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Assessing the impacts of oil and gas decommissioning on population connectivity and community structure of native and invasive marine invertebrates using next-generation DNA technology - National Decommissioning Centre

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Douglas
    Prof S Piertney
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Oil and gas infrastructure represent an important network of hard substrates that facilitates the stepping stone migration of native marine organisms as well as potentially aiding the spread of non-native invasive species. The ongoing process of decommissioning will inevitably affect the spatial distribution of marine invertebrate populations and therefore impact both the potential emergence and spread of invasive species and also the connectivity between features such as marine protected areas (MPAs).

However, a fuller understanding of how decommissioning will affect levels of biodiversity and influence patterns of population structure is limited by a lack of empirical data on the population genetics and phylogeographic structure among offshore infrastructure and natural populations.

This project will develop and deploy next-generation DNA technologies to characterise community structure around offshore installations, and also identify the extent to which populations are connected via dispersal.

Initial focus of the project will be on using DNA metabarcoding and environmental DNA (eDNA) approaches to characterise species assemblages associated with oil and gas infrastructure, and then progress to developing RAD-based genotyping to resolve patterns of gene flow in relation to oceanographic currents and features, including established MPAs.

Patterns of population genetic structure will be modelled under varying life-history parameters and contrasting scenarios of decommissioning to allow us to predict the consequences for population isolation or conversely the spread of alien invasive species.

This project offers a unique opportunity to exploit leading edge molecular genetic approaches in an applied context that interfaces with both industry and conservation. You will be become part of a vibrant, supportive and international research team, and receive in-depth training in modern molecular and sequencing techniques, bioinformatics and statistical modelling. The project will combine both lab and fieldwork.

Your employability will be enhanced by working directly with industry and as part of a multidisciplinary community of researchers at the newly formed National Decommissioning Centre (NDC) in Newburgh Aberdeen

The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain a UK Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Biological Sciences.

Essential background and Knowledge: Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Ecology and Use of Molecular Genetic Techniques.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Decommissioning
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘National Decommissioning Centre’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr Alex Douglas ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

If a suitable candidate is identified, the studentship may be awarded before the closing date

The start date of the project is 1 October (ideally, or as arranged with supervisor)

Funding Notes

Home Tuition Fees and stipend at Research Council rates for 3.5 years.

International candidates can apply if they can meet the difference between UK/EU and International Tuition fees from their own resources.

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