Southern Ocean seabird disease

Pathogens and parasites in Tasmanian and Southern Ocean seabirds

Degree type

PhD

Closing date

10 October 2022

Campus

Hobart

Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International

About the research project

Seabirds are known to carry a range of gastrointestinal parasites and pathogens. Climate change is predicted to shift species distributions globally, increasing the risk of novel parasite and pathogen infections. Yet, parasite and pathogen biodiversity, distribution, and prevalence are scarcely studied in seabirds, as is the connectivity of these organisms among colonies and species, and the role of diet as a vector for parasite infection. Hence, the potential for parasites and pathogens to spread as seabird and prey distributions shift under climate change is unknown. This research will apply genomic sequencing and bioinformatics approaches to identify and quantify microbes and parasites from seabird faecal material. Our existing collections of seabird faecal material from both Tasmania and the Southern Ocean will allow for analyses of (1) temporal variation in infection loads, both inter-annually and throughout the annual breeding cycle; (2) range-wide spatial variation in infection loads within particular seabird hosts; (3) host-specificity of parasites and pathogens by investigating multiple host species from the same location; and (4) the role of diet as a vector for parasite infection using our existing dietary records. This research will fill an important gap in our understanding of wildlife health in Tasmania and the Southern Ocean and whether parasites and pathogens may be an emerging threat to seabirds under climate change.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Jane Younger

Funding

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.

Eligibility

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

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

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:

  • Understanding of animal ecology and marine ecosystems
  • Experience in bioinformatics
  • Knowledge of molecular techniques required for DNA metabarcoding
  • A good understanding of statistics and experience in applying them

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Expertise with molecular lab work and lab work troubleshooting
  • Proficiency in R

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 Jane Younger 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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