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Identification of Genetic Traits for Capacity to Digest Non-Standard Feed Materials in Meat Poultry

School of Biosciences

Dr E Burton , Dr Cormac O'Shea Tuesday, May 04, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Although poultry are the least environmentally impactful terrestrial meat, poultry breeding companies must now urgently consider the traits required for the rapidly changing food production environment such as the ability of poultry to adapt their gastro-intestinal tract to non-soya, low carbon protein sources and dietary inclusion of bio-based co-products. Global breeding company, Aviagen, have world leading advanced genetic selection techniques allowing them to deliver consistent genetic improvement to the poultry industry. The poultry nutrition team at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is a well-established, vibrant research group with superb facilities and immense technical and academic expertise in poultry nutrition and health. We have been commended by Research Councils UK for the pipeline of high calibre scientists emerging from our group.

This BBSRC DTP CASE PhD studentship will draw on expertise at both NTU and University of Nottingham in emerging feed materials and combine it with the Aviagen genetic assessment programmes to determine some of the mechanisms underpinning response of poultry to changing diet and environmental conditions. This will allow the genes associated with traits needed for efficiency and resilience in a rapidly changing future may be identified.

The project will also a develop holistic system for assessing gut health in poultry, which is currently lacking as existing approaches are extremely slow and expensive to undertake and often only consider one element of gut health. Aviagen will provide access to samples from a diverse range of genetic lines and environmental conditions for analysis at the universities. Currently, high-field Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) sensing technologies are routinely used for metabolomics investigations in humans patients but their prohibitive size and cost suggest a role for low-field (60 MHz) benchtop instruments. the student will be invited to placements at Aviagen and to shadow key Aviagen staff. This will likely involve travelling internationally to conduct gut health training schools, interacting with producers, advising farmers on gut health interventions, and partaking in research projects beyond the student’s own research. Visits to farms and Aviagen research trials will also be used to gather samples for use in investigations novel feed materials will be screened for viability as poultry feeds using the NTU poultry lab facilities.

Top candidate materials will then be assessed in a series of poultry nutrition trials determining response of differing genetic lines of meat poultry to emergent feed materials. There are a number of avenues that could be usefully chosen for the final investigations so this will be discussed and agreed between the student and industry partner during the project. The PhD programme will allow the applicant to experience a wide range of established and emerging techniques that underpin research in animal production and develop their practical skills in a supportive environment. The work will provide much scope for independence, publication and attendance at scientific conferences and would be expected to lead to high impact outputs.

Funding Notes

This studentship is available to UK, EU, and International students. EU applicants who have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of their studies may be eligible to have Home/British fee status, pending on assessment. It is fully funded for four years and includes fees (£4500 p.a.) plus an annual stipend (£15,609 p.a.), set by the Research Councils.


The preferred start date is 01/10/2021. The 4-year PhD studentship will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate is found. Candidates are encouraged to apply via as soon as possible.
Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact for more details about the project, or you can visit

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