The symbiosis between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and terrestrial plants is one of the most widespread and successful plant symbioses on Earth, one that includes the majority of food crops. Mycorrhizal fungi have important roles in fundamental ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, decomposition, and carbon cycling. They are also critical to soil ecosystems due to their role in enhancing soil aggregation and in reducing soil nutrient loss. If we are to effectively utilise AM fungi to enhance sustainable plant production in Australia, we need to understand (i) how agricultural practices in Australia drive AM fungal diversity and community assembly across climate zones, (ii) how these communities differentially affect plant growth and nutrient uptake.
The PhD candidate will conduct field sampling across sites and, using a DNA metabarcoding approach, will identify and characterise AM fungal communities. Using manipulative glasshouse experiments the candidate will investigate how AM fungal diversity and community composition affects crop growth, nutrient status and defence chemistry.
The PhD candidate will have a unique opportunity to learn and apply a wide range of ecological and experimental techniques and technologies. They will share their research through publications, conference participation, and by connecting with world-class collaborators from a range of disciplines.