Saving our underwater forests with cutting-edge technology in environmental genomics
Coastal ecosystems in Western Australia are facing a time of unprecedented pressures from a combination of population growth and climate change. This project will deliver impactful and innovative research in the field of environmental genomics that will increase the resolution and scale of the understanding of the processes and environmental drivers of habitat change across WA coastal systems.
This project will involve sampling across several sites along the WA coastline, with a specific emphasis on Gathaagudu (Shark Bay), a World Heritage Site with important Traditional Owner, fisheries, and biodiversity significance that is under marked pressure from climate change.
This project forms part of the Molecular Ecology Theme of the Integrated Coastal Analyses and Sensor Technology (ICoAST) project. The ICoAST project is a significant collaboration between marine researchers in the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), a partnership between AIMS, CSIRO, UWA Oceans Institute, and DPIRD. As such there will be significant scope for the successful applicant to collaborate with the research team to design a project that is of personal interest to them within this broad remit.
- Develop and employ environmental genomic approaches to help identify novel indicators of health and resilience of habitat forming species (primarily seagrasses) to climate change
- Work within a collaborative team of interdisciplinary scientists to integrate molecular data with other datasets (e.g. hydrodynamics, mapping, animal movement)
As part of this project the successful PhD applicant will conduct:
- Field methods: develop, plan and undertake field surveys and sample collections from small vessels at key sampling locations across the coast of WA, including the Shark Bay (Gathaagudu) World Heritage Site.
- Carry out genomics research in a laboratory setting. The techniques the applicant will use will largely depend on the scientific questions of most interest to the applicant, but may include methods such as transcriptomics, metagenomics or microscopy (e.g. Nano-SIMS).
- JA Thomson, DA Burkholder, MR Heithaus, JW Fourqurean, MW Fraser, ... Extreme temperatures, foundation species, and abrupt ecosystem change: an example from an iconic seagrass ecosystem. Global Change Biology 21 (4), 1463-1474.
- MW Fraser, DB Gleeson, PF Grierson, B Laverock, GA Kendrick. Metagenomic evidence of microbial community responsiveness to phosphorus and salinity gradients in seagrass sediments. Frontiers in microbiology 9, 1703
- MW Fraser, GA Kendrick. Belowground stressors and long-term seagrass declines in a historically degraded seagrass ecosystem after improved water quality. Scientific reports 7 (1), 1-11
- MW Fraser, GA Kendrick, J Statton, RK Hovey, A Zavala‐Perez, DI Walker. Extreme climate events lower resilience of foundation seagrass at edge of biogeographical range. Journal of Ecology 102 (6), 1528-1536
- BC Martin, J Bougoure, MH Ryan, WW Bennett, TD Colmer, NK Joyce, ... Oxygen loss from seagrass roots coincides with colonisation of sulphide-oxidising cable bacteria and reduces sulphide stress. The ISME journal 13 (3), 707-719
I am a marine ecologist whose primary research focusses on interactions between marine primary producers and their environment. I am specifically interested in how seagrass health is impacted by their surrounding sediments, including associated microbial communities. I am also interested in understanding the bottom up impacts of declines in marine primary producers related to climate change. I address these research areas with a range of different methodologies - using molecular techniques, stable isotopes and plant physiology in both controlled tank systems and in large scale field experiments. I also work closely with megafauna ecologists to better understand the interactions between habitats and marine animals of cultural, social and economic significance
Funding and Collaborations
- This research project constitutes a significant collaboration between marine researchers in the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), a partnership between AIMS, CSIRO, UWA Oceans Institute, and DPIRD (previously, the Department of Fisheries).
How to Apply
- To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
- There are no formal eligibility criteria for this project, but the following list is desirable:
- Diving certification and diving experience is desirable, but not essential
- Experience in standard molecular techniques (e.g. nucleic acid extractions, PCR) is desirable
- Experience in bioinformatics related to genomics data is desirable, but not essential
- Qualifications and experience with boating activities is a plus
Submit enquiry to research team leader
- Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
- After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to proceed with your application