Master’s student position investigating the microbial response to tree restoration and consequence for forest carbon stocks.

Dr. Michael D. Preston is seeking an MSc student to study in the fields of Microbial Ecology, Soil Science, and
Restoration Ecology at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

Tree restoration has been identified as an effective and affordable capture carbon strategy to help limit
global warming to 1.5 °C by 2050. Trees planted on former agricultural land have been shown to have similar
growth rates and carbon sequestration compared to silvicultural plantations. However, prior land-use can
leave long-lasting legacies on ecosystems when compared to ecosystems with no history of agriculture.
Consequently, these land-use legacies may prevent the restoration of a complete forest ecosystem, limiting
the amount of carbon that can be sequestered following tree-restoration. Importantly, forest ecosystems
can store most of their carbon (> 80%) below the surface as soil organic carbon (SOC), with a smaller fraction
in the vegetation. While the contribution of new forest biomass to carbon sequestration is well understood,
soil carbon sequestration is more complex and our understanding of the processes that regulate carbon
stock size is limited. It is unclear how SOC stocks recover following tree restoration and is dependent on a
balance between plant inputs (e.g., litter and root exudates) and microbial activity and growth. Crucially,
microorganisms regulate decomposition processes and nutrient cycles that have large implications for the
restored ecosystem.

The successful MSc candidate will evaluate how former land-use, biogeoclimatic zones, forestry practice, and
microbial communities impact carbon sequestration following tree restoration in central British Columbia.
Candidates will receive training in field and laboratory techniques as well as mentoring from the industrial

The ideal candidate should have the following:
• B.Sc. in Biology, Environmental Science, Soil Science, Ecology or related fields;
• Some background in microbiology is desirable;
• Ability to work in the field for extended periods;
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills;
• An ability to work with others in a team environment; and
• A willingness to engage in problem solving, data analysis and thesis development.

Timeline: A start date of May 1, 2022, is desirable (but negotiable) with expected completion by April 2024.

Annual Stipend: Stipend will be negotiated and is dependent on funding. Candidates will be expected to
apply for additional funding sources. Teaching Assistantships may be available at UNBC.

How to Apply: Interested candidates should send a cover letter indicating their research experience and
interests (1 page limit), a CV, a copy of transcripts (unofficial is okay), and the names of two references
to: Dr. Michael D. Preston ( The successful candidate will be directed to apply to
the University of Northern British Columbia Master of Science program.

Application Deadline: Applications received on or before November 5, 2021, will receive full consideration;
however, applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Dr. Preston is also advertising for another
project in Restoration Ecology of industrial mine tailings. Applicants interested in both positions should
indicate this on their cover letter. Only one application is necessary if applying for both positions.

About the University and its Community. Located in the spectacular landscape of northern British Columbia,
UNBC is one of Canada’s best small research-intensive universities. Our region is comprised of friendly
communities, offering a wide range of outdoor activities including exceptional skiing, canoeing and kayaking,
hiking, and mountain biking. The lakes, forests and mountains of northern and central British Columbia offer
an unparalleled natural environment in which to live and work.