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Interplay of the effects of climate change and environmental variability on coralline algal physiology and ecology

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Christopher Cornwall
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Project Description

I am seeking a highly motivated PhD student to be part of programme using coralline algae as model species to answer important questions regarding how climate change will impact marine species

Ocean acidification and marine heatwaves threaten marine ecosystems globally. Coralline algae are calcifying red seaweed, which are ecologically important organisms that create and bind together rocky reefs throughout New Zealand and globally. They also act as a nursery for species important to New Zealand fisheries, such as sea urchins and abalone. Because of their highly soluble calcium carbonate skeletons, there is a prevailing view that coralline algae will be among the species most at risk from ocean acidification. The relative impacts of other drivers such as ocean warming, marine heatwaves, sedimentation and de-oxygenation on coralline algae remain unanswered.
Here this project would use coralline algae as a model species to determine how multiple drivers of climate change interact to influence the fitness of coralline algae. The PhD work will examine whether populations and species which have evolved in more variable pH environments can gain tolerance to different drivers, and how variability in these drivers influence species responses. This work will use state-of-the-art geochemical and genetic techniques, in-depth physiological assessments, and elaborate laboratory experiments to determine exactly how physiological and environmental controls impart tolerance to ocean acidification in multiple coralline algal species.

PhD Project Aims
1. Assess how changes in the mean and variability multiple environmental drivers combine to influence coralline algal fitness and recruitment
2. Investigate the role environmental variability plays in influencing the responses of coralline algae to climate change
3. Determine how environmental variability influences species’ responses to climate change, exploring how magnitudes, timing, and duration of variability influence the role of the drivers

The successful candidate will be a highly motivated researcher, with a strong background and interest in climate change in the marine environment. Experience with laboratory research and diving will be preferred. This position will be based primarily in Wellington and applicants will have to successfully obtain a scholarship for stipend and university (domestic-level) fees. This project is supported by the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship ‘Physiological and environmental controls of coralline algal calcification under climate change’, and therefore comes with considerable research funding

Applicants should send a CV with two references, GPA summary, a statement of their research interests and a cover letter to Dr. Christopher Cornwall ([Email Address Removed]). Candidates will be considered until the position is filled. Successful applicants will have to apply for a VUW scholarship, due on the 1st November. International students with strong credentials are welcome and encouraged to apply. For more information about studying at VUW and the entry requirements for the PhD program please see

Funding Notes

This project is supported by the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship grant ‘Physiological and environmental controls of coralline algal calcification under climate change’.

The successful applicant will have their research supported by substantial funds from the RDF scheme, but will also have to obtain an internal scholarship to pay for their fees and stipend.

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