MSc student needed - bioremediation of cyanotoxins: exploring the role of fungi at Aarhus Universitet

Master thesis project offer by Environmental Science department, Aarhus University

“Constructed wetlands for bioremediation of cyanotoxins: exploring the role of fungi”

Background

Due to climate change, more frequent and longer events of cyanobacterial blooms are occurring in lakes. This results in contamination of the lake water with cyanotoxins – and there is a risk of contaminating crops when the water is used for irrigation. The consumption of contaminated vegetables constitutes a serious health risk to humans and animals consuming the crops. The usage of constructed wetlands to remove cyanotoxins contamination from surface waters is deemed interesting due to their proven capacity to reduce pollutants, their low-tech requirements and landscape integration. However, it is currently unknown if constructed wetlands can be used to remove the cyanobacterial biomass and degrade the cyanotoxins. We are performing in-depth characterization of the potential for removal, including removal mechanisms and analysis and characterization of cyanotoxin biotransformation products.

Studies on biodegradation of pollutants, using constructed wetlands, are focused on bacterial processes, while the role of fungi is unknown. Preliminary results indicate the presence of fungi, in our study systems. It would therefore be exciting to explore if and how fungi may contribute to the biodegradation of cyanotoxins in our laboratory reactors. The project intends to screen and isolate fungal degrader strains existing in our mesocosm systems and validate and monitor their ability to remove the toxins. Advanced biomolecular methodologies, such as DNA metabarcoding and real-time quantitative PCR, will be employed by the student. It is also possible to get hands-on experience with the environmental chemistry analysis of the biodegradation processes (metabolite resolution).

Scientific questions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Characterization of fungal species and communities associated with biodegradation of cyanotoxins.

  • Potential role of fungal communities in the removal of pollutants.

  • Fungal-bacterial synergistic effects on biodegradation of cyanotoxins.

The MSc project will support the activities of the project WETCYANO financed by the Independent Research Fund Denmark and project TOXICROP financed by the European Union. The work will be based at the Department of Environmental Science of Aarhus University. Please note that the Department of Environmental Science is located at Risø Campus in Roskilde.

Training opportunities

  • Water treatment biotechnology & nature-based solutions

  • Basic environmental analytical chemistry (LC-MS/MS)

  • Environmental microbiology

  • Fungal ecology

  • Next generation sequencing and bioinformatics

  • Real time quantitative PCR (qPCR)

  • Biodegradation processes (chemical and

  • biological)

  • International cooperation (project partners in Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, Colombia, among others).

Your background

Your preferred educational background is biotechnology, microbiology, biology, or environmental science.

Project timeframe

WETCYANO and TOXICROP are running until the end of 2023. MSc projects can be started on an ongoing basis.

Contact

If you are interested in joining us, please send an email with a motivation letter and CV.

Project supervisors:

Anders Johansen ajo@envs.au.dk

Rumakanta Sapkota rs@envs.au.dk

Pedro Carvalho pedro.carvalho@envs.au.dk

Alba Martinez i Quer alma@envs.au.dk

Remember that a project is an invitation for dialogue where you agree on the focus of the project. You have the possibility to suggest other problem statements and perspectives besides what is outlined in the project description. Read more about project collaborations in Career guide