Dr David Lea-Smith, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Professor Terry McGenity, University of Essex, School of Life Sciences
Dr Rob Holland, OSRL Oil Spill Response Ltd
Oil spills are one of the most challenging threats to the marine environment with potential long-term impacts on fisheries, the economy and society. It is estimated that 1,400,000 million tonnes of oil enters the sea annually, where hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria play the main role in natural attenuation. There is a need to fully understand the many biodegradation pathways and genes involved in hydrocarbon biodegradation to assist in post spill monitoring of microbial communities and to develop tools that allow us to estimate microbial capacity to respond to hydrocarbon degradation, or, using gene expression analysis, to quantify the actual response.
Research Methodology & Training
You will use our newly developed genetic engineering toolset to characterise hydrocarbon degradation pathways in some of the most important and abundant hydrocarbon degraders including alkane-degrading Alcanivorax, Thalassolituus, Oleispira and PAH-degrading Cycloclasticus. You will receive interdisciplinary training in experimental design, statistics, R programming, environmental microbiology and genetics, molecular ecology, synthetic biology, heterologous protein expression, proteomics and hydrocarbon quantification by GC-MS/MS. There will also be numerous opportunities for marine and coastal fieldwork, surveying sites of past oil spills, assessing new oil spills that may occur over the course of the PhD, and training in the field on industry courses such as ‘Environmental Advisor’. You will be part of the vibrant ARIES cohort, the Ecology and Environmental Microbiology Group at the University of Essex, and the Lea-Smith Lab at the University of East Anglia (UEA), and engage with a wide range of post-doctoral researchers, PhD students, OSRL and their many industry collaborators. There will also be training in research dissemination for participation at international science conferences and local outreach programs (e.g. Norwich Science Festival and The Pint of Science).
This is an exciting opportunity for a highly motivated student with a background in Microbiology, Marine Biology, Ecological Sciences or Biotechnology, who is keen to learn new skills to address a global environmental issue. The successful applicant will undertake studies at the University of Essex, with time spent at UEA, as part of a multi-disciplinary team with Boyd McKew, David Lea-Smith, Terry McGenity, and Rob Holland.