Pin bone abnormalities in King salmon

Skeletal development in King salmon, with an emphasis on intermuscular (pin) bones abnormalities

Degree type


Closing date

18 July 2022



Citizenship requirement


About the research project

Poor skeletal health can pose a serious risk to the expected expansion of salmonids aquaculture into offshore and high energy farming environments which require fish with a robust skeletal system. Apart from impacting on welfare and performance of fish, skeletal abnormalities impact on final product processing efficiency and lead to an increase in downgrades. New Zealand king salmon has been historically impacted by spinal curvature in their stock, and in the past two years there has been an emerging issue with intermuscular bones abnormalities (commonly referred to as "pin bones"). These two issues indicate poor skeletal health in some fish stocks, and this is likely to become exacerbated by increased musculoskeletal challenge as seen in offshore environments. The goal of this project is to better understand pin bone development and abnormalities (and their link with spinal curvature) observed in king salmon as a reasonable proxy for assessing overall skeletal health.

The project consists of five main steps:

  1. A literature review of pin bone development in fish and a summary of the existing pin bone data in relation to harvest, production and husbandry strategies, including collation and analysis of historical records
  2. The collection and analysis of affected and unaffected pin bone samples in harvest size fish
  3. A cross-sectional exploration of pin bone development in hatchery-reared salmon covering different production strategies
  4. A study of the effect of sustained exercise on pin bone strength
  5. An epidemiologic analysis of risk factors for spinal curvature and pin bone abnormalities, to tease out possible associations between the two and relevant environmental, genetic and husbandry factors

The PhD student will be based in New Zealand (Nelson) and hosted by Cawthron (will provide office space). Travel within New Zealand and between New Zealand and Tasmania to conduct analyses will be required during the project.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Gianluca Amoroso


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 $28,854 per annum (2022 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.


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:

  • Handling and sampling animals
  • High level written communication and ability to publish research
  • Data analysis and laboratory experience
  • Willing to travel and work in remote locations and commercial environments

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with histological analyses

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Gianluca Amoroso to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. 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 2 x 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 by the advertised outcome date.

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