Open position: PhD scholarship in microbial ecology of seagrasses

We invite applications for a PhD student to work with Dr Ulisse Cardini and Prof Fabio Bulleri on “Nested microbial interactions in seagrass ecosystems”. Find the link below to submit your application!

About the organisations:

The PhD project will be conducted in collaboration between the University of Pisa and the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn.

The Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (SZN) – National Institute of Marine Biology, Ecology and Biotechnology is an internationally renowned center for marine research with headquarters located in Napoli, Italy. You will be primarily based at the Genoa Marine Center (GMC), a territorial seat of the SZN located in the coastal city of Genoa and dedicated to the study of marine biodiversity and the identification of viable solutions for its conservation. The GMC provides a vibrant international and interdisciplinary environment for conducting marine research, located in the heart of one of Italy’s most underrated gems, and embedded in an environment known worldwide for its breadth of marine research.

The University of Pisa (UniPi) is a prestigious Italian University, located in Pisa. It was founded in 1343 and it is thus one of the oldest extant university in the world. The university is ranked within the top 10 nationally and consistently falling in the top 1-2% worldwide. The University of Pisa is part of the Pisa University System, which includes the Scuola Normale Superiore and the Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies. The university has about 50,000 students (of which 46,000 are undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and 3,500 are doctoral and specialization studies).

About the project:

Increasing evidence suggests that positive interactions with invertebrates and the microbial community are vital to sustain seagrass ecosystems functioning and survival. Nonetheless, such species interactions received sparse attention in these systems. In this project, we will target three key objectives: 1. Characterize the microbial community structure: Investigate the taxonomic composition and diversity of free-living and host-associated prokaryotic communities in the Bgr compartment of P. oceanica seagrass meadows, using state-of-the-art amplicon sequencing. 2. Assess its functional diversity: Examine the functional diversity of identified prokaryotic communities, focusing on critical processes such as sulfur cycling, methane production, and nitrogen metabolism, using state-of-the-art metagenomics and metatranscriptomics. 3. Identify key drivers of change: Single out key players that drive changes in microbial structure and function in mesocosm experiments designed to test the response of the Bgr compartment of P. oceanica and of key seagrass-invertebrate-microbe associations in response to warming using both amplicon sequencing and metagenomics. This project requires a candidate with strong motivation and scientific independence, ideally with previous experience of laboratory techniques and analysis in microbial ecology and of in situ and/or mesocosm experimentation.

The candidate will be co-supervised by Dr Ulisse Cardini (SZN) and Prof Fabio Bulleri (UniPi), will be part of the Marine Symbiomes Research Group and will be working within the frame of the projects ENGAGE ( and project BORIS ( funded by the Italian Ministry of Research. The candidate will thus have the opportunity to collaborate with the project partners and wider network.

Your qualifications:

You should have MSc degree in Biology, Environmental Sciences, Natural Sciences or equivalent. An interest in (geo)microbiology and microbial symbioses, and the willingness and capacity to interact in a multidisciplinary team, are essential. You should be fluent in spoken and written English and ideally have some prior experience in microbial ecology.

What we offer:

The call for application is for a fully funded three-year PhD scholarship. At the GMC-SZN as well as UniPi we strive for gender and diversity equality and we encourage and welcome applications from all backgrounds. Candidates will be evaluated based on their qualifications and ability to fulfill the responsibilities as outlined for this project.

How to apply:

To apply, please follow this link: and the guidelines therein.

The application deadline is June 20, 2024.