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Pasture-associated laminitis in ponies: The grassroots!

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P Morrison
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Laminitis, of which pasture-associated laminitis (PAL) is the most common presentation, is a devastating and often fatal disease, initially presenting as severe foot pain. Laminitis is increasingly prevalent in industrialised nations, where horses contribute significantly to land-use diversification and ownership is dominated by the leisure-sector. Precise underlying mechanisms triggering PAL remain unclear, however the digestion of sugar-rich grasses in susceptible individuals is associated with perturbations in insulin:glucose dynamics. Known risk factors for PAL include obesity, insulin dysregulation, access to new pasture and/or increased grass consumption. Restricting pasture access may be an obvious preventative measure but is not always feasible for owners to implement. Grass species produce a diverse range of metabolites. However, the chemical composition of pastures in the context of PAL risk in NW Europe is unknown.
Despite a significant role of the horse in the economy of NE Scotland, equine pasture types and management practices remain undocumented.

This project offers a unique and exciting opportunity to explore associations between grazing management, pasture composition (species/chemical) and the development of PAL across native-breed ponies in NE Scotland using a combination of epidemiology, fieldwork and laboratory-based analysis. Fundamental data will establish the prevalence of owner-diagnosed PAL and associated pasture management risk factors. Detailed chemical analysis of pastures and individual grass species will establish a potential role for phytochemicals in PAL risk. The chemical composition of pasture will be evaluated in collaboration with the Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen), where the abundance of key phytochemicals will be assessed using a combination of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid-chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS).

The studentship will commence on 1st October 2020 and will be based at SRUC’s Craibstone campus in Aberdeen and registered at the University of Aberdeen.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. A Masters degree in a relevant subject would be desirable.

Funding Notes

The stipend will be set at UKRI recommended levels for a 3.5 year-period and the studentship is funded to pay domestic tuition fee levels for UK/EU students. The student will receive an annual student stipend (of £15,285 at 2020/21 rate). This studentship will fund to pay the tuition fees at home fees rate only. International students must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover the higher international student tuition fee level (approximately £16,600 per year would be required)


When recruiting new students we are required to ensure that the character and background of applicants are thoroughly assessed to maintain and implement an effective risk assessment and recruitment policy. We therefore ask that the academic references from your application form are taken up as part of the selection process. Candidates should provide details of two academic referees on the application form.

To apply for this studentship, please attach your CV and complete the application and equal opportunities monitoring forms available on the relevant studentship on our website

How good is research at SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 57.37

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

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