Methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas, is next only to CO2 with a global warming potential of 34. Microbes play an integral role in global CH4 cycling and it is well-established methanogenic archaea produce methane under anoxic conditions, while aerobic methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) present in the oxic-anoxic interface consume methane to limit emissions into the atmosphere. Aerobic MOBs can use methane as a sole carbon and energy source and have been studied extensively for their role in the global methane cycle, biotransformation of halogenated hydrocarbons and valorisation of methane to biofuels and other platform chemicals.
Previously, our work has studied the ecophysiology of MOB in different environments e.g. chemosynthetic caves, landfills and rice paddies. However, little is known about how these environmentally important bacteria interact with other microbial communities (e.g. sulfur/phosphorus cycles).
This project will use a model chemosynthetic cave ecosystem (Movile Cave, Romania http://www.deepakkumaresan.com/movile-cave.html
) to develop a multi-scale systems approach to understand how eco-evolutionary adaptations and the environment (geochemistry/hydrogeology) constrain microbial interactions.
Specifically, the student will use:
i) molecular ecology tools (i.e. stable isotope probing enabled metagenomics/proteomics) to track isotopes within the microbial communities to identify metabolic networks.
ii) Genome-resolved metagenomics alongside isolation of novel MOB to study eco-evolutionary adaptations.
iii) Synthetic communities and CRISPR-mediated genome engineering strategies to study microbial interactions.
iv) State-of-the-art in situ monitoring of environmental conditions, including geochemical tools to identify metal speciation and hydrogeological base surveys to build a comprehensive framework of the subsurface physical environment.
The student will be trained in molecular ecology, microbial physiology, bioinformatics, geochemistry/hydrogeophysics tools at QUB by Kumaresan and Doherty and at Aberdeen by Comte. This project will involve collaboration with Dr Alexandra Hillebrand-Voisculescu (Emil Racovita Institute of Speleology, Bucharest, Romania) and Dr Hendrik Schaefer (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK).
1 October 2020
Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.
• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select ‘Visit Website’ to apply now