Determining how seagrass-sediment feedbacks can be harnessed to improve success of seagrass restoration
To date, seagrass restoration efforts to promote natural recovery and/or enhance seagrass planting success have tended to focus solely on improving above-ground processes (e.g. light availability, water quality and hydrodynamic turbulence). However, below-ground processes under microbial control (i.e. plant-sediment feedbacks), a known regulator of plant performance, is also critical for enhancing restoration of seagrasses. Below-ground processes have the potential to benefit seagrass growth and survivorship via increasing availability of plant nutrients, creating suitable environmental conditions (e.g. buffering sediment pH and redox potential), or by pathogen defence and production of plant hormones.
This project will involve a combination of tank trials (using the newly constructed Waterman’s facility) as well as in-situ restoration field trials to explore if the below-ground environment can be manipulated to improve seagrass restoration. This project is nested inside a larger Nation wide (NSW, Vic, WA and Tas) and international (Singapore) ARC-Linkage project, with significant collaboration between multiple state-NRMs and universities.
- Understand the effects of seagrass-sediment feedbacks on seagrass health.
- Develop innovative approaches to seagrass restoration
As part of this project the successful PhD applicant will undertake:
- Tank trials: develop, plan and undertake tank trials that explore the impact of seagrass-sediment feedbacks under different environmental conditions.
- Field methods: develop, plan and undertake field trials that test seagrass-sediment feedbacks in a field setting.
- Carry out a mixture of techniques in seagrass and microbial ecology. 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 stable isotope techniques, metagenomics or microscopy.
- BC Martin, JA Middleton, MW Fraser, IPG Marshall, VV Scholz, B Hausl, ... Cutting out the middle clam: lucinid endosymbiotic bacteria are also associated with seagrass roots worldwide. The ISME Journal 14 (11), 2901-2905
- VV Scholz, BC Martin, R Meyer, A Schramm, MW Fraser, LP Nielsen, et al. Cable bacteria at oxygen‐releasing roots of aquatic plants: a widespread and diverse plant–microbe association. New Phytologist.
- 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
- 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
I am a microbial ecologist whose primary research focusses on plant health and microbial functions in ecosystems. My research focusses especially in the rhizosphere environment, which is the zone of soil that is influenced by plant roots. Locally, I work closely with natural resource managers to improve our ability to respond to and manage activities that impact seagrass ecosystems. Internationally, I work with leaders in microbiome research; building capacity and drawing investment into WA in this growing field of microbiome research. I am also co-director of a science illustration company, Ooid Scientific, specialising in scientific conceptual diagrams and figures for publication.
Funding and Collaborations
Funding - ARC-L (LP200200220)
This research project constitutes a significant collaboration between marine researchers in the UWA Ocean Institute, WA’s Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Sydney University, UNSW, Macquarie University, and Singapore’s SCELSE.
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.
- Experience in aquaculture techniques.
- Experience in standard laboratory and molecular laboratory techniques (e.g. nutrient analysis, nucleic acid extractions, PCR).
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