Please find below a list of available iCASE projects for October 2019 entry. For any questions, please contact the supervisor directly.

2019 iCASE Projects

Savolainen & Unilever: Metagenomics for the bioassessment of water bodies using mesocosms experiments

Academic Supervisor: Prof Vincent Savolainen, Dept of Life Sciences (Silwood Campus), ICL

CASE Partner: Unilever

Project Title: Metagenomics for the bioassessment of water bodies using mesocosms experiments

Project Summary: Water bodies and their resident biodiversity are at risk from contaminants, disease agents, biological invasions and abiotic stressors. In the European Union, the Water Framework Directive is designed to provide the means to assess, monitor and manage water bodies in order to ensure safety, economic and natural resources sustainability. Traditionally, biological quality is assessed by obtaining abundance and diversity measures of existing communities using morphological methods. There is the need for conventional approaches to be supplemented with new technologies as they are timeconsuming, sometimes lacking accuracy and needing extensive taxonomic expertise. Here, we propose to explore new approaches for the assessment of water bodies, which benefit from the latest development in (eco)metagenomics, bioinformatic and chemical biology. Recent molecular advances, including the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) extracted from the water column, is revolutionizing this field, by generating novel high throughput data that could enable us to track and describe focal species as well as the wider food web within which they are embedded, and how they respond to external changes. The student will advance eDNA and metagenomic approaches using mesocosms available at Imperial College. Mesocosm-based approaches are increasingly being recognized as spanning the critical gap between field observations and lab experiments, by offering realistic levels of biocomplexity, whilst also affording a degree of control and replication of experimental conditions. The student will assemble artificial communities in the mesocosms and evolve how eDNA metabarcoding can recover presence and abundance of those organisms, employing cutting-edge molecular computational methods to better exploit metagenomic data and derive maximum value. Subsequently the student will test how eDNA can be used to uncover the impact that a range of chemical stressors may have on these artificial communities.