ESR9: Isotope fingerprint of metal deficiency in soils

The Department of Geology, Trinity College Dublin seeks to appoint a PhD student in the research field of Isotope Geochemistry applied to malnutrition. Using samples collected from field sites, the student will seek to understand the reasons for Zn (and other vital metal) deficiency in diet, resulting malnutrition and increased child mortality.


  • Understanding the origin of deficiency in Zn and other vital metals in soils and crops grown on metal deficient soils.
  • Distinguishing between inherent low Zn content of soil and Zn depletion through soil over-use.
  • Testing Zn-fertilisation and other potential remedial efforts to combat Zn-deficiency.

Tasks and methodology:

  • Recover Zn-depleted soil profiles and crop samples from areas studied by the 'Zinc Saves Kids Initiative'.
  • Measure full vital metal concentrations and Zn-isotope composition in these samples.
  • Establish a mass and isotope budget of Zn at the soil scale in areas deficient in Zn.


  • Master in Geosciences.
  • Experience in low blank geochemical analysis.
  • Knowledge of Isotope Geochemistry.
  • Willingness to perform fieldwork in remote areas and work in an interdisciplinary and international environment.

Planned secondments:

  • 4 months-secondment at Boliden for field work and to select and characterize Zn-deficient soil samples.
  • 2 month-intersectoral secondment at Teck to learn about ore extraction processes.

Description of host institution:

Trinity College Dublin is Ireland's premier university, located in the historic campus in the heart of Dublin. The School of Natural Sciences accommodates ca. 40 academic staff, 20 postdoctoral research fellows and 150 graduate research students across the disciplines of Geology, Geography, Environmental Sciences, Botany and Zoology. The Geology Department has a core of young and dynamic academic staff with an overarching research focus in geochemistry. It houses all the traditional thin section, rock, mineral, fossil and tephra preparation facilities, and has a laboratory complex with clean rooms, stable isotope mass spectrometers, XRD, a new excimer UV laser ablation system and new ICP-MS and ICP-OES. It is a partner in the Irish National Centre for Isotope Geochemistry, located 20 minutes away, which offers access to cutting edge TIMS and MC-ICP-MS.

For further information contact Prof Balz Kamber kamberbs(at)