Miss Laura Branscombe


Miss Laura Branscombe

Teaching and Support Assistant

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

ARIES funded PhD candidate researching diatom-bacteria interactions and their impacts on algal bloom regulation and toxicity.


2019 - present: PhD candidate, ARIES NERC DTP, University of Plymouth & The Marine Biological Association

2017 - 2019: MSc Microbiology, University of Oldenburg

2016 - 2017: Microbiology Analyst, ALS Environmental

2013 - 2016: BSc Marine Biology, First Class Honours, University of Plymouth


Research interests

My research interests focus on marine microbial interactions and their impacts on microbial ecology. In my current project I am focusing on the interactions of diatoms and other marine microbes, such as diatom competitors, symbionts, predators and pathogens. 

Diatoms are widely distributed marine phytoplankton which contribute up to 40 % of marine primary productivity and can form large blooms which have large-scale impacts on global carbon cycles, and heavily influence phytoplankton ecology. Some bloom-forming diatoms can also release harmful toxins, thus negatively affecting marine ecosystems and fisheries. Gaining a clearer understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating diatom growth and toxicity is therefore vital for understanding the drivers of bloom dynamics. The importance of biotic interactions in shaping diatom growth and productivity has become increasingly recognized. Further to this, evidence suggests that diatom interactions with other microbes can impact toxin production of toxic diatoms such as Pseudo-nitzschia, and thus likely influence the global impact of diatoms in marine ecosystems. Despite the important influence of such interactions on diatom cell biology and metabolism, many of the processes that enable diatoms to regulate acclimation responses to biotic factors remain poorly understood.

This project aims to combine laboratory and field based approaches to characterize signaling mechanisms mediating interactions between diatoms and bacteria in order to gain a deeper insight into the biotic drivers of algal population dynamics and toxicity of bloom-forming diatoms.