PhD project on toxic cyanobacteria

We seek a highly-motivated student for a PhD project, in New Zealand, to explore the factors regulating toxin production in cyanobacteria and to elucidate the biological function of these compounds. The project will commence in early 2013 as part of a Marsden-funded project.

Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) produce toxins that can be fatal for animals and humans, and can impact entire aquatic ecosystems. Despite extensive research into the biological role of these toxins, their function remains a mystery. During a recent field-based lake study we demonstrated that cyanobacteria can “switch” toxin production on and off. This PhD project will begin with a series of hypothesis-driven in-lake mesocosm studies to explore thresholds and triggers of up-regulation of toxin production. A deterministic coupled hydrodynamic-ecological model will be used to tease apart the interactions amongst cell densities and stressors. Finally molecular techniques will be used to explore the biological role of these toxins.

The student will be enrolled through Waikato University in Hamilton ( but will also spend time at the Cawthron Institute, Nelson, N.Z. ( The PhD project includes annual fully funded 1-3 month exchanges at collaborators’ laboratories in Germany and Norway.

The successful applicant should have a sound background in freshwater ecology, molecular biology and ideally some knowledge of bioinformatics and/or computer modeling. The project will involve at least two intensive periods of field work, laboratory analysis (including; DNA extraction, RT-QPCR, metatranscriptomics, toxin extraction and analysis, microscope based cell counting), statistical interpretation of data and modeling.

International (i.e. non-N.Z. resident) students are welcome and encouraged to apply.

For more details contact:
Prof. David Hamilton -
Dr. Susie Wood -

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