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PhD Studentship: "New Approaches to Image Dynamic Sinking Behaviour in Marine Phytoplankton"

University of Plymouth - Plymouth Marine Laboratory - Marine Biological Association

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Devon, Plymouth
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £18,110 per annum (2023-24 rate)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 13th October 2023
Closes: 8th January 2024

Second Supervisor (External Lead): Dr Glen Wheeler

Lead Supervisor (DoS): Professor Alex Nimmo-Smith

Third Supervisor: Dr James Clark 

Applications are invited for a 3.5 year PhD studentship with Marine Research Plymouth – a collaborative partnership between the University of Plymouth, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Marine Biological Association. The studentship is due to start on 1st October 2024.

Plymouth has been at the forefront of global marine research for more than a century, and today it is home to the largest concentration of marine researchers in the UK. Come and join our vibrant community of marine PhD students.

Project Description 

The rate at which phytoplankton cells sink to the deep ocean plays a critical role in the global carbon cycle. Phytoplankton cells can actively control their orientation and buoyancy, indicating that biological processes play a major role in determining carbon export, although the factors controlling sinking rates remain poorly understood. 

There are very few direct observations of sinking rates in individual phytoplankton cells, but new technologies allowing direct imaging of sinking phytoplankton cells are providing novel insight, demonstrating that sinking rates are highly dynamic and actively controlled. The ability to image these processes in single cells will provide unique insight into the biological processes that determine global carbon fluxes. 

This project seeks to understand the biological processes that influence sinking rates in a range of marine phytoplankton. It will involve laboratory studies to image sinking behaviour in different phytoplankton groups, using both cultures and natural phytoplankton communities. We will examine how changes in environmental parameters (light, nutrients and temperature) influence these processes. In situ observations of phytoplankton orientation and sinking rates in the Western English Channel will be performed using a holographic imaging system that can be deployed from a research vessel. The experimental data will be used to develop a modified ecosystem model to examine how distinct sinking rates between phytoplankton groups could influence wider ecological processes such as carbon export. 

The project will provide a unique blend of laboratory studies, fieldwork and theoretical analyses. The student will have the opportunity to learn multiple experimental techniques, including the development and application of novel imaging approaches. Further techniques will include phytoplankton culturing, field sampling, image analysis and ecosystem modelling. Full training will be provided by the supervisory team in the application of these approaches. 

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Glen Wheeler

Eligibility and Funding 

For further information on Eligibility and Funding, please click on the links below:  

To apply for this position please visit here

Please clearly state the name of the studentship that you are applying for on your personal statement. 

For a list of supporting documents to upload with your application or more information on the admissions process generally, please visit our How to Apply for a Research Degree webpage or contact the Doctoral College

The closing date for applications is 12 noon on Monday 8th January 2024. 

Shortlisted candidates will be informed as soon as possible after the deadline, with interviews likely to take place in the second half of February.

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