Genomics of phytoplankton microbiomes

Genomic adaptation of phytoplankton microbiome bacteria

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Microbiome bacteria living on or near phytoplankton cells – in the phycosphere - are critical for phytoplankton health and maintaining primary production in the ocean.  Preliminary research on these bacteria indicate that they possess a range of surprising adaptations compared to their free-living marine relatives. Examples include biosynthesis of novel signalling molecules, growth stimulators and phytohormones, and apparent loss of entire pathways normally considered to be core metabolic functions.  This project aims to combine flow cytometry with novel culture and culture independent approaches to capture, sequence and assemble complete genomes of phytoplankton microbiome bacteria from natural phytplankton blooms. Using comparative genomics approaches and curated microbiome databases, the project aims to identify genomic and functional adaptation of bacteria to phycosphere micro-environments that are critical to their interaction with phytoplankton host cells, and to primary production in the ocean.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Chris Bolch


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:

  • An undergraduate/postgraduate degree in either Biological or Health Sciences related areas
  • Background and experience in molecular biology, and either microbiology or phycology

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Demonstrated computing and analytical skills
  • Experience with collecting and analysing high-throughput sequencing (NGS data)
  • Experience in bioinformatics and/or genomics

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, A/Prof Chris Bolch, 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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