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Risk CDT - Hormone Analysis in Aquaculture and Laboratory Fish Culture

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, November 09, 2016
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


This is a project within the multi-disciplinary EPSRC and ESRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) on Quantification and Management of Risk & Uncertainty in Complex Systems & Environments, within the Institute for Risk and Uncertainty. The studentship is granted for 4 years and includes, in the first year, a Master in Decision Making under Risk & Uncertainty. The project includes extensive collaboration with prime industry to build an optimal basis for employability.

Providing the world’s growing populations with a sustainable supply of safe, nutritious, and affordable food with reduced input requirements is a major challenge. Aquatic food sources, either produced through aquaculture activity or caught from wild marine or freshwater stocks, are a primary source of protein and essential nutrients, and there is a growing recognition of their nutritional and health promoting qualities. They represent a significant contribution of nutritious animal protein to millions of people all over the world with fish being one of the most efficient converters of feed into high quality food.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone released in response to stress. The levels of stress hormones can reveal a great deal about the welfare of animals, in turn reflected in growth, health and productivity. The conventional method of hormone measurement in fish requires blood sampling which is invasive, or whole body analysis, which requires sacrifice of the individual, both preclude continuous monitoring over time. However, the hormones are released across gills into the holding water providing the possibility of a non-invasive, close to real-time mechanism to monitor cortisol levels. A simple and sensitive technique for hormone analysis in holding water would be of huge utility to fish farms, hatcheries and laboratories for monitoring health, condition and welfare.

In this PhD novel ambient ionisation methodologies will be investigated to determine the sensitivity and selectivity that can be obtained for a range of relevant hormones in water. This will include testing with a number of different fish species under a range of conditions with samples from the University of Liverpool’s aquarium. A major part of this project will address the development and deployment of a suitably ruggedised ionisation/sampling method coupled with a portable MS system to be used on site for quasi-continuous sampling. This project will improve todays SoA by developing a robust and rapid screening methodology, which will monitor a wide range of hormones in water primarily for the land-based aquaculture industry. This technology will provide the fish farmer with advanced warning of fish state and behaviour. Such measurements can give advanced indication of chronic stress in farmed fish reducing the risk of mortality, disease outbreaks and/or poor product quality, which would otherwise result in lost profit to the fish farms. These parameters are at present technically challenging to measure accurately on a regular basis and may only be analysed when problems arise on the farm and samples are sent for more comprehensive analysis at external laboratories.

Funding Notes

The PhD Studentship (Tuition fees + stipend of £ 14,296 annually over 4 years) is available for Home/EU students. In addition, a budget for use in own responsibility will be provided.

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