[Coral-List] PhD Stipend: Effects of ocean acidification on demersal zooplankton in coral reefs

Katharina Fabricius K.Fabricius at aims.gov.au
Sun Sep 25 19:31:10 EDT 2011

Hi all,

we are seeking a keen student to conduct his or her PhD on the topic:

The effects of ocean acidification on demersal zooplankton in coral reefs: Using natural CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea as a window into the future.
Details at: http://www.mares-eu.org/index.asp?p=1376&a=1090&mod=phd&id=78<https://webmail.aims.gov.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=51e0ebbc499648d5a0afd41a2b77f71b&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.mares-eu.org%2findex.asp%3fp%3d1376%26a%3d1090%26mod%3dphd%26id%3d78> and below.
This is as a part of the MARES Progam of the European Community, who are offering 8 - 10 PhD stipends for a total of 22 projects (http://www.mares-eu.org/index.asp?p=1376&a=1090<https://webmail.aims.gov.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=51e0ebbc499648d5a0afd41a2b77f71b&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.mares-eu.org%2findex.asp%3fp%3d1376%26a%3d1090>), for students from all countries.
Please pass on to students who may be interested in this project (or any of the other 21 MARES topics):
 Project description
Streams of CO2 bubbles naturally emerge from the shallow coral reefs in eastern Papua New Guinea (Fabricius et al. 2011). They offer the opportunity for an exiting PhD Project to observe the effects of elevated seawater CO2 levels on the composition and food web dynamics of demersal zooplankton, providing an insight into how rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations may impact reef associated zooplankton communities in 50-100 years time.

Demersal plankton is an important food source for many of the reef building corals. Demersal plankton resides in reef sediment substrata during the day, emerging into the water column predominantly at night. Preliminary anecdotal observations suggest that both the biomass and species composition of this plankton may differ strongly between the high CO2 and control sites. This may have strong implications for the future trophic status of coral reefs.

The objectives of this PhD Project are twofold:
1.    To investigate the biomass and composition of demersal plankton along the CO2 gradients. This study will establish thresholds for individual taxonomic groups of plankton, and allow predicting which reef associated groups of demersal plankton can live at elevated CO2 and which can't. It will also show how CO2 will alter plankton availability for corals as a food source.

2.    To investigate trophic fluxes and food webs within the plankton community, using fatty acids and 13C as biomarkers. The volcanic CO2 are almost free of 13C isotopes, so plankton entering the seep area from the open ocean are likely to have another isotopic ratio compared with demersal plankton that predominantly depend on reef primary production as food source. Using gas chromatography - mass spectrometry, and compound specific stable isotope analysis (gas chromatography-combustion isotope ratio mass spectrometry), we can take advantage of this natural label to investigate relative contributions of local versus offshore carbon sources to the food webs.

The successful MARES PhD candidate will join up to two expeditions to visit the seep sites in Milne Bay, as part of an interdisciplinary team of scientists led by Katharina Fabricius at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). The student will spend a significant proportion of the time at the Townsville branch of AIMS (located at the central Great Barrier Reef) for development of a detailed work plan, preparation of all equipment and gear for the expeditions, testing of the equipment at local reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, and afterwards to process the plankton samples. The PhD candidate will also work across the laboratories at the University of Bremen and the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven (Profs Wilhelm Hagen, Holger Auel, Claudio Richter), benefiting from their expertise in zooplankton research (e.g., Genin et al. 2005), in using fatty acids as biomarkers for trophic links (e.g., Dalsgaard J et al. 2003), and to conduct compound specific mass spectrometry. Additional co-supervision by Dr Jason Hall-Spencer, University of Plymouth, will create linkages to the ocean acidification research groups who work at CO2 seeps in the rocky shore communities of the Mediterranean. The three European institutions are all home to one or more of the ocean acidification research programs, BioAcid, UK-OA, ECO2, MedSea and EPOCA.

The candidate will have to be highly motivated, willing to spend time in Australia, and to conduct ship based field work (with diving or snorkeling, depending on qualification) in Papua New Guinea. The project will also entail extensive time in the laboratory to process the plankton samples, and will require strong numerical skills for data analyses.

Expected outcomes
The candidate is expected to publish the results of the project together with the supervisors in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He/she will present the outcomes at two international conferences. Close co-operation and exchange with other international research projects, e.g. BIOACID, CALMARO, will ensure that the outcomes of the Ph.D. project will be recognised by the scientific community. Since ocean acidification is a burning issue of global concern, it is expected that the outcomes of this project will be of high relevance for a wider audience and also gain interest of the general public.

Katharina Fabricius

Dr. Katharina Fabricius
Principal Research Scientist
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
Mail: AIMS, PMB 3, Townsville Q4810, Australia

Phone: +61 -7 4753 4412, Mobile: 0428 713845
Fax: +61 -7 4772 5852
Email: k.fabricius at aims.gov.au

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