INNOVATIONS IN SOIL HEALTH ANALYSIS
Soil is a finite and non-renewable resource. It is key to providing a wide range of goods and services such as sustainable food production for a growing population and resilience against climate change. However, increasing the intensity at which we are using soil resources is beginning to cause significant damage.
My research project’s primary aim is to explore the link between the small molecule chemicals that provide the building blocks for life and a soil’s biological health. Currently, most tests for soil management focus on physical and chemical parameters and disregard biological function.
Using novel metabolomic and volatilomic extraction and analysis methods we will compare a range of different quality agricultural soils to improve the understanding of how soil biological primary and secondary metabolism varies under these conditions and relate this to the function of the biological community.
Having an in-depth understanding of the changes in the microbial function under different soil conditions is likely to enhance our understanding of biological nutrient cycling and system resilience and possibly lead to better management of soil resources into the future.
My research so far has shown that metabolomics and volatilomics are both able to provide very responsive and sensitive differentiation of soil quality. Under some conditions, unique characteristic ‘biomarker’ molecules have been produced which warrant further exploration. We have also shown that drought conditions strongly affected the metabolic processing of soil microbiology.
KESS 2 funding has provided a fantastic platform to showcase my research at several conferences, both nationally and internationally, as well as allowed me to network with fellow KESS 2 students at events such as the Annual Awards and KESS 2 Grad School.
In 2019, I also took part in the E.I.D.S. (European Industrial Doctoral School) in Pardubice, Czech Republic. It was a fantastic experience, allowing me to share my research on an interdisciplinary platform as well as meet research students in industry and application-based programmes from across Europe.
I have also had the opportunity to develop additional skills through the postgraduate skills development programme (PSDA) as well as the chance to manage my own budget. Additionally, I have been able to use laboratories at several other institutions around the UK and been able to co-write and win research grants by collaborating across disciplines.
Conference abstract, which can be viewed via this link : https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2020/EGU2020-22358.html
“Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) allow sensitive differentiation of biological soil quality”, Soil Biology and Biochemistry journal: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1ch0F8g13P-wK
Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher-level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part-funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys. For further information about how your organisation could benefit from participating in KESS 2, please contact the KESS 2 Central team at Bangor at: firstname.lastname@example.org