Professor Alex Dumbrell (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)
Dr Ralitsa Mihaylova (Safinah Group)
The success of global trade relies on commercial shipping. The maritime industry is therefore essential for modern life, but has substantial environmental impacts through marine pollution, emission of greenhouse gases and the transportation of potentially problematic non-indigenous species (NIS). These issues are exacerbated by marine biofouling – the accumulation and growth of organisms on artificial structures at sea, from energy generation devices to aquaculture facilities, ships and rigs. Biofouling causes substantial efficiency losses and therefore economic impact. Most fouling-control measures still rely on the use of biocidal marine paints that release large quantities of heavy metals and organic biocides into the environment, but more targeted approaches are limited by a lack of understanding about when and where fouling will most likely occur. A specific challenge is the identification of NIS associated with ships as they move around the world’s oceans. This project will aim to better understand the dynamics of colonisation and growth that could be used to predict biofouling more accurately, and thus direct future fouling-control strategies that rely less on toxic coatings.
The approach will incorporate a range of cutting-edge, next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based techniques to better understand the colonisation process on artificial surfaces and link what is present in the plankton to what occurs in the fouling community under a range of fouling-control conditions. A diverse skillset will be developed through analysis of shipping data, environmental sampling and molecular techniques such as Droplet Digital PCR, NGS sample preparation and analysis.
Specific bioinformatics and molecular biology training will be provided, with additional training opportunities available to suit the needs of the candidate. The successful candidate will work closely with our industrial collaborator, Safinah Group, to develop the research towards an applied objective. They will also gain experience of the industrial environment through placements with the company.
Candidates should be numerate, with a strong background in statistics or modelling and enthusiasm to develop molecular biology expertise. They should have a degree in a quantitative biological discipline, with relevant additional experience viewed favourably.