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Investigating the impact of climate change on hydrocarbon degrading microbial consortia and bioremediation capacities of petroleum refinery sludge (OP2254)


   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

  Dr V Sangal  Monday, January 24, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Newcastle United Kingdom Biochemistry Climate Science Data Analysis Data Science Ecology Geochemistry Microbiology Pollution Soil Science

About the Project

Anthropogenic activities of the fossil fuel industry are key contributor to environmental pollution, producing more than one billion tons of waste sludge annually. This sludge is a complex water-oil emulsion containing toxic levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals that causes severe damage to the ecosystem and public health1,2. Bioremediation exploits the catabolic machinery of microbes to convert hydrocarbons into non-hazardous forms3,4, but its efficacy is contingent upon the selection of appropriate microbial consortia and optimising environmental conditions, such as pH, moisture and temperature1. Climate change could alter the efficacy of microbial consortia in breaking down toxic hydrocarbons either due to the direct effects of changes in temperate or moisture, or due to indirect effects, e.g., climate-driven shifts in microbial community that can lead to a reduction in biodegradation rates5,6. In this study, an advanced culture-independent approach combining metagenomics, metaproteomics, and metabolomics will be applied to investigate composition of microbial consortia and biodesulfurizing capacities under simulated environmental conditions mimicking climate change (a range of temperatures, acidity and moisture content) in the laboratory. The physiochemical properties of sludge including concentration of heavy metals will be periodically monitored. The modelling of the obtained data and optimisation of reaction kinetics would be carried out that will guide an efficient bioremediation approach.

The student will be part of a multidisciplinary team of experts and will greatly benefit by developing well- sought skills in soil ecology, enzyme kinetics, microbiology, omics and big data handling. They will be provided appropriate training and opportunities to present the findings in international meetings.


Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ONE Planet DTP. Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,650) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, etc).
Home and International applicants (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. Following the UKRI announcement regarding their new 30% UKRI international recruitment policy (to take effect from September 2021) both Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, have agreed to pay the international fee difference for all International applicants (inc. EU) who are awarded a DTP studentship. Interviews will take place in February 2022.
How to apply: View Website

References

References: 1. Varjani et al., Sci. Total Environ. 745, 141043 (2020). 2. Ke et al., Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 208, 111673 (2021). 3. Ismail et al., J. Pet. Environ. Biotechnol. 1000163 (2013). 4. Ismail et al., Microb Biotechnol 10,1628-1639 (2017) 5. Cavicchioli et al., Nat Rev Microbiol 17,569-586 (2019). 6. Naylor et al., Annu Rev Environ Resour 45, 29-59 (2020)

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