PhD position OT-6088

Role of soil structure on several scales (microstructure / macrostructure) in N2O emissions from agricultural soils.


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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE) is a public research establishment. It is a community of 12,000 people with more than 200 research units and 42 experimental units located throughout France. The institute is among the world leaders in agricultural and food sciences, in plant and animal sciences, and is 11th in the world in ecology and environment. INRAE’s main goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. In the face of the increase in population, climate change, scarcity of resources and decline in biodiversity, the institute develops solutions for multiperformance agriculture, high quality food and sustainable management of resources and ecosystems.

Work environment, missions and activities

Hosting laboratory and PhD supervision

UR SOLS is part of INRAE, the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. The main mission of the research unit UR SOLS is to develop research programs in Soil Science, working on the interactions between i) the physical properties of soils and the dynamics of the structure and ii) some of their functioning (water transfers and GHG), taking into account the diversity of soils (specifically from spatial approaches), in the context of climate and anthropogenic changes. The challenges of this work are to lead to a better assessment of the ecosystem services to which soils contribute, and to provide elements aiming at soil preservation, better management of water resources and protection of air quality (buy the reduction of the GHG concentration).
The PhD candidate will be supervised Isabelle Cousin (director of research at INRAE), co-supervised by Agnès Grossel and Marine Lacoste (researchers at INRAE). He/she will defend his/her PhD at the graduate school EMSTU (Energy, Materials, Earth and Universe Sciences) of the University of Orléans (France).

Project summary

N2O is the third anthropogenic greenhouse gas, and is mainly produced by agricultural soils. N2O emissions can be direct or indirect, whether the N2O releases directly to the atmosphere at the place of production or after transfer (for example by the water network). Soil structure is a key control factor in N2O production in soils. The objective of the proposed PhD project is to clarify the role of the structure at several scales (microstructure and macrostructure) on N2O emissions, at the scale of the soil horizon. The PhD student will carry out a fine characterization of the soil structure by X-ray tomography and neutronography, and will propose a formalism of water and gas exchanges that can be integrated into a model. This model will be evaluated through experiments in controlled conditions under a rainfall simulator. The applied objective of this PhD is to propose a simulation tool taking into account the effect of the soil structure on direct and indirect N2O emissions. It could be used to evaluate agricultural practices that aimed at minimizing N2O emissions.

Training and skills

Master's degree/Engineering degree

Master 2 degree (or equivalent) in Environmental Science, Earth Science, Agronomy, with knowledge on soils.
Good skills both in numerical analysis, modeling, and laboratory experiments.
Good communication skills in English.

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from:

- 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

The candidates for this PhD proposal must apply via the portal before April 30th, 2020.
Please also send the following documents to, and detailed CV, motivation letter setting out your professional project (1 page maximum), copy of transcripts (License, Master if available), recommendation letter from your Master internship manager establishing your initiation and aptitude for research.
The selected candidates will be auditioned by a jury of the graduate school EMSTU around mid-May 2020 in Orléans. Applicants that live abroad at the time of the hearing will be allowed to compete by videoconference.

Offer reference

  • Contract: PhD position
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Beginning: 01/10/2020
  • Reference: OT-6088
  • Dealine: 30/04/2020
Centre Val de Loire

UR0272 SOLS Science du Sol 45075 ORLEANS Website