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Growing shrimp indoors – understanding physiology to optimize health

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


Dr Robert Ellis, University of Exeter
Professor Grant Stentiford, Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science
Dr David Bass, Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science
Professor Simon Webster, Bangor University


Biosciences, Streatham Campus, Exeter

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the University of Exeter signed a Strategic Alliance in 2012. The Alliance aims to combine the complementary capabilities and perspectives of both organisations and formalised a long running existing collaboration between Cefas and the University. This Alliance was further strengthened in 2018 with the establishment of the centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Futures (see: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/saf/). A major component of the Alliance is to support joint PhD studentships. In accordance with the agreement, we are pleased to announce the intention to fund two new PhD projects to start in September 2019. This project is one of five projects that are in competition for funding from the University of Exeter and Cefas.

For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £14,777 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study, and a research training support grant. The student would be based in Biosciences in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Streatham Campus in Exeter.

Project Description:

The Pacific white legged shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) is the most valuable commodity in the international seafood trade, contributing $19bn pa-1 sales. This market is predicted to increase to $30bn over the next decade. Although core production is in Asia and Central America, the major markets exist in the EU, USA and Japan. Despite the high market demand for shrimp, the industry has been criticised for potential adverse environmental costs, whilst intensification has concurrently led to the emergence of a series of diseases which inflict multi-$bn losses on the industry each year. Overcoming detrimental environmental impacts, as well as solving this disease crisis, is crucial if sustainable farming practices for shrimp are to be realised. Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) are one such solution to the challenges facing the industry; reducing water requirements and adverse environmental impacts, enhancing biosecurity and control of production environments, and enabling the relocation of production closer to consumer markets. Nonetheless, RAS produce unique environmental challenges that are yet not fully understood – particularly with respect to their application to the high value P. vannamei sector.

This project will use a multi-disciplinary experimental approach to asses shrimp health and productivity associated with RAS production. Working as part of a unique team that brings together expertise in ecophysiology, endocrinology, RAS production, microbial diversity, pathology and crustacean disease, the student will develop and test a set of biomarkers relating to shrimp stress, immunological and reproductive processes, and health outcomes (pathology, microbiome), placing these in context of the physico-chemical conditions of the RAS system during the grow-out phase. The overall aim is to develop a deep understanding of the stressors inherent within these systems and, to propose mitigation strategies for improved welfare and health outcomes. The project also benefits significantly from an industrial partnership with FloGro Systems Ltd who are the primary UK shrimp producer, and are leading RAS production of shrimp in Europe. This partnership will provide the student with crucial access to RAS facilities, industrial expertise and experimental animals. This PhD therefore offers an exciting opportunity to develop current understanding with respect to the technological advancement of a globally important aquaculture sector, using a truly multidisciplinary experimental approach and benefiting from access to state-of-the-art experimental facilities at the University of Exeter and Cefas, as well as a partnership with the leading industrial producer in the UK. Any interested candidates are encouraged to contact the supervisory team for more details.

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £14,777 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.

Funding Notes

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see View Website)

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