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PhD position in Geology, Ghent University, Belgium

12.4.10 |

PhD position

* Last application date : 01.07.2010 (12H00)

* Department: Geology and Soil Science (WE13)
* Contract type: Limited duration (4 years)
* Diploma: Master in Geology; Master in Physical Land Resources; Master in
Bioscience Engineering, or an equivalent degree; second year Master students in
above mentioned disciplines may also apply
* Occupancy rate: 100%
* Vacancy type: Research staff

We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated candidate, with interest in
fundamental research on soil-forming processes in the humid tropics, based on field
work and laboratory analyses, who is willing to prepare a PhD in the framework of
the research project "Impact of termites on the mineral, textural and molecular
organic composition of tropical soils" (FWO-Flanders).

Description of the project:
The project is a multidisciplinary study of termite mounds and deep soil profiles
below and around these constructions, focussing on changes in textural,
mineralogical and chemical properties, and on the molecular composition of organic
material. The study area is the Lubumbashi region of Katanga, DR Congo.
The specific research questions for the study of the mineral components concern the
origin of the termite mound material, verifying to what extent they are composed of
strongly weathered material from shallow depths and of less weathered material from
the saprolite zone. Other aspects are the influence of termite activity on the
mineralogical and chemical composition of the clay fraction, on the microstructure
of termite mounds and surrounding soils, and on dynamic characteristics such as the
exchangeable cations. For all these research questions, the influence of the parent
material is assessed.
As part of the study of the molecular composition of the organic fraction, the
origin, degradation, stabilisation and concentration of the OM within the termite
mounds will be studied. The possible functional link between the presence of
specific termite species, the molecular characteristics of the available OM, and the
microbial community structure, as well as the N-supply capacity and greenhouse gas
production by termite mound material in savannah and forest ecosystems will also be

Promoter: Eric Van Ranst (Department of Geology and Soil
Co-promoters: Pascal Boeckx (Department of Applied Analytical and Physical
Chemistry;; Frank Vanhaecke
(Department of Analytical Chemistry;; Florias Mees (Royal
Museum for Central
Africa; en Geert
Baert (University College Ghent;


* Having recently obtained a Master degree, or to be obtained before October 2010
* Strong interest in soil science and biogeochemical research
* Strong motivation to do fundamental scientific research and to obtain a PhD
* To be able to work independently as well as in a team
* Willing to carry out short field work campaigns in the tropics
* Good communication skills (especially in English and French)

How to apply?

You can send your CV with a letter of motivation before the 1st of July 2010 to:
Prof. Dr. Eric Van Ranst (
Laboratory for Soil Science
Krijgslaan 281 / S8 (WE13)
9000 Gent)


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