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Discovering how reef-building corals tolerate hypoxia exposure


$26,300 AUD per annum

3 years





Oxygen availability fundamentally sustains life on Earth, fuelling aerobic metabolism to produce energy. However, dissolved oxygen content of the oceans has already substantially in the last 50 years from climate change and as waters are increasingly affected by stressors that subject organisms to periods of hypoxia (e.g. eutrophication), where oxygen availability falls below levels that sustain optimal functioning. Shallow tropical reefs already experience routine oxygen depletion and therefore under immediate risk from accelerating hypoxia exposure – as yet we have no knowledge of how dissolved oxygen regulates the functioning of reef-building corals, the oxygen limits that sustain ‘normal’ coral functioning, or the mechanisms corals employ to tolerate and potentially acclimatize to hypoxia exposure. Improved monitoring of coastal reef health using oxygen-sensing arrays rests on bridging this fundamental gap in knowledge.

A multi-disciplinary project funded by the Australian Research Council will therefore focus, for the first time, on whether and how corals of the Great Barrier Reef tolerate hypoxia exposure, led by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS; A/Prof David Suggett and Dr Mathieu Pernice) in collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST, Red Sea Research Center; Prof Christian Voolstra) and the University of Copenhagen (UoC; Prof Mickael Kuhl). Within this project, we are offering two PhD scholarships:

1.PhD1 (UTS, UoC): Reconciling coral hypoxia thresholds with changes in growth morphology and environmental history through micro-scale oxygen dynamics.

2.PhD2 (UTS, KAUST): Revealing the mechanistic basis for coral hypoxia sensitivity versus tolerance through coupled metagenomic- metabolomics platforms.

Who is eligible?

  • Domestic students (or international students with a tuition fee waive).
  • Have completed a Bachelor of Science degree with first class honours or Master of Science by research, or be regarded by the university as having an equivalent level of attainment.

Selection process

  • Expertise in and knowledge of coral and associated microbial biology, as well as of physiology and oxygen sensing (Phd1) or bioinformatics and metabolomics (PhD2).
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills, with a preference for proven ability of scientific publication.
  • High level of motivation and enthusiasm.
  • Capacity to conduct experiments in both laboratory (aquarist) and field (coral reef) settings.

Applications closed

Applications are now closed.