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Ethylene-oxidising bacteria as novel tools for agriculture


The 'fast-growing' species of mycobacteria are common in many environments and known to be important for the biodegradation of pollutants, but the biology of this fascinating group of bacteria is poorly understood. It is likely they play important roles in biogeochemical cycles and interact with other soil microbes, animals and plants. So what exactly are these ecological roles? Can we use these bacteria to enhance agriculture or for other kinds of biotechnology?


Associate Professor Nicholas Coleman.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



The Coleman Lab has been studying mycobacteria that grow on ethylene (C2H4) as their carbon source for many years. We have been pioneers in genome-sequencing these bacteria and in studying their genes and enzymes. We suspect that these bugs have important roles in soils and may influence plant growth since ethylene is an important plant hormone. We will use a mix of molecular-ecological and microbiological methods to study these bacteria and determine what exactly is the nature of their relationship with plants. We will attempt to develop inoculum strains for agriculture that can enhance plant growth or crop yields and develop biotechnology applications to delay fresh produce ripening post-harvest.

Additional information

The project requires skills and knowledge in microbiology and molecular biology. Some plant or soil science background would be helpful too, but not essential.

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2835

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