Dr Barbara Tschirren, Department of Biosciences, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter
Dr Sarah Perkins, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University
Dr Patricia Brekke, Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London
Dr Lars Raberg, Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden
Location: University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE
This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC GW4+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the GW4 Alliance of research-intensive universities: the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus five unique and prestigious Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in the Earth, Environmental and Life sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in scientific research, business, technology and policy-making. For further details about the programme please see http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/
For eligible successful applicants, the studentships comprises:
- A stipend for 3.5 years (currently £15,009 p.a. for 2019/20) in line with UK Research and Innovation rates
- Payment of university tuition fees;
- A research budget of £11,000 for an international conference, lab, field and research expenses;
- A training budget of £3,250 for specialist training courses and expenses.
- Travel and accommodation is covered for all compulsory DTP cohort events
- No course fees for courses run by the DTP
We are currently advertising projects for a total of 10 studentships at the University of Exeter
Climate change drives the emergence of human and wildlife diseases. In Europe, the disease vector Ixodes ricinus (Sheep tick) is currently undergoing a range expansion to higher latitudes and elevations in response to climate warming. As a consequence, host populations that were previously disease-free have become exposed to ticks and tick-transmitted pathogens. This natural experiment offers the unique opportunity to track resistance evolution in action in natural host populations.
The most common tick-transmitted pathogen in Europe is Borrelia afzelii, which infects humans and causes Lyme disease. However, the pathogen’s natural hosts are small mammals such as the bank vole Myodes glareolus. Bank vole populations can be easily tracked in space and time, providing an excellent model system in which to test how disease and resistance evolve under climate change, and its ramifications for human and wildlife health.
Project Aims and Methods
The aim of this project is to understand how resistance evolves in bank vole populations in response to Borrelia emergence, and why and how variation in Borrelia resistance is maintained within and across populations. You will address these questions by combining field sampling of bank vole populations across gradients of Borrelia infection risk in Sweden and the United Kingdom with state-of-the-art molecular laboratory techniques.
Population genomics approaches will be used to track resistance evolution in action in newly exposed host populations. Furthermore, in-vitro immunological assays and patterns of gene expression in resistant and susceptible voles will be used to understand the mechanisms underlying Borrelia resistance, and the maintenance of its variation, in the wild. This integrative and multidisciplinary approach allows you to address a wide range of questions and you are encouraged to further develop the project according to your interests. The project includes secondments to Lund University, Sweden and the Zoological Society of London.