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Understanding the relative importance of genetic and epigenetic factors in determining radiation-induced damage in earthworms

School of Biological & Environmental Sciences

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Prof D Copplestone No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Stirling is seeking for an enthusiastic and highly motivated individual to conduct a PhD.

The PhD project aims to further our understanding of the impacts of long-term radiation exposure on earthworms in the natural environment, and determine whether laboratory exposures can be used to predict these impacts. Following the 2011 accident at Fukushima: we urgently need new evidence to inform ongoing UK and international (International Atomic Energy Agency and International Commission on Radiation Protection) initiatives in this area.

The student will gain experience of conducting irradiation experiments under controlled conditions and with undertaking fieldwork in contaminated environments such as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The student will receive training on measuring radionuclides in terrestrial environments specifically in soils and earthworms to ISO17015 accredited protocols. The selected student will be trained in conducting measures of DNA methylation, gene expression and data analysis and, will be working on biological effects, specifically on biomarker and physiological assays for determining the level of impact of the radiation. This research will contribute greatly to our understanding of the genetic and epigenetic factors which control the impact of radiation and other stressors on organisms. Furthermore this will advance our knowledge of the role that epigenetic effect may play in adaptation to local environmental conditions.

The selected applicant will be based at the University of Stirling, supervised by Professor David Copplestone and will be jointly supervised from the CEH Dr Dave Spurgeon. The student will join an international team of researchers, working in well-equipped laboratories both at Stirling and CEH. Applicants must have a 2:1 or above in Biological or Environmental Science.

This NERC funded studentship (lasting 3.5 years) is part of a large 5-year project entitled TREE (Transfer – Exposure – Effects: integrating the science needed to underpin radioactivity assessments for humans and wildlife) which is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Environment Agency. The TREE consortium consists of eight UK research institutions studying the transfer and effects of radioactivity in the environment. Collaboration and joint training within the cohort of four postdoctoral researchers and seven PhD students in TREE will be encouraged and facilitated. Consequently the student will benefit from training activities within TREE and within the wider Radioactivity and the Environment (RATE) programme (e.g. summer schools, networking within TREE and external networking using the national and international contacts that the TREE project staff have). Resources have been allocated for the student to attend 6-monthly TREE student cohort meetings, summer schools. The project may require international travel to the Ukraine for fieldwork and, potentially, short research visits to other TREE institutions.

Funding Notes

This NERC funded studentship (lasting 3.5 years).

Informal enquiries, applications and CV to be sent to Prof. David Copplestone, Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Natural Sciences [Email Address Removed].


Deadline for applications: 28th March 2015

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