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Developing a commercial breeding program to support the cultivation of the red seaweed dulse (Palmaria palmata)

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  Prof W Powell, Prof M Stanley  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The adoption of renewable, alternative food and energy sources is critical for addressing multiple global challenges, including the world's climate catastrophe and poor human nutrition. Seaweed farming provides an appropriate response by providing nutritious foods and feeds, diversifying production options and circularising economies. Despite a growing demand for seaweed biomass in Europe, most is still sourced by wild harvesting. This is not sustainable as demand grows, especially for the red seaweed dulse (Palmaria palmata), which has been wild-collected for centuries for human consumption and animal feed. Markets for dulse’s nutritional value, bioactive compounds for pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications, use as biofuel and as a ruminant feed supplement, are already developing. But establishing viable approaches and suitable strains for dulse cultivation is not simple.

Dulse is a dioecious macroalgae with a microscopic haploid female and a macroscopic haploid male gametophyte. The diploid sporophytes appear identical to the male gametophytes, making morphological differentiation difficult. Little is known about whether the diploid sporophyte or male gametophyte is preferable for commercial farming, particularly in terms of growth rate and biomass build-up. This PhD project will investigate the genetic challenges that have hindered commercial dulse breeding. PhD objectives include the: (1) development of diagnostic genetic markers to differentiate haploid male gametophytes and diploid sporophytes; (2) evaluation of the relationship between life stages and economically important traits such as growth rate and biomass; (3) development of a genetic map; and (4) modelling of an optimal breeding program.

The PhD will draw on a wide array of expertise at SRUC and SAMS Institute. Sex-linked genetic markers will be identified through genotype-by-sequencing of the sporophytes and their resulting progeny gametophytes. These will then be developed into KASP markers for the easy identification of life stages. We will screen for haploid male gametophytes and diploid sporophytes in freshly collected dulse samples. Within the same samples, we will record the biomass (wet and fresh densities) and evaluate the in vitro growth rate of dulse cuttings under various experimental conditions (e.g. life stages, initial cutting sizes, salinity level in growing medium, light intensity). Genotype-by-sequencing markers will be applied to the development of a genetic map, simulate a dulse breeding program with genomic selection, and map QTLs.


Application instructions can be found on the SRUC website- PhD opportunities | SRUC

1.     Download and complete the Equal opportunities survey and note the completion reference

2.     Download and complete the SRUC Application form

3.     Download the Academic Reference Request and send to two referees requesting they submit to [Email Address Removed] by the closing date.

Send your application including the following to [Email Address Removed]:

  • Completed Application form quoting Ref SRUC/WP
  • Academic Qualifications
  • English Language Qualification (if applicable)

Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications. Please ensure your application is complete by Monday 9th January 2023.

Funding Notes

This 3.5 year PhD studentship is open to UK and international students, providing funding to cover UKRI level stipend and UK level tuition fees.

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