Soil systems are fundamentally important to the health of our planet, but the complexity of soil microbial communities makes them particularly challenging to study. Soil systems are amongst the most diverse microbial ecosystems on Earth in terms of the number of microbial species (and strains) present within individual samples, and in the breadth of functions encoded. Beyond complexity measured by counting distinct community members, interactions between microbial species including symbiosis, parasitism or commensalism are widespread and yet barely studied.
The proposed PhD project will build bioinformatic pipelines to identify and characterise symbioses in metagenome datasets. Most of the research will be computational in nature, developing methods that are grounded in our understanding of microbial systems, while at the same time realising how minuscule our understanding of these systems is.
Part of the project will also involve cutting-edge visualisation techniques in the laboratory to benchmark the developed computational methods. It is hoped that the techniques developed in this project will be of foundational importance to our future understanding of the way microorganisms interact in soil and indeed all microbial ecosystems.
Contact the supervisor for more information.