Supervisor(s): Jo Randall, Keith Christian, Karen Gibb, Di Barton, Dave Crook
Project suitable for: PhD
The Black jewfish is a large-bodied species of croaker that is highly prized for its table qualities. Black jewfish are aggregative in behaviour, making them a key focus of all stakeholders in the Northern Territory. They have been heavily overfished across their tropical Indo-West Pacific distribution with northern Australia from the western Gulf of Carpentaria to northern Western Australia remaining one of the last strongholds of this species. Yet, there remains a lack of knowledge on the effect of microbiome communities on health and disease in this species.
While gut microbiota has been linked to health and disease, the diversity amongst fish means that baseline data from wild fish and a clear understanding of the role that specific gut microbiota play is still deficient. In addition, our understanding of other host-associated microbial niches, such as the skin mucus microbiome, remains limited. Like the gut microbiota, the skin mucus microbial community plays vital roles for fish. Skin mucus bacteria constitute the first barrier of defence against infections by environmental opportunistic pathogens and parasites. With constant contact with the external environment, fish skin mucous and its associated microbiota is vulnerable to environmental physicochemical disturbances compared to the stable conditions of the buffered gut environment. This sensitivity indicates that skin mucus bacteria could potentially be used as microbial biomarkers or proxies of fish health, which would assist management of wild fish populations and enable rapid diagnosis of fish gut diseases through skin mucus microbiota profiling, thereby improving performance and growth of captive fish.
Key project goals
- Explore the phylogenetic structure of fish skin mucus and gut microbial communities
- Investigate the effect of environmental drivers (i.e. freshwater outflow, salinity, temperature) on the structure of microbial communities in both tissues
- Examine relationships between microbial communities and indicators of fish health, including parasite loads and body condition indices
- Provide research outputs linking microbiome structure to fish health and disease to provide tools for fisheries management
Prospective students with backgrounds or interest in the following topics are encouraged to apply:
- Microbiology and DNA analysis
- Marine ecology
- Fisheries biology
The project would involve laboratory work at CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Darwin. The student can be based on the CDU campus in Darwin or work remotely if preferred.
Closing date: Open
Funding: Domestic Research Training Stipend ($28,597 per annum in 2021) and operating funding
More information: Jo Randall (Joanne.Randall@cdu.edu.au), Keith Christian (Keith.Christian@cdu.edu.au)