Engineering Haptophyte Microbiomes for Maximum Growth and Production

Closing Date

30 November 2019

The Research Project

Marine phytoplankton grow in association with their own bacterial communities –  microbiomes –that are critical for their growth and physiology. Isolation/culture of algal cells results in depletion, disturbance or imbalance of their unique microbiomes (dysbiosis), reduced growth, unreliable biomass production, and often death. In contrast, retaining balanced microbiomes improves algal growth rate and biomass production and optimise biochemical/nutritional composition for aquaculture and biotechnology.

A PhD opportunity is open for a talented graduate to examine the diversity and function of marine haptophyte microbiomes. The project aims to determine how microbiome structure/composition modifies growth and physiology of haptophytes, and to engineer micr0biomes– construct synthetic microbiomes to optimise productivity of haptophytes such as Isochrysis, Tisochrysis and Diachronema.  The project combines NGS-based microbial community profiling, transcriptomics and culture-based approaches to examine host-functional responses, and construct/test synthetic engineered microbiomes of key haptophyte species used in aquaculture and biotechnology.  The project will be based in the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and CSIRO Marine Research Laboratories in Hobart. The project is supervised by Drs Christopher Bolch (IMAS) and Anusysa Willis (CSIRO), and Kelli Anderson (IMAS) and Dr Heroen Verbruggen (Univ. Melbourne).

Essential skills/experience

Graduates with a strong academic record in Biological or Health Sciences and a background/experience in molecular biology and/or microbiology are encouraged to apply. Applications for this PhD position are open to domestic and international students, provided the latter are competitive when applying for fee waiver scholarships.

Desirable skills/experience

Candidates with strong computing skills and experience of collecting and analysing next-generation-sequencing (NGS) data will be viewed favourably.

Assessment criteria

Applicants will be assessed and ranked according to the quality of their basis for entry research degree and institution, prior peer reviewed publications, academic awards, project-specific skills, training or relevant industry experience, referee's reports and supervisory support.

Contact for more information

Please contact Christopher Bolch at for more information.