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Investigating Biogenic Volatile Organic Compound (Bvocs) Biology of Corals

This project is a fully funded domestic PhD scholarship for 3 years





Biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) are produced all organisms including plants, bacteria and invertebrates. BVOCs play key roles as “infochemicals” in ecosystems and are important as diagnostic “health” bio-markers. Recent research shows that corals produce large numbers of BVOCs that may potentially be used as indicators of different conditions of coral health, including bleaching and disease, yet the underlying basis for these BVOCs remains largely unknown. As part of novel collaborative work with University of Newcastle (UoN, NSW) and Oregon State University (OSU, USA), we offer a project as part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded Discovery Project to develop BVOC-based diagnostic assays of coral reef health::

To develop the first metabolic models for BVOC emissions in corals and their microbial consortia. Using state-of-the-art molecular methods this project will address:

- How do the BVOC profiles of corals change under stress?

- What genes and metabolic pathways are involved in the production of important BVOC biomarkers?

- How do inherent differences in metabolic pathway regulation influence production of alternate BVOC across coral taxa?

The successful candidate will conduct independent research as well as work in close collaboration within the laboratories and/or field stations of project collaborators (UoN, OSU) and other researchers of the UTS: C3 Future Reefs team ( to:

- Contribute to coral stress experiments in the laboratory and in the field

- Develop and adapt state-of-the-art biochemical and/or molecular methods to coral holobiont models

- Apply bioinformatic techniques to develop metabolic insight for BVOC emissions in corals

Who is eligible?

Applicants must be either permanent Australian residents or New Zealand citizens. To be eligible for this application, you must hold the following or equivalent degree in biology, microbiology, biochemistry and/or molecular biology:

  • Honours degree with First Class, or Second Class Division 1, or
  • MSc Research or MSc Coursework with a research thesis of at least 6 months.

Selection process

Given the strong biological focus of this project the applicant should:

  • Have a degree in biology, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology or related field
  • Have a strong background and experience in clean laboratory protocols, e.g., gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, DNA/RNA extraction, PCR etc.
  • Have experience in – or a strong interest in developing – computational biology and bioinformatics, with motivation to acquire new skills in this field.

Furthermore, candidates with field- and laboratory-based experimental design (particularly in marine biology), “command-line use”, and/or biological data analysis are preferred.

Familiarity with marine biological systems (including corals and coral reefs) is desired but not essential.

Applications closed

30 August 2020

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Other information

The Future Reefs Program is housed within The Climate Change Cluster at UTS, a world leading research institute delivering innovative solutions to progress Australia’s bio-economy. Future Reefs is comprised of a diverse community of HDR students, Postdoctoral Fellows, Senior Researcher staff and technical staff, examining a broad portfolio of research topics, from fundamental coral biology to innovative reef management solutions. Research is conducted through Future reefs unique coral husbandry aquarium facility in house, as well as field stations on the Great Barrier reef.

The University of Technology Sydney is Australia’s Top Young University and ranked within the Top 200 universities worldwide. Its vibrant campus is located in the center of Sydney, with easy access to all amenities and transport that is ideally suited for PhD student living.