Understanding the biodiversity of living, non-marine, thrombolites of Lake Clifton, Western Australia

Microbialites are biosedimentary structures formed by the interaction of microorganisms with their environment. Living microbialites, including stromatolites and thrombolites, are found in just a few select locations worldwide. In 2010 the Lake Clifton thrombolites were listed as a Threatened Ecological Community (TEC) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999). There is a significant threat to the ongoing growth and survival of the Lake Clifton thrombolites potentially due to increases in groundwater extraction and altered groundwater flows in addition to increased nutrient inputs from adjacent agricultural and residential properties.

This project will investigate the microbial populations (and the functions they perform) present in the thrombolites at Lake Clifton in the Peel-Yalgorup region to (1) determine if they are still living, and (2) investigate how they might be affected by climate change including changes in water temperature and salinity. The project will involve sampling of thrombolites and lake water at Lake Clifton and the use of DNA and RNA based tools to assess the microbes and functions that maintain the thrombolites.

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Research team leader: Associate Professor Deirdre Gleeson

I completed my PhD in Biotechnology in 2001 and am currently based in the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment. My research focusses on the diversity and function of microorganisms in the environment, and how they are impacted by their surrounding habitat at both micro scale and at landscape scale.


Funding and Collaborations


  • This project is funded through a collaboration between the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council and the University of Western Australia.



How to Apply 

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  • 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
  • Requirements specific to this project - Add here if applicable
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  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
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Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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