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Cultivation of novel macroalgae with potential for reduction of ruminal methane production in cattle

Applications are invited for a PhD fellowship/scholarship at Graduate School of Technical Sciences, Aarhus University, Denmark, within the Bioscience programme. The position is available from 1 November 2020 or later.

Cultivation of novel macroalgae with potential for reduction of ruminal methane production in cattle

Research area and project description:
The PhD is part of “Climate Feed, Algae based climate feed additive for methane reduction in dairy cows”, a transdisciplinary project that has been granted by the Innovation Fund (2019-2023).

This transdisciplinary PhD is supported financially with 1/3 from the Innovation Fund Denmark and 1/3 from the AU Center for Circular Bioeconomy (CBIO). The project supports the UN SDGs 2, 3, 12, 13, 14 and 17, the EU Green Deal and Blue Growth strategies and has strong industrial involvement and perspectives.

Macroalgae contain compounds that efficiently reduce ruminal methane emission. For example, addition of 0.2% of the red macroalgae Asparagopsis taxiformis as a feed additive has proven to reduce ruminal methane emissions by as much as 98%, not only in vitro, but also in vivo. The active substance in A. taxiformis is bromoform, which efficiently reduces the abundancy of methanogenic microorganisms in the rumen. The methane reducing effect of A. taxiformis makes this macroalga a promising candidate as a biotic methane mitigation strategy, however bromoforms are also known to be ozone depleting and carcinogenic. Bromoforms are produced by a wide range of seaweeds, presumably as part of their chemical defence system. Since A. taxiformis is a warm-water species and not present in Nordic waters, Climate Feed has focus on Nordic macroalgae containing no bromoforms. Several species have been demonstrated to reduce ruminal methane production in vitro, but the exact mechanism of their anti-methanogenic effect remains to be elucidated. Of these species of interest, some are readily available through cultivation (Saccharina latissima) or wild harvest (Ulva sp. and Ascophyllum nodosum), and are considered “low hanging-fruits” with medium innovation potential and only low risk for fluctuations in biomass supply. Other species, such as Dictyota or Bonnemaisonia, hold high innovation potential as they are not commercially available, and cultivation strategies need to be developed for stable and sustainable production. The Nordic available species, S. latissima, Ulva sp., Sargassum and G. vermiculophylla have demonstrated potential methane reduction of 33-50% in vitro, whereas Dictyota reduced methane emissions by 92% at a dose of 16.6 % organic matter (OM). The effect of Bonnemaisonia is not yet documented.

Using the macroalgal cultivation platforms of AU, sustainable innovative cultivation strategies for secure supplies of target species through cultivation will be established in cooperation with University of Waikato and industrial partners (Ocean Rainforest, Faroe Islands). Data from cultivation will feed into a Life Cycle Analysis model.

Broadly, this PhD will focus on the domestication of 1-2 target species novel to aquaculture, i.e. closing of life cycle for aquaculture (similar to Saccharina) or clonal cultivation in land-based systems (similar to cultivation of species of Ulva or tetrasporophyte stage of Asparagopsis). Specific experiments (thesis chapters) will therefore include a subset of the following, commensurate with the skills and interests of the successful applicant;

a. Optimising hatchery stage: identifying and optimising environmental factors controlling induction of sexual reproduction, gamete release and reproductive success (i.e. light, temperature, day length, nutrients)

b. Optimising grow out stage: Laboratory based cultivation experiments to optimise biomass productivity and bioactivity of target species. 

c. Laboratory or outdoors/pilot scale cultivation based strain selection under common garden conditions to determine tolerance limits to selected environmental conditions, e.g. salinity, nutrient availability, light, temperature – and effects of environmental conditions on bioactivity;

d. If a cosmopolitan species, comparison of in vitro effects of species with a global distribution found through Europe and in the southern hemisphere

e. Population genetics coupled with quantification of active compounds to identify potential genetic basis for growth potential and yield of target compounds – and evaluating the potential for strain selection for future cultivation;

f. Extracting data on cultivation system performance for LCA analysis for evaluating the sustainability of optimised cultivation process in the context of emission capture and utilisation

Qualifications and specific competences:
Applicants to the PhD position must have a relevant Master’s degree in Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, or equivalent. Candidates with proven experience in marine biology, (macroalgae) aquaculture, applied phycology, analytical chemistry and/or environmental science will be preferred.

Ability to work in a multidisciplinary environment, independently as well as part of a team, is essential.

Place of employment and place of work:
The place of employment is Aarhus University. The place of work is Department of Bioscience, Vejlsøvej 25, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark. Six months of the PhD project (before summer 2022) will be based at Waikato University, New Zealand.

