Cordelia Roberts

Cordelia Roberts


I am a microbial oceanographer interested in determining the influence that micro-organisms have on oceanography. I have always been interested in biological oceanography with my undergraduate project looking at the influence that plastic microfibres may have on the settling velocity of marine snow aggregates and the resulting impact of this on the biological carbon pump at MARUM, DE

My master’s thesis was looking at the interactions that take place on particulate organic matter between fungi and bacteria at the MBA,UK, developing a model system to understand how fungi may play a role in carbon cycling in the ocean.

I really enjoy a combined lab and boat approach by asking questions and developing and testing hypotheses with models (both organisms and systems) in the laboratory and then going out into the field to test them environmentally and also coming up with new questions as a result of this environmental sampling. I was lucky enough to undergo a research cruise during my masters and hope to do more of this during my PhD.

Cordelia Roberts

Environmental Genomics and Microbiology

Marine Biological Association of the UK

PhD title: Functional biology and ecology of aquatic fungi

The roles of fungi in aquatic systems, both freshwater and marine have long been overlooked in comparison to their roles in terrestrial environments. There is a growing awareness of their potential ecological and biogeochemical roles within freshwater and pelagic oceans. Fungal sequences represent a large proportion of eukaryotic sequences in aquatic systems, yet a lack of true estimates on aquatic fungal diversity and biomass supports that they are clearly understudied, their roles unclear and therefore underrepresented in biogeochemical ecosystem models.

The aim of my PhD is to begin to identify the role that saprotrophic aquatic fungi play in aquatic biological carbon pumps and to characterise the molecular machinery behind it.

Having already developed a model system and model fungi in a freshwater system, I hope to use these models and develop them further by undertaking an ‘omics’ approach with other molecular techniques e.g. CRISPR-Cas9, to establish the enzymes and physical interaction during degradation of particulate organic matter (POC) and potential environmental biotechnological applications. Using both a lab and fieldwork-based approach I hope to further describe the diversity and biomass of fungi and characterise role of pelagic marine fungi and their role in the cycling of POC in the oceans.


    Roberts et al, (in press) Plastic microfibres may reduce the efficiency of the biological carbon pump by decreasing the settling velocity of marine snow. (Target Journal: Nature Comms)


  • Erasmus Grant 2015-2016 £3000


  • BCUR 2017, Bournemouth, UK
  • SAME16, Potsdam, DE

Awards and Prizes

University of Plymouth Dean’s List award 2013-2014 and 2016-2017

Other Information

I started up a podcast at the MBA with the MBA pressgang called ‘The Viral Teaspoon’ which I hope to continue during my PhD. The viral teaspoon is a podcast led by the MBA’s Press Gang that focuses on current issues in marine science, what life is like as a research student (and how to get over that fearful imposter syndrome!) and how some of their favourite faces here at the MBA got to where they are now. Also run the MBA press gang twitter account @MBAPressGang.