PhD opportunity: The Marine Biological Association (MBA) University of Oxford

Suitable for graduates with degees in: Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Genetics or Biology
This project has guaranteed NERC funding: UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (UKOARP)
Research location: The student will be primarily based at the MBA in Plymouth.
Keywords: Calcification, coccolithophores, ocean acidification, adaptation, acclimation, genetic plasticity.

Rationale Numerous studies have shown that because of the rate at which our climate is changing, the ultimate consequence for most species is either extinction or migration to alternative habitats. Certain species might, however, be able to evolve in response to their rapidly changing environment over these relatively short time-scales. This scenario is likely to be most important for species that have large population sizes and rapid generation times, so that the genetic variation required for adaptive evolution can be readily supplied. This is the case for most microbes (unicellular protists through to viruses). The overarching aim of the studentship is to assess the extant genetic variation within phytoplankton populations, thereby assessing the potential for adaptation that this natural diversity could confer in response to ocean acidification (OA). We hypothesize that populations with high intrinsic genetic variability are inherently able to adapt rapidly to environmental change.


The student will collect live and preserved samples from research cruises for culturing and genotyping purposes. Genetic diversity within the phytoplankton community will be assessed by amplifying nuclear and plastid genes. Clone libraries generated will be sequenced using next-generation 454 FLX technology. Sequence data will be scrutinized using a variety of bioinformatic tools. Genetic variation within and between samples will be compared to archived, decadal old samples, to assess the speed in which key genes are evolving. The culturing component of the project will measure the physiological responses of extant relevant coccolithophores to OA.


The student will join the stimulating research environment of the MBA and University of Oxford, and will participate in multidisciplinary projects employing physiological and genomic techniques. The student will be trained in bioinformatics related techniques and measurements of cellular calcification. Training will be provided to meet the needs of the student.

All enquires to PA to the Director (Cynthia Carpenter), Marine Biological Association of the UK, the Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK.

Email applications (marked UKOARP/DS/CB/RR) may be sent to

The Science Jobs. com, 5 February 2011. More information.

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