Ph.D. Graduate student opportunity in microalgae cryopreservation and genetics

Fully-funded PhD project investigating the cryopreservation and genetics of the Cawthron Institute Culture Collection of Microalgae.

We are seeking an enthusiastic and highly motivated student to undertake a fully-funded PhD project investigating the cryopreservation and genetics of the nationally significant Cawthron Institute Culture Collection of Microalgae (CICCM). The project will involve working with a multi-disciplinary team of environmental, molecular and chemistry researchers at Cawthron Institute, Nelson, New Zealand.

Supervisory Team

The Principal Supervisor is dependent on the preferred host university.
Co-supervisors available at the Cawthron Institute: Drs Lesley Rhodes, Kirsty Smith and Susie Wood.

Context for the project

The CICCM is a nationally significant collection of marine and freshwater microalgae. The collection contains approximately 250 marine and 250 freshwater species spanning 14 different classes isolated from around New Zealand, the Pacific and Antarctica. The labour costs to maintain this living collection are considerable and can be reduced by cryo-preserving isolates. Cawthron has already led the world by cryopreserving the first dinoflagellates and many cyanobacteria, but we have been unable to cryopreserve larger and/or toxic marine species. Cryopreservation has the added advantage of preventing genetic drift, thus stabilising the production of valuable compounds.

The project involves microalgal culture, cryopreservation and molecular techniques. The student will play a key role in the project coordinating the various aspects of the research and addressing potential key research questions include:

  1. Are cyst forms of marine microalgae more resilient to cryopreservation?

  2. What new technology is available that could enhance cryopreservation success of microalgae?

    We anticipate that this part of the PhD will be undertaken jointly with collaborators in Europe.

  3. Do the transcripts of key genes (i.e., those involved in toxin or high value compound production) and chemical profiles change after cryo-preservation? This section will involve working closely

    with Cawthron chemistry and biochemistry team.

  4. Does the environmental source (i.e., tropical vs temperate vs. cold) or habitat (benthic vs

    planktonic) effect cryopreservation success?

  5. Are there any key attributes (genetic or structural) that make some microalgae more amendable

    to cryopreservation?

Details of scholarship

Applicants with a strong background in biological sciences, including molecular ecology or a related discipline, and with demonstrated academic and research excellence at the Bachelor (Hons) or Masters level are encouraged to apply. The successful candidate must be able to work both independently and in a team. The successful applicant should be eligible to register for doctoral studies at a New Zealand university. The position will primarily be based at the Cawthron Institute (Nelson) but the student will be expected to spend periods of the studentship at their host University and with international collaborators. The selected candidate will receive a PhD Scholarship comprising a 3-year stipend of NZ$25,000 pa (tax free), PhD/University fees and project costs.

New Zealand and international students are encouraged to apply.

Applicants should submit a cover letter with a statement of research interests and experience, a complete CV (including academic transcripts), and the names and contact information of at least two referees in a single PDF file, as well as a copy of their postgraduate thesis, by e-mail to Dr Lesley Rhodes (E:

Applications received on or before 30 June 2019 will be considered for this position.
Additional information about the Cawthron Institute can be found at

Application deadline: Open until filled
Start date: Flexible
Location: Nelson, New Zealand (with travel to host University)