I am an algal physiologist & ecologist and am in my second year of my NERC funded PhD at the British Antarctic Survey and Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge. My project is focused on understanding how photosynthetic microalgae (in particular diatoms) have managed to adapt to the cold temperatures and varying light levels of the Arctic and Antarctic and if polar strains may be beneficial to biotechnology, I will address these questions through a variety of small scale laboratory experiments and large scale experiments.
The PhD is interested in the metabolism of these polar diatoms i.e. the compounds which are produced by the organism. The field of “metabolomics” which is the study of the metabolites produced by an organisms at any given time will be utilised to identify key metabolites which may suggest adaptations to the polar regions. The project will mainly look at the effects of temperature on the metabolome 1) to see if there are certain compounds produced in the cold and 2) how does the metabolome change under increasing temperatures, linking to global change. As an algal physiologist, I am also very interested in seeing how the growth, morphology and photosynthetic performance is also effected. Diatoms are key to primary production and marine food webs in the polar regions and so it is important to understand how a changing environment will impact on their biology and ecosystem.
Another aspect of the PhD will look at the potential these cold adapted diatoms have for biotechnological processes either for increased biomass during cold seasons where normal algal strains show poor growth or because of the production of novel, high value compounds.
I have a variety of research interests which span from ecological to molecular problems.
- I am interested in the effects of environmental parameters such as temperature, light and ocean acidification on the metabolic products of algae. Further to this, I am interested in how these changes in the metabolic products influences plant/herbivore interactions.
- I have a keen interest in the use of algae for biotechnology, and how different species and strains can be utilised for different products.
- I am also really interested in the signalling mechanisms, specifically calcium signalling, of algae to abiotic and biotic stimuli and how they link to metabolism and physiology.
- PhD student, Biodiversity, Adaptations & Evolution Team