PHD Project: Microencapsulated feeds for captive corals

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By Milthon Lujan

Deakin University’s Nutrition and Seafood Laboratory and the Australian Institute of Marine Science are looking to recruit exceptional PhD candidates to undertake highly collaborative research as part of Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP) initiative aiming to develop novel microencapsulated feeds to support enhanced growth, health and resilience of aquaculture-produced coral.

Successful development, growth and reproduction of captive organisms is contingent on optimized nutrition, including the provision of pre- and probiotics, as shown for many aquaculture species. Altered nutritional status (e.g., structural lipid concentration and fatty acid profile) and microbial profiles are seen in corals within months of transfer from field to experimental conditions, and this may be central to some species developing signs of compromised health and disease when held under captive conditions for long periods. Research into coral diets (palatability, nutrient composition and ratios, pre- and probiotics) has the potential to enhance survival, health and growth of asexually and sexually propagated corals, and decrease their time in aquaculture facilities prior to deployment for restoration purposes. Diets also likely influence reproductive output and the timing of sexual maturation in coral broodstock.

The objective of this PhD project will be to test and compare how newly developed coral diets can support the growth, health and resilience of captive coral species. The specific aims of the PhD project will be to:

– Implement aquaria-based feeding trials centered around the newly developed diets, with manipulation of environmental factors (e.g., temperature, pathogen exposure) as an additional variable; and

– Perform subsequent analyses to assess how diets influence the survival, growth, development, health (nutritional status, microbial profiles) and resilience of coral recruits and fragments.

The PhD student will have access to the National Sea Simulator at AIMS, where a host of environmental conditions and water quality parameters can be controlled to mimic current and future on the Great Barrier Reef. These experiments and trials will be complimented by the high order analytical capabilities of the AIMS and Deakin University laboratories.

Domestic candidates, or International candidates currently residing in Australia with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) or Master of Science will be considered and a stipend of AU$28,096 per annum (non-taxable) will be offered over the 3 year duration of the project. Selection will follow a multi-step process with interested applicants encouraged to submit a complete Expression of Interest form plus a detailed curriculum vitae.

These positions will remain open until suitable candidates have been identified.

More information here

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