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PhD position: Measuring plant effects on denitrification using innovative techniques (m/f/d)

PhD position: Measuring plant effects on denitrification using innovative techniques (m/f/d)

Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research

Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU)

KIT-Campus Alpin

starting date:

1st of October 2019


PD Dr. Michael Dannenmann

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and its Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research / Atmospheric Environmental Research (KIT/IMK-IFU) at Campus Alpin in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, invites applications for:


PhD position: Measuring plant effects on denitrification using innovative techniques (m/f/d)



The PhD position is embedded in a DFG (German Research Foundation) funded research group on denitrification in terrestrial systems (DASIM: denitrification in agricultural soils – integrated control and modelling at various scales) and aims at the simultaneous quantification of microbial denitrification activities and gaseous N losses (N2O, NO, N2) from intact plant-soil systems. Cutting edge analytical techniques and measuring methods (e.g. isotopes and isotopomeres, advanced incubation techniques, Raman spectroscopy) will be used to better understand denitrification dynamics in soils and how plants are affecting those e.g. via root exudation, O2 consumption or competition for inorganic and organic nitrogen compounds in the rhizosphere.


Denitrification, i.e. the stepwise reduction of nitrate or nitrite to the gaseous N forms nitric oxide (NO), nitrous oxide (N2O) and the terminal product dinitrogen (N2), is the key process that leads to production and loss of nitrogen gases from soils. The ecological importance of denitrification is well acknowledged, as denitrification is of paramount importance for the removal of reactive nitrogen from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, the closure of the global N cycle and the primary driver of nutrient losses from the plant-soil-microbe system. Furthermore, with regard to the global environment, soil emissions of the potent greenhouse gas N2O, mainly due to denitrification, are enhancing atmospheric radiative forcing, with N2O also being the most important substance driving stratospheric ozone depletion in the 21st century. Consequently, the denitrification process has been in the focus of biogeochemical research since several decades. Understanding the magnitude and controls of the production of the dominant end product N2 is of particular importance to constrain total ecosystem denitrification rates and – because N2O is consumed in this last denitrification step - to better understand net N2O loss at the soil-atmosphere interface as a prerequisite to develop N2O mitigation strategies.


The project “Measuring and modeling of plant effects on denitrification using innovative techniques” focuses on the development and application of plant-soil chambers based on the Helium (He) gas flow technique to identify and quantify the importance of plant-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere for the magnitude and temporal variability of soil denitrification N2 (and NO, N2O, CO2) gas fluxes. The project hypothesizes that plant photosynthesis and rhizosphere denitrification are closely coupled via root exudation, with relationships not being quantified yet. Experiments will be done with different soils and plant species (rye grass and wheat) for a range of environmental temperature and moisture conditions, varying plant development stages and atmosphere compositions. In cooperation with partners the project also investigates dynamics of root exudation, microbial key processes and changes in denitrification community composition. Lysimeters and 15N stable isotope labelling will be used to quantify denitrification in the context of the full ecosystem N balance, i.e., considering and measuring all gaseous and hydrological N losses.


We seek a Ph.D. student to specifically address the research topics by developing suitable assessment and quantification approaches and supporting the development of an innovative plant-soil incubation system allowing for the above outlined measurements.



We offer a position in a well established and worldwide acknowledged research team with excellent research infrastructure and support.

We are well connected to national and international research programmes. Salary will be 65% of a TV-L E13 position

The Ph.D. position will be for a maximum period of three years. The student will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of courses, for instance offered by the Research School MICMoR (http://www.micmor.kit.edu/).


Scheduled start of employment is 1st of October 2019.



  • Strong background in environmental measuring techniques and use of stable isotope approaches
  • Strong background in at least one topic of biogeochemistry, physics, mathematics or engineering
  • Sense of responsibility, ability to meet deadlines, enjoyment of working within a multi-disciplinary research team
  • Master of Science or Diploma which allows to conduct a doctoral study at the University of Freiburg, Faculty of Forest and Environmental Sciences


The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is the fusion of the former University of Karlsruhe and the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe. This makes KIT a unique institution in Germany, combining the missions of a university and that of a national research centre in the Helmholtz-Association. With a staff of 8000 and an annual budget of EUR 650 Mio., KIT ranks among the largest institutions of research and higher learning worldwide.



Applications including curriculum vitae, certificates, short outline of own interests and skills regarding the position's profile, and contact information of two professional referees shall be addressed (in one single file) to


Prof. Dr. Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, PD Dr. Michael Dannenmann

Division Biogeochemical Processes,
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU),  D 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany;

E-mail: klaus.butterbach-bahl∂kit.edu; michael.dannenmann∂kit.edu



Complete applications received by August 10, 2019 will receive full consideration but the position will remain open until a suitable candidate has been identified.



KIT strives to achieve gender balance at all levels of employment. We therefore particularly encourage female candidates to apply for this position. With appropriate qualifications, applications from persons with handicaps will be treated with preference.