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  Dr E Gorsich  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Mathematical and statistical models are important tools in wildlife biology. For wildlife disease, they are particularly useful in evaluating vaccination or population management strategies in endangered species (e.g. Robinson et al. 2018), for investigating spill-over in between wildlife and livestock/domestic animal species (e.g. Gilbertson et al. 2022), and to understand the mechanisms driving transmission in data-poor settings (e.g. Jolles, Gorsich et al. 2021). Our team at the Zeeman Institute at University of Warwick has experience integrating models and field data to understand how wildlife disease spread and persist on ecological and evolutionary timescales.

We are looking to recruit a PhD student in the areas of disease ecology, mathematical. and evolutionary ecology. Topics available include: (i) ecological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases in natural bighorn sheep populations (Couch et al. 2020); (ii) multi-strain dynamics of foot-and-mouth disease virus in African buffalo (Jolles, Gorsich et al. 2021); (iii) the spread and evolution of avian influenza in wild waterfowl in the U.K. While the questions addressed are flexible, engagement with at least one of the model systems is required (e.g. bighorn sheep, African buffalo, avian influenza). Each topic above will be embedded in an international team of investigators and based on ongoing field-based data collection. The ideal candidate will be interested in developing data-driven models for real-world wildlife disease systems.


Couch, C.E., Arnold, H.K., Crowhurst, R.S., Jolles, A.E. 2020. Bighorn sheep gut microbiomes associate with genetic and spatial structure across a metapopulation. Scientific Reports. 10. 6582.

Gilbertson, M.L.J., Onorato, D., Cunningham, M., VandeWoude, S., Craft, M.E. 2022. Paradoxes and synergies: Optimizing management of a deadly virus in an endangered carnivore. Journal of Applied Ecology. 59. 1548-1558.

Jolles, A*, Gorsich, E.*, Gubbins, S., Beechler, B., Buss, P., Juleff, N., de Klerk-Lorist, L., Maree, F., Perez-Martin, E., van Schalkwyk, O.L. Scott, K. Zhang, F., Medlock, J.*, Charleston, B.* 2021. Endemic persistence of a highly contagious pathogen: foot-and-mouth disease in its wildlife host. Science. 374. 104-109.

Robinson, S.J., Barbieri, M.M., Murphy, S., Baker, J.D., Harting, A.L., Craft, M.E., Littnan, C.L., 2018. Model recommendations meet management reality: Implementation and evaluation of a network-informed vaccination effort for endangered Hawaiian monk seals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 285. 20171899.

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Sustainable Agriculture and Food - Animal Health and Welfare.

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

A range of techniques will be applied for this project, with some choice dependent on the project chosen. They include statistical analysis of geospatial and epidemiological data across space and time. Analysis will culminate in the development of mechanistic models at a range of spatial and temporal scales. They will be analysed to investigate disease spread on ecological time scales and host-pathogen co-evolution at longer time scales.

Funding Notes

Studentships provide:
Full Tuition fees
A tax free annual stipend for living expenses (in academic year 2022-23 this was £17,668)
A travel / conference budget
A generous consumables budget
Use of a laptop for the duration of the programme.
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