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Evidence and impact of parasite spillover across pollinator communities

   Department of Life Sciences

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  Dr Peter Graystock  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Lead supervisor: Dr Peter Graystock ([Email Address Removed])

Co-supervisors: Professor William Hughes, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex; Professor Dave Goulson, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex.

Globally, many pollinator species have suffered range reductions, declining populations, and in some cases extinction – all driven by stressors such as parasites. The resulting decline in pollination service poses a significant threat to ecosystem stability and global food security however the identity of many of the harmful parasites remain unknown, and their transmission and potential reservoirs remain a mystery. Understanding the dynamics of parasite spread and the severity of disease across pollinator communities is a challenge of global importance with a clear potential to have significant benefit to ecosystems and food security.

The spread of parasites can be intensified by human practices and farming; In the UK over 50,000 managed bumblebee colonies are imported every year for agriculture in addition to ~250,000 managed honey bee hives recorded to also be here. Previous work by the group has shown that these practices influence the spillover/spillback dynamics of at least 5 known honey bee and bumblebee parasites, prompting changes to EU and UK regulations. However these data are limited to less than 1% of all pollinator species and do not account for the many parasites that are as-yet unknown to science due to this research bias on a small fraction of pollinator species and their parasites. This ambitious PhD will involve fieldwork to explore parasite spillover within and between the vast diversity of wild and managed pollinator communities, before utilising a suite of cutting edge molecular and bioinformatic techniques to discover parasites (both known and unknown to science), track disease dynamics, and determine disease severity across diverse groups of pollinators.

Uniquely, this project also offers the student opportunity to work closely with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT), taking part in organised BeeWalks and helping promote bees, research, and the BBCT at outreach events. The BBCT will help promote the studentship findings both to their members, regulatory bodies and government. Based at the Silwood Park campus of Imperial College London, where there is a strong community of evolutionary and molecular ecologists. You will benefit from colleagues working on a range synergistic topics including host-parasite interactions of honeybees, pollinator ecology, and functional microbiology. We have a research apiary, newly fitted insect rooms, state of the art genomics and microbiology suites, and all situated on 100ha of natural parkland. Training will be provided on pollinator field work, bee husbandry, microbiology, molecular sequencing, and bioinformatics. The project will deliver unprecedented insight to our understanding of disease spread across pollinator communities, providing the valuable evidence needed to develop appropriate management strategies.

The student will be a part of the hugely popular Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP (SSCP DTP) at Imperial College London.

To Apply: Please visit and follow the instructions. Please email your CV and cover letter (no more than 2 pages), plus your Unique ID (see instructions when you follow the link), to the named lead supervisor Peter Graystock by midday (12pm, GMT) 6 January, 2023. 

Funding Notes

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Funding covers home tuition fees, a yearly stipend based on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) rate including a London Weighting Allowance (eg currently £19,668 for 2022/2023) plus project consumables (£5,000 over 3.5 years)


Graystock et al 2020:
Review article, Graystock et al 2016:

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