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Inter-partner communication in the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis and the adaptability of corals to climate change

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

We will test whether the success of the coral-algal symbiosis, and hence coral reef ecosystems as a whole, is determined by molecular ‘cross-talk’ between the partners that has the potential to rid the coral of unwanted, less beneficial algae while retaining beneficial ones. This molecular signalling has profound importance when considering the capacity for corals to acclimatise to climate change through the acquisition of novel, thermally resistant algae. We will conduct a thorough bioinformatics analysis of proteins associated with the synthesis, metabolism and transport of our target signal molecules. Symbiont-free sea anemones (‘Aiptasia’) will then be inoculated with native and non-native symbiotic algae, and we will: (1) immunolocalise proteins of interest, with particular emphasis on the host-symbiont interface; (2) compare colonisation success versus signalling pathway gene expression, protein production, metabolite abundance and volatile synthesis across time; and (3) confirm the role of molecules-of-interest in symbiosis establishment by a combination of gene knock-down and pharmacological inhibition techniques. We will then extend our model systems approach to corals.

Students will contribute to a project funded by The Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund. They will be supervised by Prof. Simon Davy and Dr. Clint Oakley of Victoria University of Wellington, with input from collaborators Prof. Virginia Weis (Oregon State University), Prof. Arthur Grossman (Stanford University) and Assoc. Prof. David Suggett (University of Technology Sydney).

Funding Notes

Scholarship are NZ$27,500 stipend plus university fees per year, for a total of three years (starting July 1st 2020)

Minimum requirement: First Class Honours, or a GPA of 3.8/4.0 from the most recent university degree qualification.

A sound knowledge of marine biology is desirable, but not essential, while a good understanding of cell biology and physiology will be viewed very favourably. While much of the research will be conducted in Wellington, applicants must have a willingness to travel for overseas field work and/or laboratory visits. Applicants must display excellent written and verbal science communication skills.

Full application details at: View Website

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