Do gut microbes facilitate rigid carbohydrate degradation in earthworms?


Master student research project in eco-genomics

Interested in using next-generation-sequencing techniques to study ecological principles? This research project (duration 5-8 months) at a world leading ecological research institute located close of Oxford in the United Kingdom will provide an unique opportunity for a keen student to conduct independent research in a supportive and motivating research group.

Project description

The earthworm microbiome has been relatively well described and plays an important role in the functioning of its host. The exact role of individual bacterial taxa in the functioning of the host is, however, not well understood. Previous work showed that the earthworm-associated bacterium Candidatus lumbricincola is sensitive to copper pollution. Consequences of the loss of this bacterium to the host functioning are unknown. The aim of this project is to study the role of earthworm associated bacteria to the host functioning, especially relating to the ecologically important metabolic processes linked to carbohydrate metabolism. Specifically, the hypothesis that Candidatus lumbricincola is involved in the degradation of rigid carbohydrates is tested. Using next-generation sequencing (NGS) methods, changes in the bacterial community associated with their host are screened under different earthworm feeding regimes to allow identification of bacteria possibly involved in the degradation of rigid carbohydrates. This project will train the student in using NGS techniques in ecological research as well as the bioinformatics and data analysis required to process NGS datasets. The student is free and stimulated to develop the project to their own interests and skills. Basic knowledge of R statistics is desirable but not essential, as key aspects will be taught during the course of the project.


Duration: 5-8 months
Host institute: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Location: Wallingford (near Oxford), United Kingdom
Position open: November 2018 until October 2019

Supervision and contact information

Dr. ir. Dick Roelofs, Ecological Science
Room: H147 (W&N building, Vrije Universiteit)
Phone: +31 (0)20 – 59 87078


Elmer Swart (