Prospective Students and Postdoctoral Researchers

We are always keen to recruit dynamic and scientifically motivated researchers to the lab. We often have positions advertised on this page but if you have your own ideas please do get in touch at any time and I would be happy to discuss options with you for joining the group.

Currently available positions in the lab

There are three new exciting PhD opportunities available within the group: 

PhD opportunities

1. Profiling coral sensitivity and resilience to bleaching

Supervisors: Dr Nick Kamenos (U of Glasgow), Dr Graham Hamilton  (U of Glasgow), Dr Seb Hennige (U of Edinburgh), Dr Heidi Burdett (The Lyell Centre),  Dr Dan Exton (Operation Wallacea)

 

The ecosystem services provided by coral reefs are worth over $100 billion annually and include coast line protection, tourism, food and medical derivatives. However, the health of the constituent corals can be significantly impacted by coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is the loss of symbiotic zooxanthellae (Symbiodiniaceae) from tropical corals and can be caused by stressors such as thermal perturbations, disease and freshwater runoff. Thermal perturbations are thought to be the most significant bleaching trigger and have been well documented in conjunction with major global bleaching events in 1998, 2002 & 2016. These mass bleaching events caused widespread coral death with catastrophic ecosystem and service provision impacts. The importance of temperature is such that bleaching can now be forecast over a few days – weeks. However, sub-lethal bleaching, where the coral bleaches but recovers, may act as a ‘safety valve’ allowing coral hosts to survive periods of thermal stress in warmer waters. Additionally, other corals and their symbionts are robust to warming-induced bleaching.

Despite the devastation caused by severe coral bleaching, it is still not possible to accurately assess if corals will survive in the warmer oceans projected for the end of the century as we do not fully understand the links between genetic and biochemical drivers of bleaching sensitivity in corals.

Aim:  This project will investigate links between genetic composition and metabolic drivers of bleaching resilience. This is important as it will enable a more robust understanding of coral survival under global change.

 

The scholar will have the opportunity to collect coral cores from Caribbean coral colonies (SCUBA diving is optional) from field sites in Honduras, Jamaica and/or Dominica. The focus of this project will be genomic analysis and interpretation. Within the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences (GES) the scholar will be exposed to, and receive training in, cutting edge methods for extracting and reconstructing biological events from coral skeletons and DNA. Within Glasgow Polyomics the scholar will be involved in Next Generation Sequencing and bioinformatic analysis. GES and Glasgow Polyomics have large research student cohorts that will provide peer-support throughout the research program. The scholar will participate in the annual post-graduate research conferences providing an opportunity to present their research to postgraduates and staff and to also learn about the research conducted by their fellow postgraduate peers. All project supervisors are highly research-active; the scholar will interact with all members of their research groups, providing an opportunity to learn about other techniques and research areas which may be applicable to their research. Additionally, the supervisors are based in research-active departments that span a broad range of ecological, environmental, genomics and bioinformatics research, exposing the scholar to a range of other research areas. To facilitate this, the scholar will actively participate in the ‘Marine Global Change Group’ in GES, and the ‘Next Generation Sequencing Group’ and the ‘Bioinformatics Group’ in Glasgow Polyomics. These group meetings provide opportunities to discuss cutting-edge topics in the field, review recent papers and to present current research plans to academics with a common research interest in an informal and supportive atmosphere.

 

2. Multi-proxy coral bleaching reconstruction

Supervisors: Dr Nick Kamenos (U of Glasgow), Dr John MacDonald (U of Glasgow), Dr Heidi Burdett (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Dan Exton (Operation Wallacea), Dr Sebastian Hennige (U of Edinburgh), Prof Gavin Foster (U of Southampton)

The ecosystem services provided by coral reefs are worth over $100 billion annually and include coast line protection, tourism, food and medical derivatives. However, the health of the constituent corals can be significantly impacted by coral bleaching. Coral bleaching (Fig. 1) is the loss of symbiotic zooxanthellae (Symbiodiniaceae) from tropical corals and can be caused by stressors such as thermal perturbations, disease and freshwater runoff. Thermal perturbations are thought to be the most significant bleaching trigger and have been well documented in conjunction with major global bleaching events in 1998, 2002 & 2016. These mass bleaching events caused widespread coral death with catastrophic ecosystem and service provision impacts. The importance of temperature is such that bleaching can now be forecast over a few days – weeks. However, sub-lethal bleaching, where the coral bleaches but recovers, may act as a ‘safety valve’ allowing coral hosts to survive periods of thermal stress in warmer waters. Additionally, other corals and their symbionts are robust to warming-induced bleaching.

