PhD opportunity in Paleolimnology - Lake carbon sequestration

Title: Role of primary productivity in the control of carbon sequestration by lakes at regional and global scales during Anthropocene: coupling of paleolimnological, eco-genomic and pigmentary approaches

We are seeking an enthusiastic and highly motivated student to undertake a fully-funded PhD project investigating the role of primary productivity in the control of carbon sequestration by lakes.

The project will involve working with a team of lake and ecological scientists from the CARRTEL - Limnology Center (University of Savoie, INRA) in France.

Required qualifications:

  • Completed master degree in aquatic ecology, biogeochemistry, environmental sciences, geosciences, or a related field.
  • Good skills in scientific programming and eventually experience in HPC environments.
  • demonstrate an interest in molecular biology (DNA approaches),
  • show an interest in paleo-environmental issues (the host laboratory can provide the necessary training for the thesis work),
  • Applicants should have excellent English language skills and enjoy working in an interdisciplinary team.


Abstract: Inland surface waters modify and transfer large amounts of carbon (C) from watersheds, contributing significantly to the global C cycle and acting on the climate1,2. Continental and oceanic sedimentation is the main long-term storage mechanism for C exported by inland waters. However, the storage of C in continental sediments (reservoirs, rivers, lakes) has received much less attention than that of marine sediments, and the C-sources and the dynamics of C-sequestration remain poorly understood on a large scale, in particular concerning the action of biological productivity in carbon fixation1,3. In addition, long-term dynamics are still poorly evaluated, necessitating the use of geological archives and modelling.

The biogeochemical (pigments, DNA) and geochronological (e.g. 14C) study of lacustrine sedimentary archives enables the continuous documentation, at an annual or multi-year resolution, of the evolution of carbon sequestration by lakes and algal productivity over centuries to thousands of years4. The study of these sediment archives also makes it possible to document the sources of C inputs, associated to external sources that depend on C-eroded from watersheds5 (allochthonous C), and on lake primary production6 (Autochtonous C). However, it is unclear how these respective sources influence long-term C-sequestration, and it therefore seems urgent to address this issue, particularly with respect to the contribution of primary production that has received relatively little attention at the global scale over time scales multi-decadal to centennial7.

This doctoral research project is therefore focused on the study of control factors of carbon sequestration by lakes over long time, at regional and global scales. Through a multi-scale approach, we propose to consolidate a global and multi-proxy paleo-limnological database (ie of lacustrine sedimentary archives) in order to analyze the 300-years historical trajectories of primary production for 420 sites in the world and to determine which of the algal groups have contributed to total primary productivity over time, and what have been the effects on carbon transfer and its sequestration in sediments. This project will address for the first time on these scales of space and time the issue of the dynamics of biological communities interacting with the transfer of matter in lake -watershed systems. This project will also lay the foundations for a long-term numerical model to simulate primary production and lacustrine carbon fluxes, which will build on existing models developed by the AFB-Irstea Cluster. This project will be part of the CARRTEL research axis on carbon transfer in lakeside environment.

Supervisory Team:

Principal Supervisor: Isabelle Domaizon, Research Director, INRA, CARRTEL

Co-supervisor : Jean Philippe Jenny, Researcher, INRA, CARRTEL

Research lab: INRA CARRTEL- Limnology Center, Avenue de Corzent - 74200 Thonon-les-Bains, France

Details of scholarship:

Applicants with a strong background in aquatic ecology, biogeochemistry, environmental sciences, geosciences, or a related field and with demonstrated academic and research excellence at Masters level, are encouraged to apply. The selected candidate will be awarded a PhD Scholarship comprising a 3-year stipend of € 21,200 per year (gross salary) and project costs.

Applications including a cover letter, CV, copies of degree certificates and detailed results (MSc), and the name of one referee should be submitted until June 1st, 2019 to the supervisors.

This PhD should start in Sept 2019.


  1. Regnier, P. et al. Anthropogenic perturbation of the carbon fluxes from land to ocean. Nat. Geosci. 6, 597-607 (2013).
  2. Maavara, T., Lauerwald, R., Regnier, P. & Van Cappellen, P. Global perturbation of organic carbon cycling by river damming. Nat. Commun. 8, 15347 (2017).
  3. Weyhenmeyer, G. Large differences in the efficiency of large lakes to transform nutrients and pollutants from the watershed. in (2018).
  4. Dearing, J. A. et al. Extending the timescale and range of ecosystem services through paleoenvironmental analyses, exemplified in the lower Yangtze basin. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 109, E1111-E1120 (2012).
  5. Tranvik, L. J. et al. Lakes and reservoirs as regulators of carbon cycling and climate. Limnol. Oceanogr. 54, 2298-2314 (2009).
  6. Sobek, S. et al. Organic carbon burial efficiency in lake sediments controlled by oxygen exposure time and sediment source. Limnol. Oceanogr. 54, 2243-2254 (2009).
  7. Taranu, Z. E. et al. Acceleration of cyanobacterial dominance in north temperate-subarctic lakes during the Anthropocene. Ecol. Lett. 18, 375-384 (2015).

posted: 13 May 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.