Paralytic Shellfish Toxins in abalone

Paralytic shellfish toxin exposure, uptake, depuration and impact on abalone in Tasmania

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

Tasmania produces 25% of the worlds' wild-caught abalone. It is also a global hot spot for paralytic shellfish toxins (marine biotoxins produced by algae). Abalone are able to accumulate toxins in tissues at levels that are concerning for public health, creating both a health risk for consumers and a market access risk for producers. A significant body of research has already been conducted, but several knowledge gaps remain, hampering risk management activities. This project will shed light on several of those gaps, particularly around exposure, accumulation and depuration pathways, longevity of toxin in tissues, and impact on animal health via field surveys and experimental studies.

Chapter 1. Are certain PST analogues retained for longer periods, and if so, what are the human health/market access implications of this?
Analysis of existing field data on PST in abalone tissues.

  • PST concentrations from east coast and Channel abalone
  • Change in analogues across blooms – uptake and depuration
  • Comparison of analogues in foot/viscera tissues
  • Comparison of analogues from different source blooms
  • Is there toxin conversion occurring in tissues?

Chapter 2. Is longevity of toxins in foot tissue on the east coast due to slow depuration or continual exposure?

  • Field work to determine cyst/cell occurrence in abalone habitats on east coast in the absence of blooms
  • Field work to determine sedimentation of cysts/cells into abalone habitats during blooms
  • Experimental work holding toxic abalone for extended periods and examining depuration

Chapter 3. Do PST impact adult abalone health?

  • Experimental work exposing mature abalone to toxins and measuring animal health responses (Note experimental exposure work will occur as part of an industry grant, detailed examination of the animal health component would be an add-on)

Chapter 4. Do PST impact juvenile abalone health and recruitment?

  • Experimental work exposing juveniles and brood stock to toxins and measuring responses

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Alison Turnbull


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 $31,500 per annum (2023 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.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


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

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus
  • English language score must be above minimum entry requirements for this project
  • Applicant must have ability to pass a scientific dive course

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 desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Dive qualification, chemistry and biology background

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact Dr Alison Turnbull to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • 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.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the 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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