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Invasive bees, invasive disease. The ecology and evolution of parasites associated with bumblebees in South America, Japan, and Europe

Project Description

Bumblebees are crucial pollinators in both wild and agricultural systems. Bumblebees are also facing widespread declines, in part due to infectious diseases, which challenges the stability of wild floral communities, and the animals that depend on them, and food security. The common European buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) has been successfully commercially reared and is used extensively to pollinate crops around the world. In many of these regions, B. terrestris has established and spread, and local bumblebees have declined. One potential cause of the local declines of bumblebees is the introduction of European diseases.

This studentship will use next-generation sequencing approaches to identify parasites that are associated with native bumblebees in South America and Japan, where B. terrestris is invasive and European parasites can now be found, and European bumblebees, where these parasites may have originated. This program of work will characterize whole communities of parasites associated with a community of hosts and how these have changed with the invasion of European bees. As such, it will represent a step-change in understanding multi-host multi-parasite communities, their interactions, and present clear data about the role of infectious disease in bumblebee declines.

The ideal student for this project would be one who wishes to apply their molecular biology/genomics skills to large-scale ecological problems. This project will suit a student with interests in host-parasite interaction, evolutionary ecology, genetics, bioinformatics, and genomics. Existing skills in any of those areas would be helpful but independence, curiosity, a healthy sense of humor, and a certain amount of grit are usually more important.

The successful student will have the opportunity to work closely with collaborators in South America and Japan and develop skills in evolutionary ecology, host-parasite interaction, immunology, genomics, transcriptomics, and metagenomics. The Institute of Integrative Biology offers a lively community of researchers to interact with, providing many opportunities for collaboration.

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.

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