Research Supervisor Connect

How does carbon affect soil structure?


Soil structure plays an important role in maintaining the quality of soil, mediating important biological, chemical and physical soil processes. Soil structure determines water retention, and infiltration, hence water availability to plants, it also has the potential to sequester carbon.
Although it has been well known that soil organic carbon interacts and influences the formation of soil structure, there is little evidence of attempts being made to directly describe this relationship using mechanistic models. This project will build and validate a mechanistic model of soil carbon dynamics.


Professor Alex McBratney.

Research location

Sydney Institute of Agriculture

Program type



We have developed a mechanistic model, named Struc-C, that describes how the soil organic carbon (SOC) influences the dynamics of soil structure, and consequently, soil physical behaviour. This model attemptsto build a connection between the biology, the chemistry, and the physics of soil aggregation. However improvements to, and validation of, the model are required. This project will seek to improve the model and investigate important parameters affecting the dynamics of soil carbon and structure. This includes the different mean residence tims of soil aggregate carbon fractions, and the relationship between organic matter input quantity and quality to SOC dynamics. Furthermore, we need to consider other factors that could influence soil structure, e.g., iron oxide sorption or the type of clay minerals.
Quantifying the components of soil aggregates and carbon and validating the model is an essential part.

Additional information

Additional supervisors, Professor Budiman Minasny and Associate Professor Damien Field

A candidate with strong background in soil science, or related subjects. Experience in modelling and programming will be beneficial. 

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1218

Other opportunities with Professor Alex McBratney