Antarctic marine diatom paleogenetics

The composition and evolution of diatoms around Antarctica inferred from marine sedimentary ancient DNA

Degree type


Closing date

24 September 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Antarctica is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change -ice cap melting and warming ocean temperatures are starting to have catastrophic impacts, locally, on marine ecosystems, andglobally, on sea-level rise. Within this important ecosystem, marine
diatoms, siliceous microorganisms living in the ocean, play a keyrole as primary producers and indicators of environmental change.
The investigation of paleo-records is key to understanding ongoing climate change and the likely biological responses. Traditionally,
past diatom communities have been analysed by investigating microfossils, however, the novel application of ancient DNA analyses to deep ocean sediments opens exciting new research avenues. The latter include the investigation of diatoms that preserve less well and are thus often overlooked via microscopy, and the possibility to investigate genes and mutations that may give clues about diatom evolution and their adaptation to changing environmental conditions, and ultimately, the molecular basis for their success as a primary producer. This project will investigate past diatom composition based on novel sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) techniques applied to existing seafloor samples from around Antarctica. The focus will be on optimising techniques for efficient diatom sedaDNA extraction and enrichment, followed by detailed investigation of the evolution and adaptation mechanisms of key diatom species during times of past climate change. The latter information will help improve predictions about future adaptation of one of the most important marine primary producer groups to ongoing climate change in Antarctica.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Linda Armbrecht


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Familiarity with working in sterile laboratory environments, such as in a forensic or ancient DNA facility
  • Expertise with DNA extractions
  • Bioinformatics and database experience
  • A good understanding of statistics and experience in applying them
  • Expertise with molecular lab work troubleshooting
  • Communication skills (written and oral) Desirable Criteria:
  • Previous experience with phytoplankton/diatoms/marine science

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Linda Armbrecht, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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