Graduate Student Opportunities in Aquatic Ecology and Biogeochemistry

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Seeking 1 PhD student for project 2 below

We are seeking 2 to 3 graduate students (MSc and/or PhD)and a Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF) to participate in a collaborative investigation with IISD-ELA, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and York University of iron cycling in lakes and iron regulation of competition between cyanobacteria and eukaryotic phytoplankton. This is an opportunity to engage in laboratory and field studies in support of a project at the IISD-Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario where background information on chemistry, biology and physics of lakes has been collected over the past 47 years.

Project Summary:

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) in lakes and reservoirs constitute a major threat to human health and, by extension, to the Canadian economy. HABs, especially those associated with cyanobacteria (cyano-HABs), have direct impacts on the safety of drinking water supplies by producing a variety of liver and nerve toxins in addition to causing taste and odour problems. Cyano-HABs have been increasing in recent years across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia. There is an urgent need to improve the science and to manage risk with regard to cyano-HABs. Inputs of the main nutrients, P and N, have been the focus of much research and management efforts. Recently a new hypothesis centres on the importance of the availability of iron (Fe) in the form of Fe(II) as the key to formation of cyanobacterial blooms. Determining the source of Fe(II) available to cyanobacteria is, however, difficult. We have discovered that the natural stable isotopes of Fe hold great promise to decipher the source of Fe used by cyanobacteria. Our project will evaluate this novel isotopic tool for understanding Fe cycling in lakes and reservoirs at risk from cyano-HABs.


A series of field campaigns at the ELA, laboratory experiments and modelling exercises will evaluate the Fe cycling in boreal lakes and the use of natural stable Fe isotopes. Carefully selected samples from other lakes and reservoirs across Canada, collected by collaborating scientists, will also be analyzed to evaluate the potential for widespread application of this promising novel technique. Potential graduate student research projects will be (1) examine how nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations affect Fe fractionation in algal cultures (MSc) and (2) determine the seasonality of Fe, C and N stable isotope values in several lakes (PhD) concurrent with seasonal algal succession. (3) The singledoctoral fellow will apply comprehensive biogeochemical lake and sediment models to coupled cycling of C, N, P, Fe, S and O2 using historical and current ELA data.