We are looking for a PhD candidate keen on studying the combined impact of pollution and infection susceptibility on migrating shorebirds.
The specific hypothesis of the project are that:
1) susceptibility to infections (e.g. avian influenza) will increase in a host due to high exposure to environmental pollution;
2) pollutants modulate the immune system in a specific manner that facilitates infection prevalence and/or disease severity;
3) microRNA profiles can be used as a predictive tool to assess disease outbreaks and severity.
The position is based at NTNU in Trondheim, Norway, and financed by the Norwegian Research Council and has a special responsibility within the project COAST-IMPACT (August 2020 – July 2023).
The overall aim of COAST-IMPACT is to study the impact of pollution in the coastal wetlands of East Asia by assessing the biodiversity of littoral macroinvertebrates, and the resulting impact of food availability, pollution and infection in migrating shorebirds along the East Asian Australian Flyway using these wetlands.
The field component of this PhD project will be linked to the ongoing large-scale study of migrating shorebirds in Australia (Melbourne in Victoria, and Broome in Western Australia).
Secondly, the lab component of the project will elucidate the mechanisms driving pollutant-induced immunomodulation that relate to increased infection susceptibility in the host (targeting microRNAs and inflammation markers).
Lastly, the obtained data will be used to develop diagnostic biomarkers to assess infection and exposure that will allow to improve disease outbreak predictions for the future.