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Eavesdropping on bacterial conversations: are bacterial signal molecules a universal cue for the recruitment of benthic organisms in the sea? (TAITPPML19ARIES)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, January 08, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Scientific background
Currently, many anti-foulants are toxic chemicals which have wider implications for the health of marine communities. Research has provided tantalising evidence that a group of bacterial-derived signal molecules may be used as a settlement cue by a diverse range of marine benthic organisms from the smallest bacteria to larger fauna and flora. That a bacterial signal is used as a universal cue for settlement by a remarkably wide range of evolutionary diverse benthic species would lead to a paradigm shift in our understanding of benthic community ecology and pave the way for the development of non-toxic methods to control unwanted growth of benthic species.

This project will:
1. Determine the behavioural response of a range of benthic species to bacterial signal molecules
2. Quantify the influence of the signal on settlement in field conditions.
3. Determine if disruption to bacterial signalling can be used to minimise the effects of biofouling

Research methodology
The project will use methods developed in our previous work to study the effect of bacterial signals on the settlement behaviour of benthic species (e.g. barnacles, bryozoans, tunicates or mussels). We will also vary substrata, light levels, the presence of adult species and hydrodynamic conditions to determine the relative importance of bacterial signal molecules to settlement. Commercially available compounds will be used to determine if signal-blocking can be used as a means of biofouling control.

The student will be hosted at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (Supervisors Karen Tait, Anna Yunnie and Tom Vance) and registered at the University of Plymouth (Supervisors Louise Firth, Antony Knights). Thorough training in methods and techniques will be provided including experimental design and statistical analyses, culturing of bacterial strains, spores and larvae and image analysis. This project will require field work for animal collection and experiments. The student will also have access to the training provided by the ARIES DTP.

Person specification
Honours or Masters degree (e.g. 2.i. or above) in a relevant subject (e.g. marine biology, ecology, microbiology).
The successful candidate will be registered for a PhD in the University of Plymouth’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. Undertaking a PhD with ARIES will involve attendance at training events.

ARIES is committed to equality & diversity, and inclusion of students of any and all backgrounds. All ARIES Universities have Athena Swan Bronze status as a minimum.

Applicants from quantitative disciplines who may have limited environmental science experience may be considered for an additional three-month stipend to take appropriate advanced-level courses.

Usually, only UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for three years are eligible for a stipend. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 26/27 February 2019.
ARIES studentships are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which applies the eligibility criteria laid down by its parent body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). These are outlined in their Terms and Conditions of Training Grants document, and given in more detail in their training Grant Guide, both of which can be found on the UKRI website.

For further information please see or contact us at .

Funding Notes

In general, UK and EU nationals who will have been resident in the UK for three years or more at the time when their PhD begins will be eligible for a full ARIES studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident outside the UK but within the EU during the qualifying period will usually be eligible for a ‘fees only’ studentship, which pays research costs and tuition fees but gives no help with living expenses.
In case of uncertainty, the planned university of registration should be contacted for eligibility advice; or the ARIES administrators: .

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