PhD The role of population structure in the evolution of honeybee disease (UK) ~

15 de noviembre de 2013

PhD The role of population structure in the evolution of honeybee disease (UK)

BBSRC SWDTP studentship:  The role of population structure in the
evolution of honeybee disease


Professor Mike Boots, Biosciences, University of Exeter.
Dr Lena Wilfert, Biosciences, University of Exeter.

A competitively-funded Phd is available on the evolution of viral disease
in the honeybee.  The student will be based at the University of Exeter
Cornwall Campus but will benefit from be joining a large international
group focussed on understanding how different movement and management
practices influence the evolution of virulence in honeybee parasites. The
PhD project will involve a combination of laboratory and fieldwork (in
the USA) to study how viral disease prevalence and evolution changes
under experimentally manipulated spatial structures.

Prof. Boots has recently been awarded a BBSRC-NIH EEID grant with
collaborators at Emory and the University of Georgia that will carry
out a large-scale experiment that manipulates the spatial structure
of honey bee populations to understand the processes that underpin
and maintain virulence.  Recent theory – developed in large part by
Prof. Boots - has shown that the spatial characteristics of parasite
transmission can have dramatic impacts on virulence evolution, with local
interactions selecting for lower virulence (reviewed in Lion and Boots
2010). This important prediction has empirical support in laboratory
systems (Boots and Mealor 2007), but the question remains whether it is
relevant to real-world disease interactions. Understanding the impact
of spatial structure is particularly relevant for managed populations
(such as agriculturally-managed plants and animals), in which spatial
structuring of transmission is routinely modified, with potentially
important ramifications for virulence. The aim of this grant is to examine
how different management practices impact the evolution of virulence of
the varroa mite.  Prof. Boots’ theory predicts that more extensive
movement of bees will not only rather intuitively increase the spread
the pathogen, it will make them more virulent.

In this PhD, you will use this experiment to ask how the spatial
manipulation impacts on the viral pathogens of honeybees. These viral
pathogens are implicated in colony collapse disorder and are likely
to be as, if not more important than the varroa mite itself. You will
study how the prevalence and transmission of viral pathogens change when
the spatial structure of honeybee populations is manipulated. You will
further test whether this results in changes in selection pressure on
the viral pathogens, using sequence information and integrating virulence
data from the larger project.

You will gain skills and be trained in (1) invertebrate pathology,
(2) virology, (3) sequencing, (4) bio-informatics, and (6) theoretical
modelling. You will carry out field work in the US and laboratory work
in the UK with the opportunity to develop mathematical modelling skills
if interested. This project provides particularly good training and
employability skills as it is part of the BBSRC South West Doctoral
Training Partnership (further details below), offering specialised
taught courses at MSc level in the first year, combined with 2 rotation
projects that will complement the PhD project and provide you with
in-depth skills in bioinformatics and experimental manipulations
of bees. Furthermore, this program includes a 3-month professional
internship that will allow you to gain skills outside of academia. Please
contact Dr. Lena Wilfert for informal enquiries about the project
( For questions about the application process,
please contact

Boots, M. & M. Mealor (2007). Local interactions select for lower
infectivity. Science 315, 1184-1186.

Lion S, Boots M (2010) Are parasites ''prudent'' in space? Ecology
Letters 13: 1245-1255.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the BBSRC South
West Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), a collaboration between
the Universities of Exeter, Bristol, Bath and Rothamsted Research
institute.  This project is one of a number that are in competition for
funding. Studentships will be awarded on the basis of merit. The four
year programme is designed to provide training in cutting edge world-class
bioscience and food security research, including a structured first year
of tailored taught courses and the completion of two laboratory rotations
before progression onto the three year PhD.  In addition, following
the postgraduate training policy of the Biotechnology and Biological
Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), all students will complete a three
month professional internship, providing an invaluable experience of work
outside of academic research. For further details about the programme
please see

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain,
a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent
qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science
or technology.

The studentship will cover a stipend at the standard Research
Council rate (£13,726 per annum for 2013-2014), research
costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who
meet the residency requirements outlined by the BBSRC (see

Application procedures:

Please upload the following documents to the studentship application form

· CV

· Covering letter (outlining your academic interests, prior research
experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).

· Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and
grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are
still studying)

· 2 references (if your referees prefer, they can email the reference
direct to

If you have any general enquiries about the application process
please email or phone +44 (0)1392
725150/723706/723310. Project specific queries should be directed to
the supervisor.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Friday 10th January 2014.
We anticipate that interviews will take place on the 10 and 11 February

Dr. Lena Bayer-Wilfert
Royal Society Research Fellow
Centre for Ecology & Conservation
Biosciences, College of Life & Environmental Sciences
University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus
Tremough, Penryn, TR10 9EZ UK

Phone: +44  (0) 1326370723

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