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ENV East Doctoral Training Partnership


Applications to the EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership are now closed.

Below you can browse some of the PhD projects we have previously funded; if you would like to be informed when applications open, or if you have any questions about EnvEast and our application process, please email us.

Projects previously funded by EnvEast


Developing novel tools to explore the marine volatile metabolome (STEINKE_EBS15EE)

Project description

Every living organism releases a bouquet of volatiles that collectively make up the volatile metabolome (volabolome). This volabolome is likely affected by environmental conditions, and hence can be used for biomonitoring of environmental health. Within marine communities, the volabolome plays a key role in chemical communication, for example facilitating interactions between zooplankton grazers and their phytoplankton prey. However, we only have a rudimentary understanding of volabolome signatures in marine taxa, and we currently lack analytical tools to interpret existing data. We also do not know how the marine volabolome may change over the seasons. Therefore, developing such analytical tools would enable novel environmental analyses and provide a significant advance to our understanding of volatile production and biology in marine systems.

During this project you will:

  1. Utilize existing data to develop novel analytical tools (computer-based analysis).
  2. Characterize the signature volabolomes of key primary producers under different environmental conditions (in vitro lab study).
  3. Analyze the robustness of signature volatiles in communities of increasing complexity (mesocosm lab study)
  4. Map the seasonal changes in the marine volabolome at the time-series station L4 off Plymouth (in vivo field study).

You will join the Microbial Ecology group at the University of Essex and be responsible for the day-to-day running of the project under the supervision of Dr Michael Steinke. Ecoinformatic tools will be developed under the guidance of Dr Alex Dumbrell. Significant time will be spent working with Dr Gill Malin at the University of East Anglia to identify and quantify main constituents in specific volabolomes, and with Dr Frances Hopkins at Plymouth Marine Laboratory for the seasonal sampling in the Western Channel (station L4). You will participate in a structured PhD programme at the University of Essex that delivers additional key skills necessary for successfully competing for future employment.

You will have an enthusiastic personality, a good undergraduate degree or Masters in a relevant discipline (e.g. Marine Biology, Marine Chemistry, Oceanography) and a willingness to learn new techniques, including gas chromatography. You must possess well-developed oral and written communication skills and be able to self-manage your time to meet appropriately set targets.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview day on either Thursday 12 or Friday 13 February 2015.

This project has been shortlisted for funding from the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful candidates who meet RCUK's eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

The stipend for 2014/15 was £13,863 p.a.


We recommend you read our 'How to Apply' pages before starting your application.


Dr Alex Dumbrell, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex

Dr Frances Hopkins, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Dr Gill Malin, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

  • Start date September 2015
  • Programme PhD
  • Mode of Study Full-time
  • Studentship Length 3.5 years