I have a PhD studentship opportunity to investigate changes in both bee health and their microbes as a result of climate change. This will be with me at Imperial College London, Silwood park campus.
This is part of the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Program . Also referred to at an SSC DTP.
Funding is provided primarily by NERC and covers home/EU fees (set by department) and the project consumables (For 2017-18 the yearly stipend was £16,553).
Additional funding of the project is provided by the Bumblebee Conservation trust.
Climate change has caused profound and often complex changes in the prevalence and intensity of some infectious disease. Whilst climate-mediated disease outbreaks can often be curtailed in humans and farmed animals, wild plants and animals are more likely to remain vulnerable to disease, decline, and extinction. Predicting the consequences of climate change for infectious disease severity in wild ecosystems, therefore, represents a grand challenge.
Wild pollinators are one of the most influential groups of animals due to their pollination services of both wild plants and farmed crops. In 2016 the Intergovernmental Policy Platform concluded insect pollinator survival was being threatened by climate change, and that mitigating this threat is vital for sustained global food security. Bee communities represent an important and diverse group of insect pollinators (~20,000 species), and their health is largely governed by the actions of both beneficial and parasitic microbes. Knowledge of bee health typically focuses on the honey bee, so the dynamics of microbial transmission between different bee species is poorly understood. Furthermore, we lack a predictive understanding as to how climate change may modify the transmission and effects of different microbes, and what that means for maintaining the delicate balance between harmful and beneficial microbes.
The student will benefit from combined training in pollinator ecology, parasitology, microbiology and conservation to address key questions before making a predictive assessment of how different climate change scenarios will affect microbe transmission dynamics and bee health
Key questions will include:
- What are the microbial communities in bees and on transmission sites such as flowers, following fluctuating climactic conditions
- To what degree are these microbes sensitive to climate changes
- Do floral traits shield harboured microbes from the effects of climate change
- How healthy are solitary and social bees following exposure to the typical microbial cocktails found under different climatic conditions
Working with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) as CASE partner, the project will seek to understand how the combined symbiotic and parasitic microbial communities (microbiomes) of bees will be disturbed by climate change, and quantify their effects on bee health. Training will be provided on the use of flight-cages, microbiology, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics, to investigate the impact of climate change on the dynamics of key microbes and how this will affect bee health. Uniquely, this project also offers the student the opportunity to work closely with the BBCT, taking part in organised BeeWalks, helping promote bee conservation, your own research, and the work of the BBCT at outreach events. Fieldwork and outreach will be conducted across the UK so a driver’s licence would be advantageous. The project will add substantially to our understanding of the level of risk posed by climate change to the UK’s ecologically and economically important populations of bees, and will provide key evidence for appropriate management strategies.
You can get more information about the SSC DTP from the Imperial College website: here
If you have any questions about the SSC DTP and your eligibility, please read through the general program information and find contact information here
For questions regarding the project, please contact me, Dr Peter Graystock.
To apply, your CV & cover letter must be emailed to me by the deadline: 8th January
Please, take time to read the eligibility and FAQ sections of the SSC DTP page before applying to ensure you are eligible. Please note that there is strong competition for these studentships and many of the applicants will already have a masters – though it is not a minimum requirement.