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Integrating marine fungi into the structure and function of pelagic ecosystems.

Project Description

Even though marine fungi have been known to exist since the 19th century, the application of molecular ecology tools has established a foundational understanding of the widespread distribution and diversity of the ocean mycobiome (Amend et al 2019). Recent evidence has indicated the functional roles fulfilled by planktonic fungi (mycoplankton) in open water ecosystems (Grossart et al 2019). Some marine mycoplankton are apparent saprotrophs that utilise high-molecular weight substrates via extracellular enzymes (Cunliffe et al 2017), whilst others are potential parasites of phytoplankton, particularly diatoms. A novel and open research question is to understand how marine mycoplankton fit within the wider structure and function of pelagic marine ecosystems. This research is timely because of the development of approaches to study marine fungi in the laboratory and in situ. Saprotrophy is an already well-established functional role of marine bacterioplankton and it is currently unknown how fungal and bacterial saprotrophy are interrelated. Even though fungal parasitism of marine phytoplankton is known, the prevalence and importance of phytoplankton parasitism and change through time and space remain largely speculated. This aim of this PhD project is to address these knowledge gaps through an integrated and complementary programme of laboratory, field and modelling based approaches.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


Amend A, Burgaud G, Cunliffe M, Edgcomb V et al, & Gladfelter A (2019) Fungi in the marine environment: open questions and unsolved problems. mBIO 10 (2): e01189-18.
Grossart H-P, Van den Wyngaert S, Kagami M, Wurzbacher C, Cunliffe M & Rojas-Jimenez K (2019) Fungi in aquatic ecosystems. Nature Reviews Microbiology 17: 339–354.
Cunliffe M, Hollingsworth A, Bain C & Taylor JD (2017) Algal polysaccharide utilisation by saprotrophic planktonic marine fungi. Fungal Ecology 30: 135-138.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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