Job Opportunity: Postdoctoral Research Associate in Arctic soil microbial ecology, QMUL

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Arctic soil microbial ecology at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), UK

About the Role

The Earth Surface Science group at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) are seeking a postdoc in Arctic soil microbial ecology to work on a NERC and NSF-funded project ‘Sensors Under Snow: Seasonal Processes in the Evolution of Arctic Soils (SUN SPEARS)’.

The SUN SPEARS project is a collaboration between QMUL’s School of Geography, the British Geological Survey (BGS), the University of Utah (USA), Montana Tech (USA), and the University of Colorado, Boulder (USA). The aim of the project is to improve the understanding of seasonal processes in Arctic soils and assess how seasonality shapes the long-term development of Arctic soils following glacier retreat. Since 2021, we have monitored the characteristics of surface soils in the forefield of a retreating Svalbard glacier: we have carried out repeated year-round sampling campaigns to measure biological and geochemical characteristics of the soils, and installed a network of buried geophysical sensors which continuously monitor seasonal changes in soil physical properties.

The major tasks for this postdoc is to investigate the structure, function, activity and seasonal changes to microbial communities in Arctic soils, using data already generated by the ongoing project. We have sampled glacier forefield soils during the summer, fall, winter and spring, and generated genomic data including 16S and 18S rRNA amplicon sequencing libraries, metagenomes, and metatranscriptomes, as well as geochemical and physical data. The PDRA will:

  • Analyze genomic data (including amplicon sequencing libraries, metagenomes, and metatranscriptomes) to explore the characteristics of Arctic soil microbial communities – including microbial community structure, diversity, function, and activity.
  • Integrate the biological findings with soil geochemical and physical properties (by working with the wider SUN SPEARS and using sensor data (year-round soil temperature, moisture, geochemistry)).
  • Analyze datasets emerging from the SUN SPEARS project (including genomic and biogeochemical data from laboratory microcosms of Svalbard soils) to reveal the seasonally-varying processes affecting pioneer soil development.
  • Prepare results for publication in peer-reviewed academic journals (as lead author and co-author).

The job purpose is to undertake and support research on the NERC and NSF-funded project ‘Sensors Under Snow: Seasonal Processes in the Evolution of Arctic Soils (SUN SPEARS)’.

The PDRA will be embedded into a multidisciplinary team of microbial ecologists, biogeochemists, modellers, and geophysicists, and thus develop an interdisciplinary skill set. They will have access to a wealth of data already generated by the project and will be expected to lead the analyses of some of these data (primarily the biological and biogeochemical data) and prepare manuscripts (as lead- and co-author) to submit to peer-reviewed international journals.

This is a 16-month fixed term position, with the possibility of extension subject to available funds and the date of appointment.

The post will be supervised by Dr. James Bradley at Queen Mary University of London.

About You

Applicants must have a PhD (by time of appointment) in a relevant natural science discipline (e.g. microbiology), and should have a background in microbial ecology (ideally soil microbial ecology), experience in bioinformatics and analyzing and interpreting metagenomic and/or metatranscriptomic data, skills in statistical analyses of multivariate, compositional microbiome data, and a track-record of research productivity. We are particularly interested in candidates who can work across disciplines and analyze large datasets, for example: to integrate biological/genomic data with biogeochemical measurements, soil geophysical data, and Arctic soil development processes.


  • To undertake research as appropriate to the field of study.
  • To process and analyze genomic (amplicon, metagenomic and metatranscriptomic) data generated from soil samples from a recently deglaciated Arctic forefield to evaluate microbial community structure, diversity, function, and activity on a seasonal basis.
  • To integrate biological findings with geochemical data, geophysical data and soil development processes.
  • To interpret datasets to advance the understanding of seasonal changes and processes in Arctic soils.

Preparation of Publications/Dissemination

  • To be lead and co-author on peer-reviewed papers in international journals.
  • To present research at national and international conferences.
  • To contribute to dissemination and impact activities of the SUN SPEARS project.
  • To collate and catalogue data for deposition and archiving in data repositories.


  • To be a full member of the SUN SPEARS research team, under the supervision of Dr. James Bradley

About the School

The School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London is internationally recognized for its theoretically informed, empirically grounded and politically engaged research, and remains one of the top departments for Geography and Environmental Sciences in the UK (REF 2014).

About Queen Mary

At Queen Mary University of London, we believe that a diversity of ideas helps us achieve the previously unthinkable.

Throughout our history, we’ve fostered social justice and improved lives through academic excellence. And we continue to live and breathe this spirit today, not because it’s simply ‘the right thing to do’ but for what it helps us achieve and the intellectual brilliance it delivers.

We continue to embrace diversity of thought and opinion in everything we do, in the belief that when views collide, disciplines interact, and perspectives intersect, truly original thought takes form.


We offer competitive salaries, access to a generous pension scheme, 30 days’ leave per annum (pro-rata for part-time/fixed-term), a season ticket loan scheme and access to a comprehensive range of personal and professional development opportunities. In addition, we offer a range of work life balance and family friendly, inclusive employment policies, flexible working arrangements, and campus facilities including an on-site nursery at the Mile End campus.

The post is based at the Mile End Campus in London. It is full time post for 16 months with the possibility of extension subject to available funds and the date of appointment, with an expected start date of 1st August 2023. The starting salary will be £40,223 (Grade 4) per annum pro-rata inclusive of London Allowance.

Queen Mary’s commitment to our diverse and inclusive community is embedded in our appointments processes. Reasonable adjustments will be made at each stage of the recruitment process for any candidate with a disability. We are open to considering applications from candidates wishing to work flexibly.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Dr. James Bradley (

Applications should include:

  • A cover letter (max. 2 pages) stating your motivation for applying to this position, research interests, relevant skills, training and experience.
  • Curriculum vitae.
  • Copy of official transcript(s).
  • Contact information for at least two and up to 3 references.

Important: Please also email Dr. James Bradley to confirm your intention to apply.

Reference: QMUL33172

Application deadline: 11 July 2023

Interviews are expected to be held in mid-July or shortly thereafter.

Valuing Diversity & Committed to Equality