PhD position: emissions from forest litter

The Climate and Environment Department (CLIAMB) at the National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA) and State University of Amazonas (UEA) in Manaus (Brazil), with the “Gas Metabolomics” group at the Biogeochemical Processes Department at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena (Germany), has an opening for a PhD position within the joint Brazilian – German collaborative research project ATTO – Amazon Tall Tower Observatory.

Project description

Emissions of Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by litter have resulted from decomposition process, which is affected by abiotic factors (e.g. radiation, temperature, and humidity) and biotic factors (eg. degradation by microorganisms). Once in the atmosphere, these VOCs can play important roles as an influence on the atmospheric oxidative capacity and contribute to the formation of secondary organic aerosols. However, there is still a lack of information on the relative contribution of VOCs emitted from litter to the atmosphere, and on the relative importance of biotic versus abiotic sources of VOC emissions during litter decomposition and how VOC emissions vary among the decomposition stages (early-late and humus-near stages) of litter from different types of vegetation.

To elucidate physical and biological processes related to litter decomposition and VOC emissions, the successful candidate for this PhD position will investigate VOC emissions, with lab incubations and field measurements of those gases, and link them to abiotic factors and biotic factors, in a gradient of vegetation in the ATTO site. The results will be expected to contribute to the understanding of which volatile organic compounds can be used as proxy for identifying plant-microbe interactions, in terms of decomposition, and add up to carbon cycle investigations, which are within the main research lines of the ATTO project.


The successful candidate for this PhD position has to have undergraduate and MSc degrees in Environmental Sciences, Biogeochemistry, Biology, Soil Microbiology, Chemistry, or a related field that allows him/her to enroll in the PhD program Climate and Environment (INPA/UEA). It is desirable for the candidate to have the following key skills:

(i) knowledge of plant-microbe interactions

(ii) the interest on learning and operating trace gas analyzers, and laboratory analytical methods to
conduct the experiments

(iii) the ability to work efficiently in a highly interdisciplinary team.

The candidate needs to have oral and written communication skills in English. If he/she is not a Portuguese speaker, this has to be learned until his/her graduation. Although this position is to be majority held in Manaus-Brazil, based on the progress of the project, the candidate can expect a research stay at Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, to participate in advanced training and lab experiments. Also, it is expected that the results will be presented at an international conference.

Application procedure

The PhD position will be available from September 2018 on for the duration of four years. Applications including a CV, letter of motivation, and two reference letters with contact details should be addressed to Dr. Thomas Behrendt ( and Dr. Eliane Gomes Alves ( until 20th August 2018.


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