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Community composition and function of the hindgut microbiome in seaweed-eating marine fish - Project 2

Project Description

The world’s increasing demand for food generates a powerful economic imperative for innovation in food production technology. Our novel system was discovered through our previous research in New Zealand, and has the potential to create several new products for the global food supply chain.

Our research revealed that (a) symbiotic microbes in the hindgut of NZ seaweed-eating fishes convert seaweed and atmospheric nitrogen into compounds of nutritional value to fish, (b) these hindgut microbes provide an important source of dietary protein to the fish, and (c) these novel organisms can be grown in culture. Culturing these microbial communities to bioconvert abundant and sustainable seaweeds would thus address four global problems: (a) the economic and environmental costs of feeding capture fish to cultured fish, (b) the unsuitability of many terrestrial protein sources for aquaculture feeds due to the lack of critical nutrients and the presence of compounds inhibitory to digestion, (c) current roadblocks to using abundant seaweed biomass to produce aquaculture feeds, and (d) the growing demand for sustainable agricultural fertiliser. This is a completely novel idea on an international level, as we have only just discovered and begun to understand the microbial and physiological processes in NZ fish underpinning it.

Over the next five years our MBIE funded programme develops and broadens this research into a number of economic opportunities for NZ and beyond. These will be accomplished by developing the culture technology and methodology to maximize the production of desired fermentation end products; single cell protein for animal and aquaculture feeds, organic fertilisers that will decrease the need for more harmful forms currently used and as a food source for black soldier fly larvae, which have growing global importance as feed components for aquaculture and poultry.

The successful PhD candidate will be responsible for determining the functional interactions in community metabolism using metagenomics and transcriptomics. This will involve a mix of field work (including offshore sampling using the University research vessel), laboratory work and bioinformatics. The successful candidate will have skills in both microbiology and bioinformatics and for this project it would be particularly helpful if candidates had experience in programming.

Funding Notes

The Scholarship will pay for up to three years of student fees and an annual tax free stipend of NZ$27,900

Please send your CV and academic transcripts to Dr. Kim Handley -

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