PhD: Marine Viruses and Alcohol

Project Description

Scientific background

Methanol is a climate active gas that is everywhere. It is a gas that significantly influences ozone formation and the oxidizing capacity of the air we breathe.  In coastal zones methanol fluxes from the atmosphere into the sea, where concentrations are in the nano-molar range, but curiously seem to exhibit little seasonal variability.  However distinct maxima in microbial driven methanol losses have been observed during autumn/winter months, suggesting enhanced in situ marine production of methanol. In short, we simply do not understand what controls methanol concentrations in marine waters. One possibility is viruses, which are known to be abundant and ubiquitous in the ocean, yet there is a paucity of data on their functional importance. Thus the overall unique goal of this PhD is to ‘explore the role of viruses in the cycling of methanol in coastal waters’.


The challenge of this PhD studentship will be to use a range of techniques to blend together aspects of marine microbiology and molecular approaches, with radiotracer techniques and virology to try and understand the role and significance of marine viruses in controlling seawater concentrations of methanol.



The student will receive multi-disciplinary training in state of the art culturing of heterotrophic bacteria and viruses, incubation experiments, use of radio-tracers to determine fluxes, use of world leading advanced analytical techniques such as proton transfer mass spectrometry to determine methanol concentrations in seawater, use of advanced flow cytometry techniques for the sorting of marine microbes and local boat work for sampling of coastal seawater.


We are looking for a candidate with either a Microbiology or Marine Sciences background, who is highly motivated and willing to learn new skills. Ideally they will have an interest in marine microbes, with good laboratory skills. The successful applicant will be expected to undertake sea-going and lab-based studies, and will be based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, with opportunities to train at the University of East Anglia, Bermuda (2016 Summer course ‘Microbial Oceanography: The Biogeochemistry, Ecology and Genomics of Oceanic Microbial Ecosystems’ at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences) and possibly the USA.


Start date: October 2015

Programme: PhD

Mode of Study: Full Time


More information and apply online.