, 2012

The Deep Life Directorate of the Deep Carbon Observatory (sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) will investigate the microbiology of the rock-hosted subsurface biosphere. Microbial communities contained within rock-hosted subsurface environments may be important conduits for the exchange of carbon and energy between the deep Earth and the biosphere- yet surprisingly little is known of their extent, their identities, or their activities. The research specifically addresses microbial carbon transformations in environments influenced by high hydrogen fluxes and abiogenic production of organic molecules. The research team consists of 17 scientists from 7 countries and contains both field and laboratory components. The Directorate seeks candidates for multiple Postdoctoral positions to work within this cooperative framework.

High Pressure Microbiology: Recently, unique environments deep beneath the continents and oceans have been sampled and we invite applications for a postdoctoral position to develop experimental approaches that will provide novel piezophilic cultivars whose activities can be investigated under in situ pressure-temperature conditions. This is a joint project between Isabelle Daniel’s Lab at the Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (France) and Doug Bartlett’s lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, CA (USA). Candidates should be highly motivated by research on the subsurface biosphere and have experience with experimental microbiology and/or spectroscopy under high pressure conditions.

Molecular Geomicrobiology: We invite applications for a postdoctoral position that will link stable isotope based approaches with metagenomic and transcriptomic studies of microbial metabolism of specific carbon compounds. The postdoc will be based in Matt Schrenk’s lab at East Carolina University (North Carolina, USA) with collaborators at the Marine Biological Laboratory (J. Huber). The postdoc will participate in analysis of samples from the high pH Coast Range Ophiolite serpentinite ecosystem and the Mid Cayman Rise deep-sea hydrothermal system. Applicants should have experience with microbial cultivation, molecular biology, and stable isotope analysis.

Hydrothermal Vent Microbiology: We invite applications for a postdoctoral position in hydrothermal vent microbiology in Julie Huber’s lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, MA). The postdoc will participate in analysis of samples from the Mid Cayman Spreading Center, Earth’s deepest mid-ocean ridge, with an emphasis on using next generation sequencing tools to determine microbial community structure and functional repertoire at the site. These data will serve as a vital input for models of energy flow through deep-sea hydrothermal systems and help to constrain the pathways and controlling factors for microbially-mediated carbon cycling in subsurface ecosystems fueled by water-rock reactions. The successful applicant must hold a Ph.D. in microbiology, oceanography, or a related field and possess experience with metagenomic datasets, bioinformatics, and molecular biology.

Deep Subsurface Microbial Biogeography and Evolutionary Processes: We invite applications for two postdoctoral positions focusing on the application of single cell genomic analyses to subsurface communities sampled from deep boreholes and mine sites located in Finland, Canada and South Africa. The postdoctoral research associates will be based at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and Princeton University (Princeton, NJ, USA) and also spend time working at the Single Cell Genomics Center at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (Maine, USA). This 2 year research project will involve collection, single cell screening, genome sequencing and bioinformatic comparisons of communities from continental subsurface biospheres. A successful applicant must hold a Ph.D. in microbiology or a related field and have experience in assembly, annotation, and bioinformatics analyses of genomes.

For any of the positions please submit three items to the appropriate contact listed below: (i) a cover letter describing your research goals and your specific motivation to join the project, (ii) a CV, and (iii) contact information for three references, including your Ph.D. supervisor.

High Pressure Microbiology position: Prof. Isabelle Daniel (
Molecular Geomicrobiology position: Matt Schrenk (
Hydrothermal Vent Microbiology position: Julie Huber (
Deep Subsurface Microbial Biogeography: T.C. Onstott (
Applications should be received by March 1, 2012, but will be considered on an ongoing basis.

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