PhD Student Profile

Phil Kay

University of Tasmania

This project is looking to characterise the taxonomic diversity of soil microbiota, the abundance of particular microbial groups and the level of enzyme activity in the soils. To distinguish between soil health and soil fertility, the impact of imposed stresses (drought, waterlogging) on soil microbiota will be assessed and the ability of the microbiota to recover following the removal of the stresses will also be examined.

I am actively looking for relationships between the volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) emitted from the soil and the microbial communities within.

PhD Title: “Microbial changes associated with improved or reduced soil health.”

PhD start date: November 2019

Supervisors: Dr Morag Glen, University of Tasmania, Dr Caroline Mohammed, University of Tasmania, Dr Marcus Hardie, University of Tasmania, Dr Ross Corkrey, University of Tasmania.

What interested you about this research?
The biological communities within the soil matrix is so complex and important to ‘soil health’ yet so little is actually understood.

What do you love about soil?
The complexity of the different soil types, the feel, the smell and overall, the importance of soil to all life on earth. In my opinion, generally soil is completely underrated.

What do you love about your PhD?
My PhD is allowing me to gain a much greater understanding of such a complex part of the ecosystem yet seems to be finding many more questions than answers.

How will your PhD help to make a difference for farmers?
I’m hoping that my research will lead to the eventual possibility of biological fertilisers and herbicides through the use of VOC’s. This could help farmers to limit or even eliminate synthetic use which in turn would help their soils to ‘repair’ and support an increase in biological diversity which in turn could support greater production and yields.

What do you want to do when you finish your PhD?
I am hoping to work and lead projects in developing nations overseas.