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PhD scholarship, ARC funded Discovery: Fit for the future: Photosynthetic traits as “key performance indicators” of coral health

Reference: JOB486
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Employer: Coral Ecophysiology Processes Group, UTS
Application deadline: CLOSED
Contact: A/Professor David Suggett

Project title

Adaptive strategies of carbon transformation amongst coral symbionts (Symbiodinium spp.)

Project background

Coral reef health is fundamentally tied to the microalga Symbiodinium spp. that lives in symbiosis with reef building corals. Whilst coral growth and stress tolerance is strongly associated with the presence of specific genotypes of Symbiodinium, we still do not know the key physiological properties (“functional traits”) that ultimately define ecological success from amongst Symbiodinium’s immense genetic diversity. Photosynthetic pathways not only sustain the symbiosis to fuel coral growth but also act as a major bottleneck during stress-conditions. Adaptive differences in how Symbiodinium transforms light energy into carbon (for either its own cellular growth/ maintenance or release to the host) may therefore explain ecological patterns of host-symbiont associations over space and time.

Project description

This project will investigate the flow of inorganic carbon uptake into growth and maintenance (versus exuded as “waste”) to resolve the potential cost-benefit of different Symbiodinium genotypes to their coral hosts. Work undertaken will integrate cutting edge physiological techniques (active fluorometry, membrane inlet mass spectrometry, imaging) and functional genomics (metabolomics, transcriptomics) to uniquely track carbon utilisation and metabolite importation. Research will primarily examine Symbiodinium genotypes in the laboratory under alternate environmental scenarios, with opportunities to examine genotypes in hospite under natural environmental gradients.

Desirable skills and qualifications

  • Excellent written and spoken English
  • First class honours or MSc degree, published work and/or research experience
  • A strong grounding in microalgal culturing, biochemistry and/or molecular techniques is an advantage.

Scholarship details

  • Three year scholarship stipend valued at approximately $26,000 tax-free per annum
  • $3,000 per annum in travel funds to support research and collaboration
  • $2,800 per annum allocated as project support grant
  • $2,000 postgraduate conference travel funding (subject to approval)
  • Desktop computer and a workspace in state-of-the-art research facilities.

Expressions of interest

Interested applicants should submit a:

  • CV with contact details of three referees
  • Statement of research intent for undertaking this project (1/2 page)

to A/Professor David Suggett by 31 December 2015.

The preferred applicant will need to submit an application for admission to a higher degree by research. Find out how to apply.

More information

Contact Science Research for more information.