A Unique and Overlooked Microbial Process for Scavenging Two Greenhouse Gases

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) contributing to the global climate change, while nitric oxide (NO) is a highly reactive molecule that also plays an active role in atmospheric chemistry as an indirect GHG. Intriguingly, NO and methane were both abundant in the Archaean atmosphere before the appearance of molecular oxygen, indicating the potential existence of microorganisms surviving on these two potent gases since then. Importantly, this microbial process is thermodynamically favourable. This reaction, if proven to take place (and we have strong preliminary evidence in support of it), would lead to simultaneous removal of methane, a direct GHG, and NO, an indirect GHG, with significant implications to the global nitrogen and carbon cycles. Yet, no microorganisms or microbiomes responsible for this reaction has been reported so far.

This project contributes to Australia’s national interest through its significant environmental benefits to Australia, directly aligning with the National Science and Research Priority: ‘Environmental Change (the carbon cycling)’. Climate change is one of the most serious challenges of the 21st century, especially for countries like Australia with its long coastal lines. Identifying and understanding the mechanisms of a unique microbial process for removing potent greenhouse gases (e.g. methane and nitric oxide) in this project will enable us to predict global climate change more accurately, and facilitate a strong foundation for the development of new biotechnologies to mitigate their emissions. This project will benefit Australian water industries seeking to reduce their carbon footprints, and will enhance the international competitiveness of Australian research through national and international collaborations.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Tao Liu

School of Chemical Engineering

Email: t.liu1@uq.edu.au

Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of environmental microbiology, molecular methods, such as qPCR, DNA/RNA extraction and sequencing, and bioinformatics would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of microbial ecology, environmental science and management and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of environmental microbiology is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process