Charlotte Lee

With an undergraduate degree in Animal Biology and a master’s in Molecular Medicine, I aim to combine my knowledge of ecology and expertise of molecular techniques for the pursuit of knowledge in marine ecology.

Invisible Threats to Oceans (InTO): Assessing the combined toxicity effects of emerging anthropogenic pollutants on microbial communities

PhD Aims:

  • With the aid of Dr. Sabine Matallana-Surget (University of Stirling) and Dr. Tony Gutierrez (Heriot Watt University), I will be using genomic and proteomic techniques to elucidate microbial responses to pollutant exposure in the ocean. The pollutants selected for this study are organic UV-filters (found in sunscreens), and microplastics (accumulated through the fragmentation of poorly disposed waste). Both pollutants are highly ubiquitous in ocean sediments and in the water column, and have already been found to bind together with high affinity due to their unique chemical nature. As pollutants which induce toxicity in an array of marine organisms, these anthropogenic biproducts are now to be investigated individually and in combination to understand their role in marine microbial diversity shifts.

PhD Objectives:

  • To identify which organic UV-filters bind to each microplastic type.
  • To discover, using proteomics, how a model bacterium responds to individual pollutant exposure.
  • To find which of the bacterium’s secreted proteins directly counteract pollutant action.
  • To find which of these proteins are damaged by pollutant exposure.
  • To discover which microorganisms are capable of pollutant degradation and assimilation.
  • To understand how this biodegradation may take place.
  • To find whether or not the absorption of organic UV-filters to microplastics increases pollutant toxicity.
  • To find whether or not the absorption of organic UV-filters to microplastics degreases biodegradation.

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