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NERC DTP Studentship available! Aerial pollen biodiversity and health

We are advertising for a PhD opportunity to be hosted in the Molecular Ecology & Fisheries Genetics Laboratory (MEFGL), at Bangor University (http://mefgl.bangor.ac.uk/) to commence in October 2017. The PhD has been made possible via the availability of the NERC Industrial Strategy CASE Studentship scheme and strong links with project partner, the National Botanic Garden of Wales. The studentship will form part of the NERC ENVISION Doctoral Training Programme (http://www.envision-dtp.org/), a PhD consortium partnership between Bangor, Nottingham and Lancaster Universities, alongside numerous environmental bodies, aimed at equipping the next generation of Environmental Biologists with advanced skills.

Project rationale: In addition to providing benefits to society, biodiversity also brings costs. The aerial biosphere includes ecologically complex mixtures of pollens that negatively affect human health. Almost a quarter of people display allergic reactions to tree and grass pollen, causing symptoms ranging from hay fever to asthma, with associated socio-economic costs. Identifying tree pollens can be achieved using microscopy, but the process is challenging. Nevertheless, since most grass pollens look the same, we need to devise novel ways to identify different species to understand which species of grass contribute to allergies. This studentship has three components. The first aims to use an environmental DNA (eDNA) approach to enhance the way that we assess aerial tree pollen mixtures. Secondly, to use modelling approaches to compare and contrast the aerial transit of tree and grass pollens in relation to biology/ecology and finally, to identify which species of grass pollen are linked with hay fever.

The PhD will form a distinct component within a larger NERC funded study “PollerGEN” (http://pollergen.bangor.ac.uk/) and provide an opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team of scientists from a range of UK Universities, the UK Met Office and the CASE Partner, National Botanic Garden of Wales (NBGW – home of the Wales Plant DNA Barcode library). The successful candidate will become a highly skilled, interdisciplinary graduate working at the interface between molecular ecology and environmental epidemiology with the potential to make substantial advances to our understanding of UK flora pollination dynamics and interactions with the allergic response. Co-supervision will be provided by Natasha DeVere/Gareth Griffith/Mat Hegarty (NBGW and Aberystwyth), Carsten Skjøth (Worcester), Ben Wheeler/Nick Osborne (Exeter/Sydney) and the UK Met Office. Training will be provided in the main areas of molecular ecology, genomics, taxonomy, bioinformatics, modelling; multidisciplinarity skills and epidemiology, complemented by a host of additional opportunities for postgraduate development. Fieldwork will occur within the UK, with opportunities for travel/collaborations in Europe and Australia.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Biology, Environmental or Natural Sciences, with a strong motivation to study eDNA biodiversity-environment interactions. Eligibility requirements and application portal can be found at http://www.envision-dtp.org . If you are interested in applying, we would strongly recommend contacting Prof. Simon Creer in the first instance (http://mefgl.bangor.ac.uk/staff/si.php; s.creer@bangor.ac.uk; Twitter @spideycreer) and he will be on hand to assist with any questions related to the project, important information on the application process and life in the group.

Closing date for applications: 2nd of July 2017 with interviews predicted to take place between 13th-14th July and look forward to hearing from you!

Publication date: 30 May 2017

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