Current agricultural practices ignore the role of soil biodiversity. The result is low biodiversity, the emission of greenhouse gases, and no buffer against extreme climate events such as drought. Restoring these crucial soil functions will have real impact, and needs modern data science.
In 2023, we start the SoilProS
project (Soil Biodiversity analyses for Sustainable Production Systems
) financed by the Dutch Research Council NWO-TTW (Perspectief programme). The ecological data is collected at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
, a top research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the SoilProS project, 7 PhD candidates and one Postdoc will bring together ecology and data science. You are one of these PhD candidates, based at the University of Twente (UT), and solely focused on computational methods for data analysis, modelling and understanding the soil ecosystem
will be available. This is complex, many-variable data about soil metadata, soil biodiversity (the presence of various organisms and species), and soil function (for example, health) under different soil management practices. You will research how to:
Model the soil "food web" out of data, to understand the links between groups of soil organisms. We aim to find functional or causal (rather than only co-occurrence) links.
Learn to predict from data how healthy soils look like in terms of biodiversity, and which environmental drivers lead to the presence or absence of soil organisms.
- With this knowledge, optimize interventions which bring a soil to better health in a shorter time.