M.Sc./Ph.D. Opportunity, Department of Soil Science Department, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Project title

Development and function of arctic and alpine biological soil crust communities

Project summary

In alpine and arctic environments, Biological Soil Crusts (BSCs) are often a dominant vegetation unit, making these ecosystems a uniquely powerful model for examining the role of BSCs in terrestrial ecosystem development. The first goal in this series of projects is to determine the initial and realized niche ranges of key species found in BSCs. While determining species niche ranges is needed for successful restoration of alpine and tundra plant communities, long-term ecosystem recovery and health is ultimately dependent on restoration of key ecosystem processes. Therefore, our second goal is to link niche construction with the recovery of ecosystem functions for key BSC species. We will achieve these goals by determining niche ranges and recovery of key ecosystem processes under both natural recolonization and active restoration. Optima and niche ranges for key macro and micro BSC phyla will be determined through characterization of BSCs in relation to key microclimate and soil physicochemical factors along subarctic alpine chronosequences, tundra drilling waste materials and mine site tailings. Manipulative growth chamber and field experiments will assist in the confirmation of niche ranges and help to develop BSC restoration techniques.


There are opportunities for both M.Sc. and Ph.D. positions.

  • Background in soil and/or plant sciences
  • Interest in plant-soil systems, non-vascular plant communities, soil microbial composition and function
  • Field work in remote locations including soil sampling, moss and lichen identification
  • Experience with molecular analyses/data considered an asset

The expected starting date for the 2-year M.Sc. and 3-year Ph.D. positions vary from July 1, 2018 to January 1, 2019.

The stipend for the M.Sc. position is $22,680 per year and $27,018 for the Ph.D. position.

Interested candidates should submit a statement of interest, CV and three references, unofficial transcripts and a sample of writing to Dr. Katherine Stewart, Department of Soil Science, University of Saskatchewan (katherine.stewart@usask.ca). For more information please contact Dr. Stewart.