Natural variation in bromoform biosynthesis - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Natural variation in bromoform biosynthesis

Applications closed 30 September 2020. Initial applications no longer being accepted.

PhD project in ‘Understanding natural variation in a unique species of red seaweed that produces compounds that suppress methane production in livestock’

We have a fully-funded PhD scholarship to work with us on a project that aims to determine the relative importance of physical and biological factors on a unique species of red seaweed that produces natural compounds that suppress methane production in livestock.

Overview

Our ability to identify and harness the full potential of biodiversity to meet the environmental challenges of agriculture is critical for future food security and mitigating climate change. This notion is particularly pertinent for ruminant livestock, including cattle and sheep, that collectively belch the methane produced by their gut microbes. In Australia, around 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, of which two-thirds is from ruminants. Therefore, reducing methane emissions from agriculture represents one, if not the most, significant issue for the sustainability of current agriculture systems in Australia and across the globe. Recently, it was discovered that the use of a red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis from Queensland knocks out enteric methanogenesis in cattle and sheep. This effect was almost exclusively related to one halogenated natural product known as bromoform.

Asparagopsis is naturally abundant along the subtropical shores of the Sunshine Coast, where this project is based.

 Project Objectives

The objectives of the PhD are to assess the potential mechanisms that underpin natural variation in biosynthesis of bromoform by Asparagopsis. The candidate will have the opportunity to develop skills in diverse fields, including experimental marine ecology, molecular microbiology, natural products chemistry and transcriptomics. The broader project goals that this PhD may align to are: 

  1. Quantify seasonal variation in bromoform in Asparagopsis at multiple sites around the Sunshine Coast,
  2. Investigate the relationships between seaweed-associated microbiomes and the biosynthesis of bromoform
  3. Assess the influence of life history stage and sex on bromoform biosynthesis using an Asparagopsis genome

  The Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate will have demonstrated academic excellence in ecology, microbiology or a related discipline relative to career stage and a strong commitment to improving the world with science. The candidate must have fieldwork experience and an interest in developing molecular skills. The ideal candidate must have the capacity to work within a large, multidisciplinary team, with strong quantitative, statistical and programming skills (preferably R). The candidate must have an interest in broader communication of research findings and an interest in conducting research with potential for commercialisation within the aquaculture industry.

Prior to completing an official application and for specific information about the research project, please contact one of the below supervision panel members.

Dr. Alexandra Campbell via email acampbe1@usc.edu.au  

Prof Nick Paul via email npaul@usc.edu.au 

Assoc Prof Scott Cummins via email scummins@usc.edu.au 

Eligibility
  • Be accepted into a Higher Degrees by Research program at the University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Not have an equivalent qualification to the one for which they are currently applying
  • Have a First-Class Bachelor Honours Degree, or show equivalent level of achievement with other academic qualifications or professional research experience
  • Applications are welcome from both Domestic and International students
Selection criteria
  • Undergraduate degree
  • Research training degree (First Class Honours or equivalent)
  • Research publications
  • Professional research experience
  • Demonstrated academic experience in ecology, microbiology or a related discipline relative to career stage
  • Strong commitment to improving the world with science
  • Fieldwork experience and qualifications highly desirable
  • Experience or interest in developing molecular skills
  • Capacity to work within a multidisciplinary team
  • Strong quantitative, statistical and programming skills (preferably R)
  • Interest in science communication and the commercialisation of research
Eligible programs
PhD
Number available
1
Value

Value

Annual Stipend: $28,092

Annual operating funds: $10,000 

Annual Tuition Fees: $28,000

Overseas Student Health Cover (Single Cover): $3,420

Application
To apply: Prior to completing an official application, potential applicants are required to contact the supervision panel.
  • If you are not a current USC HDR student, complete an application for program admission following the directions on the HDR Applicants page
  • Next, apply for the scholarship:
    • Read the important information in the scholarship advertisement 
    • Follow the application instructions on the Applying for a HDR Scholarship webpage