Two Postdoctoral Research Positions in Petroleum Geochemistry, Environmental Lipidomics, and isotope biogeochemistry

Postdoctoral research candidates (m/f)

In 2019 Saint Mary's University in collaboration with the University of Calgary, the Nova Scotia Department of Energy, the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA), and the University of Bremen in Germany will begin a second phase of research designed to develop and utilize bioassays of aerobic, anaerobic, and thermophilic hydrocarbon oxidizing bacteria and archaea as novel indirect hydrocarbon indicators for de-risking offshore petroleum exploration. In conjunction with this is the opening of two, two-year postdoctoral research positions. The Genome Canada and Research Nova Scotia funded project is targeting the oil and gas prone Scotian margin of Nova Scotia, Canada. An investigation of polar lipid signatures and their carbon isotope compositions from Scotian Shelf and Slope piston core sediments is now being introduced to yield better insights into the dynamics of the subsurface biosphere and carbon cycling as well as to help correlate genomic results with the composition and quality of extracted hydrocarbon shows.

As a part of this, we are advertising two, two-year postdoctoral research position (entry January 10th, 2020). We are seeking highly motivated candidates who have a PhD in organic geochemistry (or closely related field), preferably with experience in analyzing intact/non-intact polar lipids (IPLs and PLs). The candidate will utilize samples deemed interesting because they contain genomic evidence of bacterial anaerobic oxidation of hydrocarbons and/or have detected seep oil within the sediments. The researcher will conduct lipidomics studies of samples collected from surface and piston core sediments off the Scotian margin during cruises spanning from past 2015 to 2018 coring cruises as well as possibly participate on an upcoming coring cruises slated for 2020. The organic geochemistry laboratory of Saint Mary's University is equipped with and/or able to readily access a super-critical CO2-HPLC- and UHPLC-qToFMS, LC×LC (with fraction collector), and GC×GC-FID, ECD- and qToFMS systems.

Research tasks:

  • Participate in upcoming cruise(s) to collect and log piston cores.
  • Collect relevant sediment samples from the core library at Bedford Institute of Oceanography, the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board core library, and the University of Calgary.
  • Formalize wet chemistry procedures for the extraction and separation of bacterial and archaeal IPLs and PLs with authentic standards and matrix-matched reference materials.
  • Identify and quantify the various IPLs and PLs within collected sediment samples.
  • Isolate individual lipids and their hydrocarbon skeletons for compound specific isotope analyses.
  • Relate these data to existing, geochemical, genomic assay and petroleum hydrocarbon data.
  • Assess whether distributions of IPLs and PLs provides evidence for the presence of seep oils and biodegraded petroleum products.

Additional opportunities:

  • Mentor and co-supervise graduate students.
  • Additonal collaboration, or side projects, are also possible.

For example, our group is currently engaged in geochemical surveys of hydrothermal vent sites in Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California; freshwater serpentinization studies of microbial process in Table Lands, Newfoundland; and a water column survey comprising several transect outward from around Newfoundland.

Applicant Qualifications:

Applicants are required to have a PhD degree in geological science, chemistry, environmental science, or related field areas at the time of employment. Candidates with the following qualifications are encouraged to apply:

  • Passionate interest in doing research and a background in organic geochemistry, biogeochemistry, organic chemistry or microbial biochemistry;
  • Proficient scientific writing skills and high motivation to produce publishable results;
  • Very good command of spoken and written English.

Expression of interest including CV, academic transcript and the names of three references should be sent to Prof. G. Todd Ventura (

Application closing date: 16th November, 2019 (or until filled).

Starting date: 15th January, 2020

Salary: Gross per annum salary of $50,000CAD + 4% In Lieu of Vacation.

Relocation Assistance: up to $1,200 CAD (subject to any University policy governing such expenses).

Employment Duration: Two years.

Application review will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. The successful candidate will join our growing SMU Organic Geochemistry Laboratory (SMU OGL) research group. For informal enquiries and further information about this research project and the academic setting of SMU contact Prof. Todd Ventura, email:

For more information concerning the OGL research group please see our website at: For further details about studying at Saint Mary's University see: and

posted: 17 September 2019     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.