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Blunting the blows: using naturally-occurring variation in beak morphology to reduce pecking damage in laying hens

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, March 03, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Commercial laying hens often show outbreaks of feather pecking and cannibalism. This project will identify naturally-occurring beak shape variation through morphometric and genetic analysis to identify chicken beaks that are blunter than standard non-beak trimmed beaks, thereby reducing the chance of pecking leading to severe damage. The successful candidate will use radiographs of chicken’s heads to determine the best method of morphometric analysis, and identify genes that control beak morphology. The student will investigate which beak shapes cause the least damage, both in damage modelling tests and feather pecking tests. The studentship will be aligned with one of the largest laying hen breeding companies in the world, and will incorporate supervisors from SRUC and Roslin Institute. The student will benefit from supervision across two organisations, plus the opportunity to work closely with industry.

The student will be based at the Roslin Institute Building at the Bush Estate, Midlothian, a few miles outside of the centre of Edinburgh and registered at the University of Edinburgh.

The successful candidate will have a BSc in a relevant topic and an MSc is desirable. The student will have good numeracy and oral communication skills. Previous experience with statistical analysis packages and/or previous use of R, Linux/Unix, Perl, or Python would be beneficial, as would some previous experience with poultry. The candidate must be physically fit for handling large numbers of poultry, and with no known allergies to poultry. They must be proficient in Excel and Word, have a full driving licence, and be prepared to be trained for (and gain) a Home Office license. Furthermore, the student should show the sensitivity required to work with a commercial company.

Funding Notes

The stipend will be set at UKRI recommended levels for a 3.5 year-period and the studentship is funded to pay domestic tuition fee levels for UK/EU students. The student will receive an annual student stipend of £14,777 (£15,009 in 2019/20).This studentship will fund to pay the tuition fees at home fees rate only. International students must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the higher international student tuition fee level (approximately £16,740 per year would be required).

How good is research at SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 57.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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