Biosciences: Fully Funded PhD Scholarship: Parasite spread and microbiome-pathogen relationships at the wildlife-livestock interface in Wales and at global scale
Funding provider: Swansea University, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Subject areas: Biosciences
Project start date: 1 July 2022 (Enrolment open from mid-June)
- Dr Konstans Wells
- Dr Tamsyn Uren Webster
- Dr Sonia Consuegra del Olmo
Aligned programme of study: PhD in Biological Sciences
Mode of study: Full-time
Climate and land use change alter the ways of parasite transmission for a range of important multi-host parasites and infectious diseases, leading to urgent calls for research that integrates fine-scale infection, animal health and species occurrence data to identify environmental correlates of health risks for humans, domestic animals and wildlife. Warmer climate for example facilitates the spread of parasites such as parasitic worms of livestock in the UK, with an evident but as yet to be quantified role of livestock-wildlife interfaces and underlying microbiome-pathogen relationships.
The student will work to map and understand parasite infections and underlying pathogen-microbiome relationships in domestic and semi-wild livestock (horses, cattle and sheep) in context of agricultural intensification and livestock-wildlife interfaces across heterogenous production and natural landscapes. The study region in Wales provides a unique and iconic model region to study parasite spread at dynamic human-domestic animal-wildlife interfaces with many free-roaming semi-domesticated ungulate populations and an ongoing need for parasite control in farmed livestock.
The objectives of this studentship will be collecting non-invasive data on helminth prevalence and microbiome characteristics in farmed and semi-domesticated livestock populations and conducting ecological modelling studies on pathogen spread (helminths and viruses) by capitalising on available species distribution and remotely sensed ‘big data’ streams.
The candidate will adopt an exciting interdisciplinary approach that combines field research with laboratory work and ecological modelling. They will collect monitoring data and non-invasive samples for studying helminth prevalence and microbiome characteristics in farmed and semi-domesticated livestock populations in Wales. These empirical data will be analysed and combined with environmental and geographical data to build an understanding of parasite spread and host resilience in variable environments. The student will further capitalise on available species distribution, host-parasite association and remotely sensed ‘big data’ streams to better understand the underpinning drivers that link infectious diseases emergence to host resilience and the livestock-wildlife interfaces in variable environments.
A comprehensive training programme will be provided comprising both specialist scientific training and generic transferable and professional skills. The student will undertake training in the use of field monitoring, laboratory techniques in parasitology and microbiome research, and ecological modelling. This will take advantage of the supervisory team’s broad expertise in wildlife health and disease ecology (Dr Wells), molecular physiology and microbiomes (Dr Uren Webster), and conservation genetics and animal health (Prof. Consuegra del Olmo).
The candidate will join the Biodiversity and Animal Health Lab and the Ecotoxicology Lab at Swansea University, two newly developed thriving groups within the Bioscience Department. They will have the opportunity to link their research to state-art research facilities within the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Swansea University and an international network of collaborators and regional stakeholders.
Previous experience in disease ecology, ecological modelling, molecular biology, bioinformatics, or veterinary techniques would be an advantage.