Student Level: Honours or Masters

This project will focus on the characterization and taxonomical identification of beach sand associated human pathogenic fungi in Australia. Beaches across Australia will be sampled to identify the fungal microbiome present in sand and assess the risk of fungal infections. 

Humans receive extensive exposure to sand-associated microbes during recreational activities. Beach sand is a habitat that supports many microbes, including bacteria, virus and fungi. While most of them are harmless, some are pathogenic, and the potential for pathogen occurrence is particularly great when sand is contaminated by human or animal waste. Some of these pathogens cause disease among individuals with normal immune systems, whereas others are considered opportunistic pathogens only capable of causing disease in individuals with a weakened immune systems. However, microbial communities in the sand have received relatively little attention compared to those in soil, or water so far. To assess and estimate the relative risk of fungal infections during recreational activities in the beach it is important to first characterize and identify the fungal communities in the sand. In this project traditional and the most recent molecular techniques, such as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), will be applied to assess the fungal microbiome of the beach sand.

The Molecular Mycology Laboratory is located in the Westmead Institute for Medical Research at the Westmead Campus, which is one of the largest medical research institutes in Australia gathering many disciplines, skills and expertise. The laboratory is well equipped for various traditional and molecular techniques required for mycological studies.  


Supervisor: Professor Wieland Meyer -