Prof Jonathan Todd, Biological Science, University of East Anglia
Dr Frances Hopkins, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) is one of Earth’s most abundant organosulfur molecules and Ulva seaweeds, which cause green tides, are prolific DMSP producers. Ulva species produce DMSP as an anti-stress compound and can cleave DMSP to liberate the climate-cooling gas dimethylsulfide (DMS), but the precise role of DMSP in Ulva is unclear. Furthermore, DMSP released by Ulva into the environment has roles in signalling and recruiting beneficial bacteria, which use DMSP as a nutrient and facilitate further DMS production.
This project will use multidisciplinary techniques to explore how and why Ulva makes and degrades DMSP and to study its interactions with associated bacteria that utilise the DMSP Ulva produces.
You will use oceanographic sampling to establish a laboratory stock of Ulva lactuca which you will learn to cultivate under varied environmental conditions at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) with Saha. Analytical techniques, e.g. chromatography and mass spectroscopy, will be used to quantify Ulva DMSP synthesis and catabolic rates, with training provided by Hopkins at PML. At UEA you will characterise the expression and activity, respectively, of key Ulva DMSP synthesis and lyase genes/enzymes by PCR-based techniques and enzymology with Todd. You will be trained by Todd in cutting-edge molecular ecology, e.g. DNA-stable isotope probing and metagenomics, to identify microbes that utilise DMSP for carbon from Ulva samples and their catabolic pathways. Finally, culture-dependent molecular microbiology will be used to characterise model DMSP-degrading microbes isolated from Ulva. This project will represent the first molecular microbiological study of organosulfur cycling by green tide-causing Ulva that produces exceptionally high DMSP levels.
You will receive exceptional training at PML and UEA in molecular ecology and microbiology, bioinformatics, analytical chemistry, coastal marine fieldwork and in writing high impact publications. You will learn good laboratory practice, quality assurance, and receive health and safety training. You will present your findings at weekly team meetings, high-profile international scientific conferences, and in peer-reviewed scientific publications and your PhD thesis.
This project is jointly funded with the BBSRC NRP DTP
We require a committed, pro-active, and self-reliant candidate keen to master a wide range of techniques. Experience in some of the key components including chemistry is desirable.