Extremophiles in a changing world: the mechanistic bases of stress resistance in rotifers and tardigrades
Director of Studies: Dr Chiara Boschetti
Second supervisor: Dr Manuela Truebano-Garcia
Third supervisor: Professor Simon Rundle
Some organisms are able to tolerate extreme environmental conditions which are stressful or lethal to other taxa, and represent important biological models that provide insights into the mechanisms underpinning how species might survive and adapt to environmental change. The biological mechanisms used by extremo-tolerant organisms to survive, and how they evolved in different taxa, are still unclear, but such information is of fundamental importance for understanding how more sensitive species might adapt to global environmental stressors such as climate change. This project aims to identify stress tolerance mechanisms in extremo-tolerant tardigrades and rotifers, microscopic animals that are able to survive extreme conditions such as prolonged drought, high-dose radiation and oxidation. It will use a mixture of comparative genomics, molecular biological and developmental biology approaches to identify and characterise the genetic toolkits, which allow naturally resistant taxa to survive abiotic stresses and explore how this “resistance” toolkit can be transferred to sensitive systems to improve their tolerance.