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Phytoplankton nutrient sensing mechanisms: key to thriving in coastal ecosystems?

Project Description

Project Rationale:
Marine phytoplankton play vital roles in regulating the global climate, contributing almost half of net primary production. Diatoms are one of the most important phytoplankton groups, generating as much organic carbon as all terrestrial rainforests combined. These single-celled algae are typically the dominant phytoplankton group in coastal upwelling regions, supporting key fisheries. A major factor controlling diatom assemblages is the availability of nutrients, the supply of which can vary dramatically in space and time. Phosphorus is an important macronutrient in scarce supply in many marine environments. Notably, anthropogenic activities have caused shifts towards phosphorus limitation in several coastal regions, leading to limitation of diatom populations in these waters [1]. Moreover, phosphorus depletion has significant consequences to diatom cell physiology and health [2]. Despite this, very little is known about how diatoms sense and respond to fluctuating phosphorus levels, or how these mechanisms are employed in dynamic coastal environments. We have recently discovered a novel phosphate-signalling pathway that is essential for regulating metabolic adaptations of diatom cells to changes in phosphate availability. The current project aims to genetically chracterise this new P-signalling pathway and examine its role within natural phytoplankton populations.

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 eligibilty and how to apply


[1] Ly et al.. Phosphorus limitation during a phytoplankton spring bloom in the western Dutch Wadden Sea. Journal of Sea Research (2014)

[2] Cruz de Carvalho et al.. Noncoding and coding transcriptome responses of a marine diatom to phosphate fluctuations. New Phytologist (2015)

[3] Helliwell et al.. Alternative mechanisms for fast Na+/Ca2+ signaling in eukaryotes via a novel class of single-domain voltage-gated channels. Current Biology (2015)

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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