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Micro-organisms entombed in Polar ice – assessing the potential emergence of new diseases (HLS/SE/DRFAPP7P/63591)

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Pearce
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The melting Polar Ice caps and receding glaciers worldwide are resulting in the emergence of micro-organisms entombed in the ice for considerable periods of time. A famous example is the frozen graves of the 1918 pandemic Spanish flu victims on Svalbard, perhaps the best known natural reservoir of this deadly virus, which killed over a third of the world’s population. As ice-encased material slowly melts, microorganisms will be released that may have either beneficial or harmful effects on both the environment and the human population. Recently, we have been studying the types of microorganisms that are likely to emerge from this secretive gene pool and are looking at ways to both harness their potential and mitigate any potential threat; however, most of the expanse of this remote frozen region remains largely unexplored.

This work will focus on Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Located north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The Svalbard archipelago, is permanently covered by ice and it’s thought to have been mostly covered by ice during the last glacial maximum (some 20.000 years ago) besides few scattered mountain tops, so-called nunataks. In this project, we would investigate the dynamics of the melting cryosphere from a microbiological perspective, determining which species may have already emerged and which ones are likely to emerge from the ice, assess their potential impact on the present biosphere, examine how they have adapted to survive in such extremes and determine which potential refugia might have enabled them to survive and re-emerge from such extended periods of freezing.

The project will form part of the microbial ecology group and contribute to an international network investigating long distance aerobiological transfer and its potential relationship with human health.

Funding Notes
This studentship is only open to self-funding candidates. Self-funding candidates are expected to pay University fees and to provide their own living costs. In addition, a ‘bench fee’ will have to be paid to cover project running costs (at a level that will be determined specifically for each project). However, the cost of Arctic fieldwork can be provided.

Informal Enquiries
Enquiries regarding this studentship should be made to: Professor David Pearce [email protected]

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/how-to-apply/

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.

Eligibility
For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/how-to-apply/

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.

How to Apply
For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/how-to-apply/

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.

References

Pearce, D.A., Hodgson, D.A., Burns, G & Cockell, C.S. (2013). Microbiology of a former subglacial lake sediment in Antarctica. Preliminary analysis of life within a former subglacial lake sediment in Antarctica. Diversity, 5 (3). 680-702. 10.3390/d5030680.

Pearce, D.A,, Newsham, K.K., Thorne, M.A.S., Calvo-Bado, L., Krsek, M., Laskaris, P., Hodson, A. and Wellington, E.M.H. (2012). Metagenomic analysis of a southern maritime Antarctic soil. Frontiers in Microbiology. 3: 403. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2012.00403

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