PhD position OT-21852

PhD position: Biogeochemical processes determining carbon retention in soils in the context of the agroecological transition and climate change


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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE) is a major player in research and innovation. It is a community of 12,000 people with 272 research, experimental research, and support units located in 18 regional centres throughout France. Internationally, INRAE is among the top research organisations in the agricultural and food sciences, plant and animal sciences, as well as in ecology and environmental science. It is the world’s leading research organisation specialising in agriculture, food and the environment. INRAE’s goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. Faced with a growing world population, climate change, resource scarcity, and declining biodiversity, the Institute has a major role to play in building solutions and supporting the necessary acceleration of agricultural, food and environmental transitions.

Work environment, missions and activities

Project description:

To meet the Paris agreement aim of limiting the mean global temperature increase by 2100 to 1.5oC requires a decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of around 3000 Gt CO2-C equivalent by the end of the century. Soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration has gained significant societal and scientific attention in recent years, as it is claimed to be a win-win option as when successful SOC increase provides various co-benefits. However, it is crucial to evaluate under which circumstances increasing SOC may enhance GHG emissions under a changing climate. Moreover, SOC residence time is very heterogeneous. SOC residence time can be studied by distributing SOC in different kinetic pools, which have contrasting average carbon residence times. Large uncertainties remain regarding the magnitude of the soil-climate feedback partly due to the inaccurate parameterization of the temperature sensitivity (Q10) of SOM decomposition of C pools of distinct residence time. Thus, it is of crucial importance to investigate the Q10 of decomposition of distinct C-kinetic pools to foster our knowledge of the soil-climate feedback in an accelerating warmer planet. As agroecosystems represent over 40% of earth’s land surface today, they must be part of the solutions put in action to mitigate climate change. There is a growing literature evaluating how agricultural practices can promote SOC sequestration. However, the utility of “carbon farming” – or the use of management practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – is currently limited by a poor understanding of SOC residence time dynamics and how carbon cycling processes are responding to current and future increases in temperature. Thus, the main objective of this PhD project is to: (1) determine how distinct agricultural practices influence microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE), (2) resolve the influence of agricultural practices on soil carbon quantity and quality and (3) evaluate the relationship between soil organic matter and microbial physiology at increasing temperatures (e.g. Q10 of respiration, growth, CUE).

Training and skills

Master's degree/Engineering degree

A candidate with a master degree in biology, microbiology, soil sciences or related field. Who is motivated and that appreciates working in a collaborative multidisciplinary group. We expect a candidate that is communicative, curious, has good critical thinking and a positive attitude. The candidate should be an enthusiast for laboratory work and experimentation. Experience using a programming language (e.g. R or Python) is an advantage, but is not required.


INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from (depending on the type of contract and its duration):

- up to 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: trainingcareer advise;
social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

How to apply

Please send the below documents to

  • CV
  • A motivation letter explaining your motivations for this position (1 or 2 pages max.)
  • Previous grades from the studies (bachelor and master)
  • Contact details of 2 references (with email addresses or phone numbers)

If you are interested in this position do not hesitate to contact us before applying if you would like to have more information or ask further questions regarding the position or working group.


PhD_position_english_v2.pdfpdf - 210.47 KB

Offer reference

  • Contract: PhD position
  • Duration: 3 ans
  • Beginning: 01/07/2024
  • Remuneration: The PhD salary is 2100 € brut/month in 2024 (2200 € in 2025 and 2300 € in 2026).
  • Reference: OT-21852
  • Deadline: 20/05/2024
Centre Ile-de-France - Versailles-Saclay

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Prof. Claire CHENU
Living in France and working at INRAE Our guide for international scientists

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