Are bee viruses driving heritable symbiont success?

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr M Gerth, Dr S Thompson, Dr M D Santos-Nunes, Dr A Jones  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Oxford Brookes University
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences,
Department of Biomedical and Medical Sciences

3 Year, full-time PhD studentship
Eligibility: Home UK/EU applicants who must be permanently resident in UK/EU
Closing date: 14 September
Start date: January 2021
Bursary p.a.: Bursary equivalent to UKRI national minimum stipend plus fees (2020/21 bursary rate is £15, 285)
University fees and bench fees at the Home/EU rate will be met by the University for the 3 years of the Studentship.
Supervisors: Dr. Michael Gerth, Prof Stewart Thompson, Dr. Daniela Nunes, Dr. Andrew Jones


Inherited microbes are bacteria that live in close association with various animals, and are transmitted from mother to offspring. It is estimated that more than half of all terrestrial arthropod species carry one or more inherited symbionts, but it is not fully understood how the bacteria can reach such high incidence rates. In order to be successful, the symbionts must not only be able to shift hosts, but also to establish in novel hosts without imposing high fitness costs. Recently, it has been demonstrated that inherited symbionts may protect their hosts from certain pathogens. Such protective phenotypes are potentially beneficial in terms of host fitness, and thus could aid symbiont establishment. This prediction is supported through ecological modeling, but has rarely been tested in natural settings.
1) To determine if symbiont mediated pathogen blocking can drive the evolutionary success of inherited microbes.
2) To determine symbiont factors that contribute to pathogen blocking phenotypes.

Solitary bees and Wolbachia bacteria will be used as model host/symbiont system. The candidate will investigate natural populations of bees and measure symbiont and viral titres in different species collected in and around Oxfordshire. These data will be used to determine if symbiont infection status predicts viral loads. Further, the candidate will characterize symbiont genomes through Nanopore and Illumina sequencing and use pool-Seq to determine which genomic features of the symbionts correlate negatively with viral presence. Further, novel viruses potentially interacting with symbionts will be described through viral metagenomics of solitary bee samples.

For informal inquiries about the project and the application process please contact Dr Michael Gerth: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a first or upper second class honours degree from a Higher Education Institution in the UK or acceptable equivalent qualification in biological science or related discipline. EU Applicants must have a valid IELTS Academic test certificate (or equivalent) with an overall minimum score of 7.0 and no score below 6.0 issued in the last 2 years by an approved test centre.

How to apply:
Applications should email [Email Address Removed] for an application form. Applications should be submitted to [Email Address Removed] before the deadline.