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GW4 FRESH CDT studentship: Cryptosporidium movement in water- impact of eutrophication and climate change on the zoonotic disease agent

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 16, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Cryptosporidium is a human pathogen unknown until the mid-1970s; in 1993 0.4 million people were infected in Milwaukee following a water treatment failure, and since then, large outbreaks throughout the developed world (most recently Sweden, 2010) have kept the parasite in the public eye. Infected hosts release up to 109 oocysts per day, and the discovery of a single oocyst forces closure and loss of drinking water supplies (e.g. NW England 2015, 0.3 million homes affected). In rural Wales, the main source of contamination is point source release of oocysts into water catchments from infected dairy or beef cattle farms located in rural communities. These multiple sources of contamination are difficult to diagnose and monitor, and almost impossible to eliminate due to costs of complex methodologies. The huge excess production of oocysts compared to the infective dose (only 10 oocysts can start an infection) suggests that in the natural environment, most oocysts are removed biotically, probably by grazing and suspension feeding invertebrates and protists. These interactions may be adversely affected by eutrophication (connected with land use and climate change), increasing the importance of Cryptosporidium in both the developing world and in ‘Blue Marble’ situations within the developed world. This project will test these hypotheses using a combination of Next Generation Sequencing to identify Cryptosporidium oocysts within communities of invertebrate grazing organisms in response to water eutrophication and laboratory experiments to directly establish the link between Cryptosporidium clearance and grazer community structure, linked by agent-based simulation modelling to predict the impact of eutrophication on Cryptosporidium clearance from freshwater. Laboratory experiments with oocysts grown in vitro in the Cardiff Cryptosporidium Bioreactor will establish the potential of relevant invertebrates to ingest, digest or transport oocysts. Immunofluorescence staining, qPCR and infectivity assays will be used to assess the potential of invertebrates for oocyst clearance. Functional responses, and the impact of nitrogen eutrophication and turbidity on clearance by important grazers will be established. Field studies will utilise sites in Wales (identified through Welsh Water and the Water Research Centre at Cardiff) along gradients of nitrogen eutrophication (due to e.g. different land use) established using standard techniques. NGS with environmental metabarcoding, and conventional screening of the biota samples into biologically relevant categories, will be used to establish the response of the aquatic community to eutrophication, while the environmental abundance of Cryptosporidium oocysts in these samples will be estimated from NGS data. The infectivity of Cryptosporidium oocysts from Welsh study sites will be established, and the faith of the oocysts under different environmental conditions (e.g. flooding, climate change) will be experimentally assessed. Results will be integrated using agent based modelling approaches to establish the importance of the aquatic biota in clearance of Cryptosporidium from the environment, and to develop hypotheses concerning the response of this clearance activity to human influences such as water eutrophication and to change in the environment (floods, climate change).

Studentships will last for 3.5 years full-time or the equivalent period part-time. Applicants must demonstrate an outstanding academic record: at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent, or relevant Masters degree.

The application deadline is 9am on 16th December 2019.


Applicants must apply directly to the CDT and not via Cardiff University’s online application system. Please use the below link which will take you to the relevant page to place an application to the CDT directly:

For more details on how to apply, please visit the GW4 Fresh website:

Funding Notes

Full UKRI stipend and fees to be funded for the duration of the studentship (3.5 years), plus RTSG of £11,000.

NERC-funded studentships are subject to UKRI eligibility requirements i.e. you should be a citizen of the UK or other EU country and have been residing in the UK for the last 3 years.

This project is in competition with others available across GW4 FRESH CDT; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding. This year we are advertising 25 projects for 14 studentships.

Please note there are mandatory training activities during the first six months.

How good is research at Cardiff University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.70

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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