 

Despite the devastation caused by severe coral bleaching, it is still not possible to accurately assess if corals will survive in the warmer oceans projected for the end of the century as we do not understand the interaction between differential drivers of coral bleaching.

 

Aim: The proposed research aims to reconstruct past coral bleaching using a multi-proxy approach. The record can also be used to assess past frequency and prevalence of coral bleaching and assess whether they are increasing over time. Importantly, it will allow modern observational records of bleaching to be placed into a longer temporal context and to better evaluate the relevance of current bleaching trajectories.

Methodology:

The scholar will have the opportunity to collect coral cores from Caribbean coral colonies. The proposed research will use multiple proxies of coral bleaching sampled in parallel down. The proposed proxies to be used in this multi-proxy approach are coral linear extension rate, skeletal density, boron isotopes, N stable isotopes and clumped isotopes.

Laboratory work will be conducted at the Universities of Glasgow Edinburgh, Southampton, and the Lyell Centre. These data will allow the scholar to generate a multiproxy reconstruction of coral bleaching, placing recent trends of coral bleaching into an environmentally relevant context.

3.  Modelling coral survival in a warming world

Supervisors: Dr Ben Swallow (U of Glasgow), Dr Nick Kamenos (U of Glasgow),  Dr Heidi Burdett (Heriot-Watt University), Prof Marian Scott (U of Glasgow)

The ecosystem services provided by coral reefs are worth over $100 billion annually and include coast line protection, tourism, food and medical derivatives. However, the health of the constituent corals can be significantly impacted by coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is the loss of symbiotic zooxanthellae (Symbiodiniaceae) from tropical corals and can be caused by stressors such as thermal perturbations, disease and freshwater runoff. Thermal perturbations are thought to be the most significant bleaching trigger, and have been well documented in conjunction with major global bleaching events in 1998, 2002 & 2016/2017. These mass bleaching events caused widespread coral death with catastrophic ecosystem and service provision impacts. However, sub-lethal bleaching can also occur where the coral bleaches but recovers, and this may act as a ‘safety valve’ allowing coral hosts to survive periods of thermal stress in warmer waters.

Despite the devastation caused by severe coral bleaching, it is still difficult to accurately assess if corals will survive in the warmer oceans projected for the end of the century. Specifically, we do not fully understand if, and how, corals will spatially disperse by the end of the century. This is important as there is evidence that certain areas may act as coral refugia, harbouring colonies resilient to climate change.

 

Aim: To better understand future coral dispersal and any roles of coral refugia this project will integrate biological timeseries with spatiotemporal modelling to determine future coral reef extent.

 

Methodology:

This project will include spatiotemporal analysis of coral distribution and resilience patterns from long-term ecological datasets, ensuring applicability to real-world conservation and resource management problems. Statistical inferential frameworks will be used to project future coral distributions under various climate change scenarios. There will also be the opportunity to explore how changing land-use might interact with climate change drivers on coral distributions.

Modelling: Spatiotemporal modelling of environmental data is often conducted using Bayesian hierarchical models, with the hierarchies representing the variation in temporal and spatial scales of the data or environmental process (Ledo et al (2016); Brown et al (2017); Jones-Todd et al (2018)). It also provides a natural probabilistic framework for predicting future coral distributions and their associated uncertainties. Estimation of relevant quantities of interest in spatiotemporal models can be conducted using a variety of statistical approaches, including Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) and INLA. The project will determine the relevant choice of methods in the context of coral distribution modelling.

 

Field work: If desired, the scholar will have the opportunity to conduct model validation in relevant regions, such as the Caribbean, Red Sea and Mediterranean (diving is optional), adopting state-of-the-art high-resolution 3D survey techniques.

Application procedure:  Please contact Nick for futher details

 

© 2020 by Nick Kamenos