Understanding the effects of root surface structure on root-soil cohesion

About the project or challenge area

Soil erosion is a significant risk to global food security and land management. Plant roots can reduce soil erosion, but the detailed mechanisms of root-soil cohesion and their genetic underpinnings are poorly understood. This project aims to disentangle the effects of soil-binding root secretions and friction-enhancing root surface topography. You will develop methods for casting epoxy replicas of roots from different plant species to test whether root shape and surface topography alone has a significant effect on its ability to attach to and retain soil. You will use scanning electron microscopy to verify the accuracy of your replicas. The replicas can be oxygen plasma-treated to modify the surface chemistry, or we can selectively add root secretions. This will allow us to test individual aspects of root-soil cohesion in isolation, or in any desired combination. This project will be based in the Grierson Lab, but you will closely collaborate with Ulrike Bauer’s Mechanical Ecology Lab (https://mechanicalecology.bristol.ac.uk).

Why choose this opportunity?

You will learn how to work with different types of plant species using several applications, e.g. sterile technique, plant culture on different media, genotyping and phenotyping plant traits associated with root adhesion, and machining. You will contribute to novel method development and data collection.

About you

Experience in a plant or biology lab would assist in comfort and confidence in the lab, but is not required.

How to apply

All students can apply using the button below, following the Admissions Statement (PDF, 188kB)

Before applying, we recommend getting in touch with the project's supervisors. If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more about the research you will be undertaking, please use the contact details on this page.

Claire Grierson Supervisor

Your supervisor for this project will be  Professor Claire Grierson, Head of School, Biological Sciences. You can contact her at +44 (0) 117 394 1185 or email lacsg@bristol.ac.uk.

Ulrike Bauer in the field Supervisor

Your co-supervisor for this project will be Dr Ulrike Bauer in the School of Biological Sciences. You can contact her at +44 (0)117 394 1296 or email ulrike.bauer@bristol.ac.uk.

Find out more about your prospective research community

The Environmental Change theme is a vibrant community of researchers who integrate expertise across multiple disciplines to provide the evidence base and solutions to tackle the world's most pressing environmental challenges. Find out more about the Environmental Change research theme.

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