PhD Position in Geochemical characterisation / Microanalysis/Biomineralization

Title: Multiscale dynamic visualization of biomineralization processes in marine calcifiers

Chief Supervisor: Professor Dorrit Jacob (Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Collaborators: Prof Stephen Eggins (Australian National University), Dr. Laura Otter (Australian National University), A/Prof Stephan Wolf (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany), Prof Simon Clark (Macquarie University, Sydney)


Shells and skeletons of marine animals are important archives of past environmental conditions and change, reaching back thousands of years. The reliability of data derived from them for use in robust models of our climate future relies on understanding how they are formed by the animals. It has become clear over the last few years that most calcifying animals form their shells and skeletons from amorphous calcium carbonate that crystallizes to aragonite or calcite via transitional calcium carbonate phases. This pathway is controlled by organic macro-molecules (proteins etc) which amount to about 3% of the biomineral. How this pathway influences the final chemical composition of the shell/skeleton is an area of active study.

The aim of the PhD project is to gain detailed insight into how the biomineralization process influences the chemical composition of the final crystallized phase and to produce a close-to-life dynamic picture of how these shells and skeletons form at the submicron scale.

The PhD student will work on marine calcifying organisms (molluscs, corals, brachiopods) that are cultivated in the RSES aquaculture facility under controlled conditions (temperature, water composition) and carry out pulse-chase experiments with various elements and isotopes. They will characterize the organic and inorganic composition of the shells and skeletons of the animals using a suite of state-of-the art instrumentation available at the ANU and elsewhere (e.g. Electron Microprobe, Electron Microscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, μCT, Nano-FTIR, Transmission Electron Microscopy and Atom Probe Tomography) and at synchrotron facilities around the globe.

Work for this project will be carried out in an interdisciplinary team which includes geochemists, marine biologists and material scientists in collaboration with Macquarie University and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Because this is an interdisciplinary project, it is suitable for students from different backgrounds in STEM and there is scope for the candidate to lead the way in shaping the bulk of the project.

Prior experience

Prior experience in any of the following fields: geochemistry, chemistry, material sciences, biophysics or marine biology is highly valued. This project would particularly suit a candidate with interest in advanced analytical methods and the marine calcium carbonate cycle.

As part of your application package, kindly include: 1. CV (including contact information for 2-3 referees) 2. Cover Letter (this can include: a description of why you want to undertake a PhD; how your previous experiences have prepared you for the research project that you are applying for; what your passions are within or outside of academia)

Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Kindly email your application to:

posted: 03 March 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.