Context dependence of the transmission and virulence of European foul brood disease in honey bees

Understanding the factors placing insect pollinators at risk is a research priority with our future food security reliant on the health of these important organisms. Bees are vital insect pollinators, making the high rates of colony losses observed in recent years a global issue. Whilst we know the drivers of bee losses are multifactorial, such as disease, pesticides, and land use change, we fall short of understanding how these three stressors interact. Indeed, a major challenge in host-parasite ecology is understanding the context-dependence of disease dynamics, and how disease severity is altered by multiple interacting stressors.

This studentship will focus on honeybees and one of the most destructive diseases they experience: European foul brood (EFB). This globally distributed disease causes significant damage to the beekeeping industry, and in the UK, EFB is one of only two microbial bee diseases considered so harmful that positive detection requires immediate notification to the authorities. Severe cases of the disease often result in the destruction/burning of the hive to prevent further spread. Yet despite the impact this disease can have, we currently have little understanding as to how additional stressors influence the severity and spread of this disease, nor the ultimate influence this has on honey bee health.

The student will explore the mechanism behind transmission of the causal bacteria of the disease (Melissococcus plutonius), before determining if key stressors (Land and pesticide use) influence the severity of the disease. Thanks to generous funding from CB Dennis British Beekeepers Research Trust and Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd, this directly-funded studentship will employ a suite of cutting-edge scientific techniques to address questions on what modulates the transmission and virulence of this disease. The project will add substantially to our understanding of the vulnerability of bees to this significantly destructive disease and the results will facilitate the formation of evidence-led disease management strategies.

The student will gain a set of interdisciplinary skills including field work, next generation DNA sequencing and bioinformatics, pesticide residue analysis, microbiology and honeybee keeping. The student will gain training and collaboration from leading scientists including supervisor Dr Peter Graystock (Imperial College London), Dr Richard Gill (Imperial College London), and Dr Sophie Evison (University of Nottingham), plus assistance from the National Bee Unit/Defra. Based at the Silwood Park campus, the student will join the world leading university of Imperial College and benefit from being surrounded by top researchers in the disciplines of ecology, evolution and conservation. Facilities include >100 hectares of field site, new controlled environment rooms, microbiology facility, labs tailored for bee research and spacious workspace.

Type
PhD position
Institution
Imperial College London (Silwood park campus)
City
Ascot
Country
United Kingdom
Closing date
January 13th, 2020
Posted on
November 6th, 2019 16:41
Last updated
November 6th, 2019 16:43
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