Postdoctoral Fellow - Athabasca Watershed

Department of Renewable Resources in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences

Competition No.  -    A108243287
Closing Date  -    Will remain open until filled.

The Department of Renewable Resources in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences is looking for a full-time Postdoctoral Fellow in Bioavailability and bioaccessibility of trace elements in natural and industrial particles of the Lower Athabasca River watershed.

Under the direction of the Principle Investigator (Dr. William Shotyk), the successful candidate will be supported by a Research Associate and will interact with support staff, under/graduate students, and other PDFs in the lab. Collaboration and reporting to industry partners will also be expected. 

This post-doctoral appointment will have a starting wage of $46,000.00 CAN per annum and will be for a one-year term with a possible extension of up to three years pending funding.

There is ongoing concern regarding the potential environmental impacts and ecological significance of trace elements (TEs) from open-pit bitumen mining and upgrading, including from the eventual release of treated oil sands process water (OSPW) to the Athabasca River(AR). In many if not most cases, however, total concentrations of TEs in environmental media have been interpreted as having some biological significance, regardless of the chemical form of the element: this has led to many misunderstandings and, often, a concern that may be exaggerated. We have developed the analytical technology to clearly distinguish between the amounts of an element which are directly bioavailable to aquatic organisms ie the fraction which is "truly dissolved" (< 1 nm), found mainly as ionic species and capable of passing through cell membranes, versus organic and inorganic colloids (1 to 450 nm) and particles (> 450 nm) which are potentially bioaccessible upon ingestion, depending on their chemical reactivity. We now wish to apply our expertise to study industrial particles: those present in OSPW and treated OSPW, aquatic systems from reclaimed landscapes (demonstration pit lakes, constructed wetlands) as well as particles which may erode and leach from the mines, quarries, gravel roads, dry tailings, coke piles and overburden. We will evaluate the potential bioaccessibility of TEs in aquatic particles, using rigorous experimental studies of their chemical reactivity in synthetic gastric fluid. All of the analytical work will be undertaken in the metal-free, ultraclean SWAMPlab. For perspective and context, we will also examine the particles suspended in the AR, from selected locations, as these are expected to represent a natural gradient in the bioaccessibility of TEs.The overall objective is to examine, understand and communicate the risks to the health of aquatic ecosystems represented by TEs associated with industrial particles. The exposure pathways for TEs from these particles include 1) direct uptake of ions released from the particles to an aqueous solution (e.g. unicellular organisms, roots of aquatic plants, gill membranes) and 2)indirect uptake via ingestion (e.g. invertebrates and fish). To study these pathways, we will determine TEs which are 1) directly bioavailable, ionic species using AF4-ICP-MS and 2)bioaccessible and may become bioavailable during ingestion, experimentally using synthetic gastric fluids

Key Qualifications

  • PhD in Analytical Chemistry, Soil Chemistry, or Environmental Geochemistry
  • Ability to engage in complex data analyses and syntheses, and interpretation of findings
  • Demonstrated skills and eagerness to complete literature reviews, original manuscript writing and publication process in peer-reviewed journals in English
  • A teamwork aptitude - the ability to work independently but also to help organize research activities with others
  • Proactive, flexible, dedicated, well-centred, responsible
  • Strong numerical, statistical and computer skills

Sought-After Assets and Abilities

  • Ability to propose and undertake innovative analytical SOPs
  • Hands-on and theoretical experience with ICP-MS and ‘clean lab’ procedures and protocols for trace elements research
  • Experience writing research proposals and technical reports

Website Links, bioaccessibility, suspended sediments, trace elements, synthetic gastric fluids,redox chemistry, dissolved organic matter, speciation, colloids

To Apply 

Applications should include CV, transcripts (scanned unofficial copy), a letter describing research experience and interests (one or two pages), an example of a scientific publication(preferably written by the candidate as a first author and published in a peer-reviewed journal), and contact information for three references 

To assist the University in complying with mandatory reporting requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (R203(3) (e)), please include the first digit of your Canadian Social Insurance Number in your application. If you do not have a Canadian Social Insurance Number, please indicate this in your application.  

Closing date: We will begin considering applications immediately until the position is filled.

We thank all applicants for their interest; however, only those individuals selected for an interview will be contacted

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. If suitable Canadian citizens or permanent residents cannot be found, other individuals will be considered. The University of Alberta is committed to an equitable, diverse, and inclusive workforce. We welcome applications from all qualified persons. We encourage women; First Nations, Métis and Inuit persons; members of visible minority groups; persons with disabilities; persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity and expression; and all those who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas and the University to apply.

How to Apply

Apply Online

Note: Online applications are accepted until midnight Mountain Standard Time of the closing date.