Professor Mark Fitzsimons (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth)
Dr Rachael Beale (Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
Seawater houses a microscopic world of nature, essential to the life support for our planet. Osmolytes allow cells to survive in salt water and are environmentally relevant as they provide sources of nutrients for marine microbes. Degradation of N-osmolytes produces climate-active gases, such as methane and methylamines, with methylamines proposed to contribute to particle formation and growth in the atmosphere. Our understanding of environmental drivers of N-osmolytes is, however, very limited. This PhD will test the following hypotheses (HP) by accessing samples and data from research expeditions and process studies performed by the international community across the globe and will make a step change in our understanding of N-osmolytes. HP1: Marine microbes rely most heavily on N-osmolytes under stress-conditions: low temperature, high or rapidly changing salinity, and/or low inorganic nutrient availability. HP2: The concentrations of N-osmolytes observed during process studies in different environments (polar, temperate, tropical) will have drivers dependent on a combination of the physicochemical conditions and the microbial population present.
During this PhD the candidate will:
1) Apply analytical chemistry (LC/MS-TOF) to measure N-osmolytes (glycine betaine, choline, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO)) in samples collected from polar, temperate and tropical field campaigns.
2) Use accompanying spatial and temporal process study data (e.g. microbial composition, physico-chemical properties) to test hypotheses in different environments
3) Design and carry out their own experimental sampling program on the PICCOLO cruise in the Weddel Sea, Antarctica.
This PhD includes training in seagoing research, analytical chemistry, scientific data analysis, scientific writing and engagement with a network of international collaborators. You will present your work at national and international conferences and enjoy a dynamic research environment at PML, as part of a PhD co-hort. You will receive training in health and safety processes certified to ISO45001, and mental health awareness. You will access a broad range of transferable skills training through ARIES.
This studentship will be based at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and registered at the University of Plymouth.
You should have a degree in the biological, chemical or environmental sciences, an excellent work ethic, good attention to detail and communication skills. Relevant analytical skills and an appreciation of algae would be ideal.