Lobster gene manipulation techniques

Developing gene manipulation techniques for the ornate spiny lobster Panulirus ornatus

Degree type


Closing date

10 October 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Genetic manipulation technologies provide ample benefits for species produced in aquaculture, including immunisation against pathogens, inducing sterility, and boosting growth. The ornate spiny lobster (Panulirus ornatus) is a premium seafood product, produced primarily through capture fisheries or ranching (capturing early developmental stages from the wild and feeding them in captivity to reach product size). A breakthrough in aquaculture research at IMAS has recently enabled the production of P. ornatus in captivity from egg to product in Australia, overcoming the spiny lobsters’ complex life cycle, which was a longstanding grand challenge for closing its life cycle in captivity.

With reliable production of captive-bred juvenile P. ornatus, the time is now ripe to establish genetic manipulation techniques to boost its production and overcome key challenges, like cannibalism at the juvenile stage. This proposed PhD project aims at developing gene manipulation technologies for the ornate spiny lobster, based on prior knowledge gained in fish and other aquaculture important species. The methods to be explored will include CRISPR-CAS9 and gene silencing, both are robust technologies that have been widely used in decapod crustaceans. To date, CRISPR-CAS9 was not used in any spiny lobsters and gene silencing, while effectively used across many decapod crustaceans, is rendered ineffective in spiny lobsters for reasons not yet clear.

The proposed project seeks to identify key genes of interest to manipulate in P. ornatus, using existing genomic resources to define to appropriate life stage to manipulate these genes and trial with CRISPR-CAS9 and gene silencing, with methods not yet trialled in spiny lobsters. The proposed PhD project is expected to develop a better understanding of the key pathways that regulate aggressive behaviour in P. ornatus juveniles and propose a genetic manipulation treatment to reduce aggression. Additionally, the proposed PhD project will develop an enhanced understanding of the genetic basis for germ cells development and attempt at manipulating sexual development at the embryo stage.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Quinn Fitzgibbon


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 $28,854 per annum (2022 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.


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

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

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:

  • Graduates with a strong academic record (e.g. BSc Hons, MSc or equivalent qualifications demonstrated by publication record) in aquaculture, ecology, marine biology, molecular biology and zoology or similar

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Research experience or undergraduate training in aquaculture molecular biology
  • Demonstrated experience in aquaculture experiments and laboratory molecular analytical analysis
  • Keen interest in and desire for a career in aquaculture and/or marine ecology

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, A/Prof Quinn Fitzgibbon to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 by the advertised outcome date.

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