Unlocking a new mechanism for salt tolerance in plants
Salinity tolerance is of immense importance to food production and environmental sustainability. Land clearance, irrigation, and rising sea levels have dramatically increased salinity levels in soils, especially in arid zones; around 20% of all irrigated land currently suffers from salinisation, imposing severe constraints on the yields of traditional crops, and altering the biodiversity of natural communities. There is concerted scientific effort worldwide to understand why some plants are more salt tolerant than others, and to introduce genes for salinity tolerance into crops.
Our team in Wellington and Palmerston North have discovered that the native New Zealand iceplant changes from salt-intolerant to highly tolerant when we induce the production of red betalain pigments in its leaves. We wish to understand the mechanism by which this is achieved, and to see if salinity tolerance is conferred if betalain biosynthesis is transferred into other species. We seek a PhD student to study the possible roles of betalains on sodium transport within plants.
The successful applicant will be based in the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, but will spend some time with the Plant Pigments team at Plant & Food Research in Palmerston North, as well as several months at the University of Tasmania. They will gain experience in a wide variety of contemporary techniques to monitor sodium transport across plant tissues and cell membranes, and will work alongside a postdoctorate to study the physiological effects of betalains in transgenic plants.
Students with an MSc or first-class BSc (Honours) in the biological sciences are invited to apply. A strong academic record and good communication skills are essential; previous research experience in plant physiology would be an advantage. Note that applicants for whom English is not their first language must, upon being offered a position, provide official evidence of English proficiency (see http://www.victoria.ac.nz/fgr/prospective-phds/qualifications-required)
Successful candidates will be supported through a doctoral scholarship funded by a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden grant (NZ$27,500 tax-free stipend per annum, plus tuition fees, for 3 years). The project is expected to commence in April 2016.
Applicants are required to provide the following:
• Curriculum vitae, including the names of two academic referees;
• Academic transcript ;
• A brief statement describing their previous experience in plant biology, and explaining why they wish to study for a PhD in plant physiology at Victoria University of Wellington.