Microbial Genomics for Assessing the Health of Water Resources

Closing Date: 31 December 2021Apply Now

PhD Opportunity

Disruption of the chemical and physical balance of aquatic microbial communities can result in the proliferation of harmful organisms, including toxic cyanobacteria (“blue-green algae”) and opportunistic pathogens. In all ecosystems, from the human gut to rivers, these tiny organisms are the "first responders" to environmental health and disease. Characterisation of the microbial and biochemical basis for water quality in resilient and impacted ecosystems will be invaluable for establishing future guidelines for water quality and safety. The innovative approach, predictive nature and translational capacity of this research project will enable water quality managers to develop contingency plans to reduce threats to freshwater supplies.

Algal Bacteria

Three projects are available, and students can tailor their studies based on their interests and skills.

Project 1: We will apply a state-of-the-art, genetic and biochemical approach to identify the mechanisms of adaptation used by bloom-forming and toxic cyanobacteria. This project will, for the first time, assess their capacity for increased dominance, intensity and geographical distribution in Australian waterways. Understanding the molecular ecophysiology of these aquatic microorganisms is essential for improving risk assessment protocols and reducing the impact of harmful blooms.

Projects 2 and 3: Microbes in wastewater treatment plants impact on effluent quality and the utility of recycled water, posing a significant risk to the economy, the environment and public health. To understand the causes of cyanobacteria in pond-based (Project 2) and microbial filter-based (Project 3) wastewater treatment plants and the risk they pose, this research will use the latest molecular techniques to examine how the microbial communities within these systems interact with each other and their surrounding environment to form blooms and produce toxins and other harmful metabolites. Such knowledge will inform risk assessment and provide strategies for the mitigation of future bloom events, improving the security of our increasingly valuable recycled and treated water resources.

PhD Opportunity details


A scholarship opportunity may also be available pending approvals and selection by the supervisor. The scholarship opportunity may also be offered to the successful candidate subject to the grant being fully established.

Supervisor: Brett Neilan

Available to: Domestic and International students


Eligibility Criteria

The applicant will need to meet the minimum eligibility criteria for admission.

Application Procedure

Interested applicants should send an email expressing their interest along with scanned copies of their academic transcripts, CV, a brief statement of their research interests and a proposal that specifically links them to the research project.

Please send the email expressing interest to Brett.Neilan@newcastle.edu.au by 5pm on 31 December 2021.

Applications Close 31 December 2021 Apply Now

Contact Brett Neilan
Phone +61 2 4921 5544
Email Brett.Neilan@newcastle.edu.au

PhD and Research MastersFind out more

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