2023 RTP - Assessing fungal biodiversity in ocean, lake and river systems – relevance to human health and wellbeing – water quality and antifungal resistance - PhD

Curtin University

Perth WA, Australia 🇦🇺

Status: Open

Applications open: 8/07/2022
Applications close: 18/08/2022

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About this scholarship

Description/Applicant information

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) published their Guidelines on recreational water quality: Volume 1 coastal and fresh waters, recommending that sand be monitored for enterococci (faecal indicator bacteria), with a limit of 60 CFU/g, and enumerating fungal taxa per gram of sand. Fungi have now a guiding value of 89 CFU/g, which originated directly from the first Mycosands initiative project on sand and water that ran between 2018 and 2020. The proposed PhD project is part of global study Mycosands 2, now going deeper into water quality and compare it with sand. In addition, it will assess the presence of antifungal resistance in environmental fungal isolates. Invasive fungal infections are associated with a high rate of mortality and other ailments. More recently, azole-resistant Aspergillus fumigatus (ARAf) has emerged worldwide during the last decades. Drug pressure after long-term treatments of chronically infected patients and the propagation of environmental clones selected under the pressure of azole-fungicides used in agriculture and farming both account for this emergence. Besides filamentous fungi, resistance in environmental yeasts is also a concern that needs to be addressed. Candida species such as Candida glabrata or Candida auris represent a reservoir of resistance to azoles and echinocandins, disseminating between human and animal hosts and the environment. However, the rate of resistance is still not determined in many parts of the world and this project is a good opportunity to draw the picture of azole resistance in beach and water samples worldwide.

1. Increase the knowledge on fungi present at beach sand and in recreational waters, via fungal isolation, morphological and DNA barcoding/eDNA and metagenomics/NGS analysis. 
2. Search for Antifungal Resistant Fungi (AFR) in recreational water environments.
3. Exploration of the spectrum of fungal susceptibility of environmental (sand and water) fungi. The data currently available on the spectrum of susceptibility of fungi to the major antifungal classes (polyenes, azoles and echinocandins) is known for fungi from clinical sources but not for fungi from environmental sources.

Most groups working in beach safety microbial indicators have one aim only: to avoid run-off and tide retraction contamination of recreational waters by whatever may lie in the sand (specifically, faecal indicator bacteria, the current parameters used in recreational water quality regulation due to their strong correlation with waterborne gastrointestinal illness).

This project will help generate data to show the importance of the beach/recreational water as an exposure means to fungal flora and its clinical anti-fungal resistance, both in sand and in water. It will also look for Candida auris in warmer waters since this species is spreading its habitat into the community and seems to be an aquatic organism by nature, producing epidemiologically useful information, when compared with clinical isolates. It may also highlight the effect of sea currents and climatic changes (wind speed, temperatures and anthropogenic factors) in the spread of this emerging yeast. 

An Internship opportunity may also be available with this project.Student type

  • Future Students


  • Faculty of Health Sciences

Course type

  • Higher Degree by Research


  • Australian Citizen
  • Australian Permanent Resident
  • New Zealand Citizen
  • Permanent Humanitarian Visa

Scholarship base

  • Merit Based


The annual scholarship package (stipend and tuition fees) is approx. $60,000 – $70,000 p.a.

Successful HDR applicants for admission will receive a 100% fee offset for up to 4 years, stipend scholarships, valued at $28,854 p.a. for up to a maximum of 3.5 years, are determined via a competitive selection process. Applicants will be notified of the scholarship outcome in November 2022. 

For detailed information, visit: Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarships | Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

Scholarship Details

Maximum number awarded

1Eligible courses

All applicable HDR coursesEligibility criteria

PhD candidate with a firs class honours skills (or interest in learning these), in microbiology/mycology (including: isolation of fungi, morphology/microscopy, etc.); ecology (including: handling of environmental sampling); molecular biology (including: DNA extraction, PCR amplification, DNA sequencing, next generation sequencing, etc.); MALDI-TOF for microbial identification; data analysis (including: DNA sequence analysis, phylogenetic analysis), antifungal susceptibility testing. 

Application process

If this project excites you, and your research skills and experience are a good fit for this specific project, you should contact the Project Lead (listed below in the enquires section) via the Expression of Interest (EOI) form. ahead of the closing date.

Enrolment Requirements

Eligible to enrol in a Higher Degree by Research Course at Curtin University by March 2023


To enquire about this project opportunity that includes a scholarship application, contact the Project lead, Professor Wieland Meyer via the EOI form above.