Diversity and structure of dinoflagellate microbiomes

Supervisory Team:

Primary supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Christopher Bolch

Co-supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Andrew Bridle (IMAS);

Additional supervisors: Dr Terry Pinfold (CSL Flow Cytometry, Menzies Institute, Hobart)

Brief project description:

In the ocean, marine phytoplankton interact with both intra-cellular and extracellular bacterial symbionts in the diffusive boundary layer (DBL) around the cell. These microbiomes are essential for their growth and have major effects on their physiology and toxicity. Current knowledge of phytoplankton microbiomes is derived almost entirely from lab-based studies where microbiomes are extensively modified by both nutrient-enrichment and a closed environment, and the difficulty of sampling cell-associated microbiomes at the single-cell scale. As a result, we know almost nothing about microbiomes associated with phytoplankton cells in natural marine systems. Preliminary studies show that natural microbiomes are dominated by completely different bacteria to lab cultures, but it is not yet clear whether they share similar functional traits to those from cultured microbiomes. This project aims to use flow-cytometry and fluorescence-activated cell-sorting (FACS) with Next-Gen sequencing (NGS) microbial profiling (16S rRNA gene) to characterize microbial communities associated with natural cells of marine coastal dinoflagellates. Specifically, the project will:

  1. Establish the phylogenetic composition and structure of microbiomes associated with natural bloom cells of dinoflagellates.
  2. Culture and identify representative microbiome bacteria from FACS dinoflagellate cells.

Skills students will develop during this research project:

The student will learn the following skills during this project. Flow cytometry; Algal and microbial culture methods; DNA sequencing and bacterial phylogenetics; NGS-based microbial community profiling; community and NGS-data analysis

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
February 15, 2021