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How is the Gut Microbiome Community Assembled in Wild Rodents?

  • Full or part time

    Prof JL Hurst
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 09, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This project will investigate how the gut bacterial community – the microbiome – is assembled in wild animals.

The bacterial gut microbiome has a profound impact on the biology of its host. But, how this microbiome is assembled and maintained, and the dynamics of changes in its composition, is unknown. Many factors may affect the microbiome’s assembly – an animal’s diet, its immune responses, and the bacteria an individual is exposed to its environment, which includes bacteria from other individuals with whom it interacts. But, the relative roles of these different factors is unknown; this is what this project will investigate

The work will use a combination of field observation studies and controlled experiments where various factors pertaining to microbiome assembly will be manipulated

Almost all we know about the gut microbiome comes from studies of laboratory animals, but their microbiomes are artefactual. The novelty of this proposed project is that (i) it will study the composition, assembly and dynamics of the microbiome of wild rodents and (ii) consider the relative role of different factors in controlling its assembly.

The project builds on previous work of Mark Viney on immune state of wild mice, on Jane Hurst’s work on behaviour in wild mice, and Michael Pocock’s work on the ecology of wild mice.

The project will be of interest to individuals with interests at the intersection of behaviour and infection biology, combing both field work, experimental work, using sequence based analysis of the microbiome and subsequent bioinformatic analysis.

Funding Notes

Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,777 tax-free, 2018-19) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership ACCE, View Website. ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK.

Applications (CV, letter of application, 2 referees) by email to , deadline: January 9 2019. Interviews in or after the week commencing: 11th February 2019. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.

This project is also available to self-funded students. A fees bursary may be available.


Abolins, S., Lazarou, L., Weldon, L., Hughes, L., King, E.C., Drescher, P., Pocock, M.J.O., Hafalla, J.C.R., Riley, E.M. & Viney, M.E. (2018) The ecology of immune state in a wild mammal, Mus musculus domesticus. PLoS Biology, 16, e2003538.

Lello J., McClure S.J., Tyrrell K., & Viney, M.E. (2018) Predicting the effects of parasite co-infection across species boundaries. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, 285, 20172610.

Wharam, B., Weldon, L., & Viney, M.E. (2017) Pheromone modulates two phenotypically plastic traits – adult reproduction and larval diapause – in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 17, 197.

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