Transcriptional regulation of bacterial nitrous oxide emissions in complex ecosystems (ROWLEY_UBI...

University of East Anglia
October 13 2017
Life Sciences, Biology
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type


Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a potent greenhouse gas. Although atmospheric N2O levels are lower than that of CO2, it has a 300-fold greater global warming potential, and represents around 10% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Denitrifying bacteria play key roles in the synthesis and consumption of N2O. In oxygen (O2)-limited environments, these bacteria can switch from O2-respiration to nitrate (NO3-) respiration in which NO3- is converted via nitrite (NO2-), nitric oxide (NO) and N2O to dinitrogen (N2), a process termed denitrification. The last step in denitrification is carried out by nitrous oxide reductase, NosZ. NosZ is the major enzyme on the planet responsible for the destruction of N2O, without which atmospheric levels of N2O would be much greater.

Given the importance of this enzyme, it is surprising that we do not understand the switches inside the bacteria that allow NosZ to be produced. The fact that so much N2O is produced from natural environments implies that NosZ in the microbial population is not always active. An understanding of the switches that control NosZ is crucial if novel chemical or biological mitigation strategies are to be developed to drive bacterial communities to be net N2O consumers rather than producers.

The Project

Building from our recent publications (Sullivan et al, 2013, Gaimster et al, 2016) we are looking for a highly-motivated student who will determine:

  • The key environmental variables that regulate nosZ transcription in pure cultures of model denitrifying bacteria and in complex soil and aquatic environments.

  • The role of bacterial sRNA, that we have identified, in responding to these variables and regulating N2O emissions.

Student Role

The student will be involved in all aspects of the project from experimental design and environmental sampling, to laboratory analyses and data management. The student will also take part in outreach activities that the Rowley lab undertakes.


To study this exciting project we will employ a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating microbial physiology, functional genomics, biochemistry, and ecosystems biology. Comprehensive training will be provided in each of these areas. Presentation of results at international conferences will be an important aspect of the training provided.

Secondary supervisor: Dr Jonathan Todd (UEA).


This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 12/13 February 2018.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK's eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

EnvEast welcomes applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited background in environmental sciences. Excellent candidates will be considered for an award of an additional 3-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

For further information, please visit

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess

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