The Scott Family Trust PhD Scholarships in Marine Science, the University of Auckland [New Zealand]

Applications are invited for the Scott Family Trust PhD Scholarship in Marine Science at the University of Auckland. The scholarship (NZ$35,000 per annum) consists of a stipend of $25,000 per annum together with University of Auckland fees and research expenses. Applications for the Scholarship must be made on the application form available from the Scholarships Office or their website (http://www.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/for/current-students/cs-scholarships-and-awards/cs-search-for-scholarships-and-awards/cache/?form=details&detailCode=500367) and specify which of the projects below the candidate is applying for.

Closing date for applications is 1 October 2009.

Prospective candidates are encouraged to contact the main supervisor for any of the projects below for more details.

Feeding in the omnivorous parore, Girella tricuspidata (Girellidae)
Herbivorous fishes can be abundant on temperate reefs, but the factors influencing their food choice, and their impacts on seaweed communities, are poorly understood. Parore are an abundant reef fish in northeast New Zealand that feed on a range of seaweeds supplemented by animal material. Parore appear to target animals for protein, and seaweed for energy, but what factors control this variation in feeding? This project will examine feeding in parore: how does diet vary with season, habitat and location in terms of both intake rate and macronutrient composition, and what impact does parore feeding have on the benthic biota?

Main supervisor: Assoc-Prof Kendall Clements (k.clements[ at ]auckland.ac.nz)

Mapping ocean biogeography for ecosystem assessments, MPA network planning, and predicting climate change effects
Knowing distributions of species and their cause is central to understanding ecosystems, and critical for issues such as selecting reserves. Now access to marine species distribution data is vastly improved through the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (www.iobis.org). This and related data will be used to propose the optimal locations of Marine Protected Areas, and “biogeographic regions” for use in global ecosystem assessments. Furthermore, correlation of biogeographic patterns with environmental data, particularly temperature, will enable predictions of how ocean biogeography may change under the various climate change scenarios.

Main supervisor: Assoc-Prof Mark Costello (m.costello[ at ]auckland.ac.nz)

Ecology of snapper larvae in the Kaipara Harbour
The Kaipara Harbour is a significant nursery ground for recruiting snapper, providing approximately 98% of the entire west coast North Island snapper fishery. The aim of the proposed research is to understand why the Kaipara is such an important larval settling area for snapper. This will be achieved using a multidisciplinary approach from traditional reproductive histology and biochemical techniques to more modern techniques such as larval behavioural arenas and otolith analyses. This information is critical for understanding how the snapper broodstock and larvae use the harbour and how these processes can be impacted by environmental change, so that management and protection measures can be put in place.

Main supervisor: Dr Craig Radford (c.radford[ at ]auckland.ac.nz)

Growth rate, RNA and polyphosphate in seaweeds
Phosphorus is a major constituent of nucleic acids, ATP, sugar phosphates and phospholipids and plays a pivotal role in cellular metabolism. In addition to determining the distribution of these phosphorus-containing compounds in slow and fast-growing seaweeds, the research would investigate the relationship between seaweed growth rate and protein, RNA and polyphosphate content. In general, seaweeds have low growth rates and low phosphorus content. This could be due to seaweeds having a low RNA content, low rate of protein synthesis and, consequently, a low growth rate, or that low growth rate is accompanied by low polyphosphate content and low phosphorus content.

Main supervisor: Dr Alwyn Rees (ta.rees[ at ]auckland.ac.nz)

Ocean acidification and temperature change: the impact on New Zealand’s marine calcifiers
Ocean acidification and increased seawater temperatures are two climate change stressors facing marine ecosystems. In this research we will examine, separately and together, the impacts of these stressors on early development in three species of New Zealand sea urchin which vary in their temperature tolerances and the degree of calcification in their larval form. Morphometric measures and a suite of biochemical and physiological measurements will be used to predict the physiological limits and adaptive plasticity of these species and provide insights to the impacts of climate change on New Zealand’s coastal reef ecosystems.

Main supervisor: Dr Mary Sewell (m.sewell[ at ]auckland.ac.nz)

Closing date: 1 October 2009.