The impact of the gut microbiome on bone health in children

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Over 1 million Australians suffer from osteoporosis, and this is likely to increase due to our ageing population and sedentary behaviour. The importance of bone acquisition in childhood and adolescence to optimize peak bone mass has been recognized as one of the key strategies in the prevention of osteoporotic fractures. A better understanding of the determinants of bone acquisition from infancy through childhood is therefore of fundamental importance to the prevention of osteoporosis in adulthood.

The gut microbiome plays an important role in shaping complex traits and diseases. Evidence is emerging that the gut microbiota affects bone homeostasis. The relationship is complex and involves several mechanisms including: (1) host immune system, (2) modulation of growth factor and hormone production, and (3) the production of specific metabolites, such as short chain fatty acids. To establish whether a different gut microbiota composition is related to subsequent bone health in childhood, longitudinal cohort studies in the general population are essential. This project will directly address this need by investigating the role of the gut microbiota on bone health during childhood.

The project aims to examine the association between:

  1. Gut colonization patterns early in life and subsequent bone health at age 6–11 years.
  2. Gut microbiota-derived metabolites, such as short-chain fatty acids, early in life and subsequent bone health at age 6–11 years.

The research will be conducted in two population-based observational birth-cohorts: the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) from Denmark and the Barwon Infant Study (BIS) from Australia. In a total of 1,500 children, faecal samples were collected during infancy and childhood to characterize the microbiome and its derived metabolites in faeces, urine and blood and bone health will be determined at age 6-11 years.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Lieke Scheepers


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Advanced understanding of statistics and experience in using statistical software package R

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Lieke Scheepers, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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