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).
Tailings, the waste materials from metalliferous mining activities, are very poor in nutrients and organic
matter. Application of stable soil amendments to mine tailings increases the success of phytostabilization
and rehabilitation, but also provides an opportunity for carbon sequestration resulting in carbon neutral or
even carbon negative mining activities. British Columbia contains large volumes of ultramafic rock that is
mined for its nickel content. Ultramafic rock is a basic igneous rock that is readily altered when exposed to
air and water and can sequester atmospheric CO2 through natural weathering processes. Unfortunately,
ultramafic rock is known to inhibit plant growth, and little is known about the optimal ultramafic
remediation strategy to stabilize the tailings. Re-establishing a viable plant community on the tailings offers
an opportunity to restore ecosystem services while stimulating soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration,
further increasing the size of this potential carbon sink. Importantly, microorganisms control decomposition
rates and nutrients cycles, and this project will explore how the application of different microbial
communities promote plant health and ultimately carbon sequestration.
The successful MSc candidate will conduct greenhouse experiments to test the effectiveness of different
amendments and microbial communities for promoting carbon sequestration on ultramafic tailings.
Candidates will receive training in laboratory techniques as well as mentoring from the industrial partner.
This position is suited for individuals interested in restoration and/or wish to pursue a career in industry.
The ideal candidate should have the following:
• B.Sc. in Biology, Environmental Science, Soil Science, Ecology or related fields;
• A background in microbiology and bioinformatics is desirable;
• Ability to work in the laboratory and greenhouse 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 (Michael.Preston@unbc.ca). 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 on tree restoration. 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.