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I am recruiting a PhD student to join me in early 2022 to work on an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project.

If you are interested please contact me at or also via twitter @frewecologist

and we can discuss further.

More details below.

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About the project

The symbiosis between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and terrestrial plants is one of the most widespread and successful plant symbioses on Earth, one that includes the majority of food crops. These fungi colonise plant roots and benefit plants by augmenting their nutrient access, while the plants provide the fungi with carbon in the form of sugars and lipids. Mycorrhizal fungi have important roles in fundamental ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, decomposition, and carbon cycling. They are also critical to soil ecosystems due to their role in enhancing soil aggregation and in reducing soil nutrient loss.

AM fungi are ideal candidates to harness in agriculture to improve plant growth, nutrient uptake, and pest resistance while simultaneously benefitting soil ecology. However, if we are to effectively utilise AM fungi to enhance sustainable plant production in Australia, we need to understand (i) how agricultural practices in Australia drive AM fungal diversity and community assembly across climate zones, (ii) how these communities differentially affect plant growth and nutrient uptake.

This project will combine field sampling surveys with glasshouse experiments to address these knowledge gaps. This will determine how conventional and organic crop management shape the AM fungal communities in field sites across eastern Australia. The project will establish how AM fungal diversity and community composition, driven by these farming approaches, differentially affect plant outcomes (growth, nutrient status, defence mechanisms).

The PhD candidate will conduct field sampling across sites and, using a DNA metabarcoding approach, will identify and characterise AM fungal communities. Using manipulative glasshouse experiments the candidate will investigate how AM fungal diversity and community composition affects crop growth, nutrient status and defence chemistry.

The PhD candidate will have a unique opportunity to learn and apply a wide range of ecological and experimental techniques and technologies. They will share their research through publications, conference participation, and by connecting with world-class collaborators from a range of disciplines.

The scholarship

The scholarship provides a tax-free stipend of $32,000(AUD) per annum for 3 years to support living costs.

Full tuition fees for a period of 6 semesters (full-time equivalent). Domestic students will be allocated a Research Training Program (RTP) Fees Offset Place, whereas international students will be offered an International Fees Research Scholarship.

The candidate

Applicants should:

  • Have a strong academic record and hold a qualification equal to (i) an Australian Bachelor honours degree with First Class Honours or (ii) a Masters degree (with significant research component).

  • Have a strong academic performance and experience in microbial/plant/soil ecology.

  • Have experience with ecological data analysis using R, and any experience in biological sequence data analysis will be an advantage.

  • Be enthusiastic and highly motivated.

  • Possess excellent verbal and written communication skills.

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