Applicants seeking further information are invited to contact:

Principal Supervisors:

Senior researcher Annette Bruhn, Department of Bioscience, anbr@bios.au.dk, +45 29638034

Senior Research Fellow Marie Magnusson, University of Waikato, New Zealand, marie.magnusson@waikato.ac.nz, +64 022 0110763

Professor Marianne Thomsen, Department of Environmental Science, mth@envs.au.dk, +45 22292627

Application procedures

Before you apply

Information and attachments:

Please be aware that you must have all relevant appendices, attachments, addresses for referees, etc. ready when you apply, as the entire application must be uploaded to the system in one go.

Documentation of language skills:

The English language requirement at the graduate school is comparable to an “English B level” in the Danish upper secondary school (“gymnasium”).

English language qualifications comparable to an “English B level” are documented by one of the following tests:

  • TOEFL test (internet-based), minimum score: 83. The graduate school does not accept the paper-based test, nor the TOEFL ITP test. Remember to ask the test center to send your test results to Aarhus University in order to enable verification of your test results. Aarhus University’s TOEFL code is 8935.
    Currently, the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test (available in selected areas) will also be accepted.
  • IELTS (academic) test, minimum average score: 7.0 points
    Please note, from 1 June 2020 the Graduate School of Science and Technology has split in two following the split of the faculty. For the two new schools, Graduate School of Natural Sciences and Graduate School of Technical Sciences, the minimum average score requirement for an IELTS test is 7.0 points (equivalent of a C1 level).
  • Cambridge English Language Assessment:
    Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (CPE)
    Cambridge English: Certificate of Advanced English with grade A,B or C (CAE)
    Cambridge English: First Certificate with grade A (FCE)

When to take the test and how to upload the documentation:
The test result must not be more than two years old at the time of application.

The English language test should be taken before applying for admission and uploaded under “language skills documentation” in the online application form.

It is possible to apply for admission before you have taken the test. In this case documentation stating that you have signed up for a test (please state expected submission date) must be uploaded. If the test result is not part of the original application the test result is to be sent to gsts@psys.au.dk no later than one month after the application deadline.

The following applicants are exempted from documenting their English qualifications/taking a test:

  • Applicants with citizenship from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, or one of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway or Sweden).
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, or the United States. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s or Master’s programme completed at a Danish university for which the requirement was English B level at the time of admission. In this case, please upload your Bachelor’s or Master’s diploma under the section ”Language skills documentation”.

The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.

How to apply:

1)      Find the application form:
Go to https://phd.tech.au.dk/for-applicants/apply-here/ - Note, the online application system opens on 1 June 2020.
Choose August 2020 Call with deadline 1 August 2020 at noon (11.59 AM CEST).
You will be directed to the call, and must choose the programme “Bioscience”.

2)      Fill in the following information:

  • Personal information
  • Academic background
  • Admission
  • Financing (if any)
  • Study: In the dropdown menu you must choose the project: “Cultivation of novel macroalgae with potential for reduction of ruminal methane production in cattle”
  • Source (how you found out about the call)

Next to some of the information fields you will find a number. Click on the number to get further directions on how to fill in the information field/what information is needed.

3)      Application attachments:
Please be aware that you cannot submit the application if one or several of these documents have not been uploaded.

If you wish to upload more than one document under each section, you must scan/merge all documents into one large PDF file and upload this. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like. Instead you can indicate a URL where the information is available.

All information in the application must be in English or Danish, preferably English. A certified English translation is required for documents written in languages other than English or one of the Scandinavian languages (i.e. Norwegian, Swedish or Danish) languages.

As a minimum all applications must include (pdf-files only, max. 20 MB, no zip):

  • One reference (template for references)
  • Curriculum vitae,
  • Motivation (max. 1 page)
  • Transcripts, grade point averages (weighted and unweighted), and diploma(s) for both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. If the original documents are not in English or one of the Scandinavian languages (i.e. Norwegian, Swedish or Danish) then copies of the original documents as well as a certified English translation must be attached.
  • Project description (½-4 pages). This document should describe your ideas and research plans for this specific project. If you wish to, you can indicate an URL where further information can be found. Please note that we reserve the right to remove scientific papers, large reports, theses and the like.
  • Documentation of language skills if required.

After submission of the application, you will receive a confirmation e-mail with an application ID, you should use for reference if needed.

The graduate school reserves the right to verify the authenticity of your educational diploma and transcripts:

  • Request additional information to verify an application.
  • Reject the application if it is proven, or if the University has reasonable belief, that the information provided is false or if the applicant refuses to provide the requested information, whether or not an offer has already been made. 
  • For further information on applying, assessment procedures, etc. please see the GSTS Application Guide.

Please note:

  • The programme committee may request further information or invite the applicant to attend an interview.
  • The project will only be initiated if final funding (from the graduate school/the faculty) is secured.

All interested candidates are encouraged to apply, regardless of their personal background.

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