Seagrass adaptation and acclimation responses to extreme climatic events: genomics and gene expression

Discovering how climate change affects marine plant growth

Extreme climatic events are predicted to become more frequent and severe, causing rapid ecosystem change, the scale of which is likely to be greater than that caused by a gradually changing climate. These extreme events can act as strong and acute agents of selection, generating widespread mortality and collapse of ecosystem services. Understanding how marine ecosystems respond to change will be a critical component of their management in the future. Shark Bay is a World Heritage Area with some of the largest seagrass meadows in the world. These meadows have high ecological, economic, and social values, supporting abundant and diverse animal communities, including commercially harvested species. However, the large meadows formed by temperate seagrass species are directly threatened by climate change, underlined by large-scale seagrass dieback following a marine heatwave event in 2011.

This project takes an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates whole plant growth, physiology and gene expression responses to explore interactions of multiple stressors to extreme events under predicted climate change scenarios. The PhD applicant will investigate gene expression in Posidonia australis through a series of in situ transplant trials and ex situ mesocosm (short and long term) experiments to test the response of seagrass genotypes from different environments to synergistic climate change stressors.

This is an ARC funded Discovery project. The two PhD researchers will be expected to align with the main goals of the project, as well as actively contribute to the broader research goals of the Seagrass Research group. However, there is some scope for additional funds to be sought by the student for related research.

For more background information see the suggested readings below.

Research team leader: Dr Elizabeth Sinclair

I am a senior research fellow in the School of Biological Sciences and Oceans Institute working on seagrass genetics and genomics. The focus of ongoing seagrass research has been to understand genetic structure and connectivity in the wide ranging Posidonia, with a recent focus on understanding thresholds to marine environmental stressors through taking a whole plant approach ? understanding physiological and genomic responses. I serve on the Australian Marine Science Association WA board.

This project will be co-supervised by Professor Gary Kendrick at the School of Biological Sciences.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project include:

  • Background in at least one of the following areas: marine ecology, and/or molecular ecology, genomics, gene expression, bioinformatics
  • Good understanding of statistical methods, programming in R
  • Diving (Scientific diver) qualifications preferred

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an applicationDifferent application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


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