Biosciences: Fully Funded PhD at Swansea: Parasite spread and microbiome-pathogen

  • Phd
  • Full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend
  • 9 February 2022

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)

Project supervisors:

  • 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

Project description:

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.

Eligibility

Competitive applicants should have:

  • at least an upper 2.1 degree or master’s degree in a relevant subject (animal ecology, veterinary science or epidemiology, evolutionary, molecular or computational biology) or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University (see - Country-specific Information for European Applicants 2019 and Country-specific Information for International Applicants 2019) with an emphasis on data analysis and/or existing molecular skills
  • This project is opportunity for diverse skill acquisition, candidates need to demonstrate a genuine interest/willingness to combine field research, laboratory techniques relevant in parasitology and animal health research and ecological modelling (including geospatial approaches)
  • Strong time and data management and interpersonal skills.
  • Evidence of good verbal and written communication skills.

English Language requirements: If applicable - IELTS 6.5 Overall (6.0 each comp.) or Swansea University recognised equivalent.

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK and EU candidates (who are eligible to receive the EU Transitional Bursary).

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Benefits

This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,609.

Additional research expenses will also be available.

Application

Please visit our website for more information.

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