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PhD in Biosciences: Multi-Dimensional Mycelia Interactions (PhD Studentship)

Reference Number: R1141
Closing Date: Closed for applications
Duration: 3.5 years
Funding Amount: fees and stipend
Level of Study: Postgraduate Research
Regions: EU (Non UK), UK
This funding opportunity is now closed for application

About the project

Dead wood is a massive carbon pool. Globally, 7.7-9.5 Pg being released each year as a result of the activities of wood decay fungi, the only organisms that significantly break down lignin. Fungal community composition is a major determinant of wood decay rate, and interspecific mycelia interactions are the major determinant of fungal community structure and dynamics. Hence, understanding these interactions is crucial to understanding wood decay rate and carbon cycling. The overall outcome of interspecific interactions between wood decay fungi can be deadlock (where neither fungus obtains territory held by the other), replacement (where one fungus ousts another completely from its territory) and partial replacement. Such interactions have been studied intensively in pairings in artificial media, wood and soil, but since outcomes are often intransitive (i.e. sp. A beats sp. B, sp. B beats sp. C, but sp. C beats sp. A) it is not possible to predict the outcomes of interactions between 3 or more simultaneous confrontations from pairing experiments. Hardly any studies have been performed under controlled conditions with multispecies interactions, yet this is crucial to understanding wood decay in the natural environment.

This project will use our novel ‘Rubix cube’ experimental systems, in which cubes of wood (typically 1x1x1 cm) pre-colonised by individual wood decay fungi, are arranged in a 3D tessellated lattice in various combinations. This allows analysis of the effects of, for example, different combinations of species, different initial starting volumes of wood occupied by different species, different numbers of species, and different starting states of decay. CO2 evolution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be measured throughout an experiment to estimate ongoing decay rate and semiochemicals. At the end of an experiment the Rubix cube can be deconstructed to determine current status of each individual cube component in terms of, for example, CO2 evolution, VOCs, weight loss, species present, enzyme activity and other aspects of gene expression.

The project will also build on gene expression studies already conducted in two dimensional models and assess the activity of key genes in a more dynamic and complex 3D model system where the fungi must balance nutrition, growth and defence on multiple fronts. Quantitative PCR will be used to measure gene expression during the complex interactions and green fluorescent protein (GFP) labelling to target genes will enable functional analysis and visualisation of interacting species.

Start Date: October 2014

Supervisors: Prof. Lynne Boddy and Dr. Carsten Müller


This studentship is generously funded by NERC. It covers full UK/EU tuition fees and includes a Doctoral Stipend matching the UK Researh Council National Minimum (£13,726 p.a. for 2013/14, updated each year; ).


Residency Criteria: The full studentship is only eligible to UK or EU students. In order to be eligible for a full studentship, EU students must have been resident in the UK for at least three years. Other EU applicants will receive a fees-only award.

Academic Criteria: Applications are invited from graduates who possess a good Honours degree (2.1 or above) in microbiology, ecology, biology, or other relevant discipline to. Experience of molecular methods and/or microbiological approaches would be advantageous, though training will be given and candidates with a different skill set will be considered.

Number of Studentships Available: 1

How to Apply

For application form & procedure, please visit the How to Apply section of our website.

Informal enquiries may be made to Professor Lynne Boddy,

Alternatively, follow the link for further information on the Organisms and Environment Research Division.

Application Deadline: 10 January 2014

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