Increasingly accurate and affordable DNA sequencing technologies are having a major role in re-defining biodiversity assessment, especially in aquatic habitats. Taxonomic and functional attributes of marine communities can be effectively gleaned from fragments of biological material dispersed in the water column, via a process termed DNA metabarcoding, which is now being considered as a novel tool for ecosystem and environmental monitoring.
Most recently, filter-feeding, scavenging and sessile invertebrates are being touted as potential ‘natural samplers’ of local DNA diversity, in the hope that they could improve and streamline environmental DNA sampling and concentration, as well as reducing the operational impacts of these activities. This project will be running in parallel with a recently awarded NERC grant to explore marine sponges as natural environmental DNA samplers, and will focus on a broader array of candidate natural ‘sentinels’, such as mussels, sea squirts and sea anemones (in the picture...).
Specifically, the project will:
Identify an accessible gradient of coastal marine habitats along the UK coasts;
Select candidate “filtering” species that could be good eDNA sources;
Sample multiple organisms across the spatial gradient and over multiple seasons;
Use DNA metabarcoding to reconstruct local and temporal features of vertebrate and diatom assemblages;
Compare and evaluate the patterns obtained against information derived from water sampling and traditional observational techniques.
Applicants should email a CV, covering letter detailing their suitability for the project, and contact details of two referees, to Prof S Mariani.
Interviews will take place between May 26th and May 28th, 2020, via skype or other remote videoconference system, as a result of the current travel restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic.