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KESS2 Scholarship: Going beyond the gut: enhancing fish health with precision aquaculture nutrition

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 30, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Two of the greatest barriers to intensification of aquaculture in the Wales, and indeed globally, is infectious disease outbreaks and sustainable, efficient fish nutrition. Currently, disease is a substantial economic burden, costing the aquaculture industry US$6 billion a year and is a growing concern for farmed fish welfare. Furthermore, efficient use of feeds is increasingly important as traditional reliance upon fish-derived proteins and oils, supplied from capture fisheries, is ever more unsustainable. Therefore, it is critical innovative fish feeds and diet supplements are developed that not only promote efficient fish growth, but also provide benefits to health and welfare.

Enhancing fish mucosal immunity is increasingly recognised for its value in alternative aquaculture disease mitigation strategies. Fishes’ skin, gill and gut mucosa, and their associated commensal microorganisms (microbiomes) are the first line of defence against invading pathogens and parasites. However, in aquaculture, there are increasing incidences and intensities of mucosal pathologies including skin/gill parasitic infections and gut dysbioses due to sub-optimal nutrition.

In this project, partnering Bangor and Cardiff Universities with Pontus Research Ltd, the student will investigate the potential of innovative prebiotic and functional diet supplements to not only enhance aquaculture productivity, but also promote fish health and disease resistance. The student will use a combination of feeding trials, microbiome profiling (using next-generation sequencing), mucus activity assays, and pathogen challenges to reveal the wider health benefits of precision aquaculture diet supplementation.

The project offers a wealth of opportunities for the student to gain knowledge of, and experience in, animal husbandry; aquaculture nutrition; microbiology; molecular biology; bioinformatics and science communication. The studentship will be based both in the Bangor Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, a world leader in the analyses of molecular data from aquatic biota, and Pontus Research Ltd (South Wales), an internationally renowned aquaculture R&D company. There will be further opportunities for the student to work and train in Cardiff University, with experts in aquatic parasitology.

Supervisors: Dr Amy Ellison, Bangor University (), Prof Si Creer (Bangor University), Prof Jo Cable (Cardiff University), Dr Cedric Berger (Cardiff University), and Dr Jack James (Pontus Research).


Essential skills are a minimum 2:1 BSc (or equivalent) in Life Sciences, with good numerate skills and enthusiasm for aquaculture and fish health. Desirable skills are molecular laboratory, animal experimental, and/or aquaculture industry experience. The studentship requires significant time spent in both North and South Wales (the primary base of the studentship will be at Pontus Research, Aberdare), therefore the student must have the willingness and flexibility for travel.

The project is expected to begin in early March 2020. Queries regarding this studentship, including eligibility, should be directed to . To apply for this fully funded position please email a current CV and covering letter (2 A4 pages maximum) stating your relevant interests and experience to and Penny Dowdney by 30th January 2020.

Funding Notes

KESS 2 East is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for East Wales.
Due to ESF funding, eligibility restrictions apply to this scholarship. To be eligible, the successful candidate will need to be resident in East Wales on University registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification.

How good is research at Bangor University in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with Aberystwyth University)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 18.20

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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