Thinking of Joining us?

I currently have one Post-Doctoral, one PhD and and one MSc student project available in my lab.

Research Fellow: Latitudinal gradients in bacterial genome size

  • 18 months fixed term position
  • full time

The Opportunity

Applications are invited for a research fellow to join group of Dr. Gavin Lear in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland. The fellow will explore latitudinal gradients in bacterial community diversity and functional potential. From an ecological perspective we are interested in confirming “is genome size and complexity a fundamental driver of microbial latitudinal richness gradients?

You will interrogate major national and international datasets to explore if bacterial taxon richness is correlated with gradients in genome size at a global scale and assess the role and consequences of genome streamlining for ecosystem functioning. You will interrogate metagenomics datasets to identify genes that are differently represented among high versus low latitude samples, providing new insights into latitudinal gradients in microbial functional potential.

Your research on bacterial community data will provide a valuable proof of concept, benefitting from the comparative genetic simplicity of prokaryotes to address the issue of what regulates latitudinal gradients of biodiversity, providing critical underpinning knowledge the can be applied in the wider biological world.

You should have a PhD in microbial ecology or a related field, background in the generation and analysis of amplicon and metagenomics datasets using next-generation DNA sequencing methods and be familiar with R. Evidence of high-quality publications is required. The successful candidate will have an interest in collaborative research and a passion for advancing understanding of microbial ecology.

How to apply

Applications for this position should include a curriculum vitae, a summary of recent research achievements and a one page research statement outlining how the research fellowship would complement the fellow’s longer term research goals. Applications should also indicate the names and contact details of three referees.

Enquiries about the role should be directed to Dr. Gavin Lear, School of Biological Sciences, telephone +64 9 923 27573, email:

This is a full time, fixed term position for a duration of 18 months. Applications close on Thursday 15th March 2018.

PhD Project: Microbial Indicators of Plastic Pollution

School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand

The ecological impacts of the eight million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans each year is easy to witness, clogging the guts of marine animals with plastic detritus. Far harder to quantify however, is the ecological impact of poorly visible waste such as micro plastics and xenobiotic chemicals that leach from plastic products. Plasticizers such as bisphenol A (BPA) impact the reproduction and development of aquatic animals at environmentally relevant concentrations. We seek to address this problem by devising DNA-based indicators of freshwater health, assessing the abundance of microbial genes associated with plastic contamination and degradation rates. The successful candidate will screen for novel biomarkers of plastic pollution and attempt to isolate putative plastic degrading bacteria, providing opportunities for the development of novel treatment systems for plastic waste.

Our project aims and outputs are to:

  1. Confirm the abundance of putative plastic degrading bacteria, or associated genes as a reliable indicator of the presence and toxic potential of plastic pollution in New Zealand waterways.
  2. Isolate and culture putative plastic degrading bacteria in our laboratory and test these organisms ability to degrade a range of plastic-associated compounds under a broad range of conditions.

This PhD position is funded by the George Mason Charitable Trust. Interested candidates should email a curriculum vitae and cover letter to Dr. Gavin Lear ( ). The deadline for applications is 15/03/2018. The successful candidate will not start this position until mid 2018.

MSc Project available

New Zealanders produce 3.2 million tonnes of solid waste of which 15% is paper and 41% plastics. Currently, disposal of paper and plastics is mainly to landfill. A possible solution is to use microorganisms to degrade plastic waste, but the our knowledge of the potential for microbial plastic degradation remains limited. The overall goal of this project is to develop a new sustainable solution to the urban challenge of ever increasing volumes of plastic waste by isolating and optimising the use of plastic munching bacteria!

You will collect samples from various field sites where microbial communities are likely to be exposed to plastics. This may include coastal environments, water treatment facilities, plastic treatment facilities and the guts of meal worms. You will assess the plastic degradation efficacy of microbial communities and/or microbial isolates in microcosm studies using soft plastics, recycled plastics and styrofoam as the candidate substrate.

Applicants with a qualifying degree associated with the research areas described above are invited to apply. Candidates with a background knowledge in microbiology are encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will demonstrate enthusiasm and have an outstanding academic record and be prepared to conduct the MSc study at the University of Auckland, based in Auckland, New Zealand.

Whilst we may have funding available to support promising students, individuals interested in completing research in our laboratory are encouraged to investigate the following sources of research funds:

Graduate Students

University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarships

NZAID study awards and postgraduate scholarships

New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships

Commonwealth scholarships

University of Auckland Fulbright Scholarships

University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship

QEII National Trust Scholarship (for advancement of conservation on NZ open space covenant land)

Post-Doctoral Positions

Rutherford Foundation Post-Doctoral Positions

LEARN Post-Doctoral Scholarships

AGMARDT fellowships

Country Specific Awards

New Zealand Pacific Scholarship (Select countries in the Pacific region)

George Mason / UC Davis / University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship (USA)

China Scholarship Council (China)

Chilean Bicentennial Scholarships (Chile)

Colfuturo (Colombia)

German Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Scholarships (Germany)

University of Auckland Fulbright Scholarship (USA)

University of Auckand Commonwealth Scholarship (Canada/UK)

Asian Development Bank Japan Scholarship (Select countries in Pacific/Asia region)

For more information on available scholarships, please visit Auckland Universities scholarships database


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