skip to content

Conservation Research Institute


Project 4: Conserving microbial biodiversity for healthy waters 
Supervisors: Dr Andrew Tanentzap and Dr Jeremy Fonvielle 

Freshwaters deliver services that are essential to human wellbeing. Many of these services arise from the diversity of microorganisms that can make water swimmable, purify drinking water, and supply energy to entire food webs. This internship will develop primary knowledge on how microbial biodiversity promotes the services delivered by freshwaters. This information is essential to restoration and conservation efforts aimed at maintaining the delivery of healthy, functioning freshwaters.  

The intern will collect surface water from six lakes around Cambridge, gaining unique practical research experience. They will then perform laboratory incubations under different experimental conditions and test how microbial diversity influences water quality. Microbial diversity will be measured by state-of-the-art third-generation DNA sequencing, and water quality will be measured with optical sensors deployed in the field. The DNA sequencing approaches from Oxford Nanopore Technologies work in real-time with little laboratory preparation and are set to revolutionise eDNA and biodiversity assessments in conservation. Thus, the intern will gain important practical experience for a future career in conservation.  

We have carefully designed the project to be achieved within one month. During the first two weeks, the intern will sample lakes and perform the incubations. During the third week, the intern will measure microbial biodiversity with DNA sequencing. The intern will then analyse the data with ready to run pipelines and present the results to Plant Sciences ecology groups in the final week. The data will also contribute to a wider ongoing study that is being prepared for publication. The intern will be a co-author, providing them with a further opportunity for professional development to enrich their CV.