We seek a highly motivated and able candidate to undertake a PhD project in microbiology that will address questions around the transfer of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the environment. AMR is amongst the foremost challenges to public health globally, threatening the effective prevention and treatment of animal and human infections, and requiring action across a wide range of sectors of society. There is increased concern within the food and agriculture industries due to detection of increased levels of AMR in human pathogens and increased awareness of the problems by consumers. Globally we still do not understand the transmission and selection of AMR along the food chain. With increased productivity in the dairy and meat production industries comes increased quantities of organic waste. As part of the circular economy this is frequently reused as fertilizer on grassland. Animal manure has been identified as a hotspot of mobile AMR as concentration of antibiotics and AMR genes and bacteria are excreted from food animals. This project proposes to compare the relative risks of three manure types (poultry, pig and bovine) in the dissemination and proliferation of AMR transfer and maintenance at the start of the food chain. It’s objectives are to close the knowledge gaps that exist at the interfaces between environmental factors (soil) and agricultural practices (manure application) and the food animals (from manure via grass). It will also identify the manure and farming practices that minimize the risk of AMR transfer to soil and grass. The main aims are to (1) Characterise the AMR genes and bacteria in Irish pig, poultry and bovine manure; (2) Identify the resistant bacteria and AMR genes capable of surviving in the soil and on the grass during the growth period after manure application; (3) Elucidate if the quantity and types of AMR genes and bacteria vary or reduce over time and (4) Compare the correlation between microbiome changes and AMR diversity and abundance over time in grassland.
This project will provide valuable multidisciplinary training and research opportunities in microbiology, molecular biology, microbiome analysis, environmental science and bioinformatics. The student will join a successful research group, and lively graduate training communities, and will also receive training in other aspects of scientific work, e.g. result dissemination, writing for publication and conference presentations.
Applications are invited from graduates holding at least a 2.1 class honours degree or M.Sc. in Biology, Microbiology, Environmental Science or a related discipline. Prior experience in microbiology would be advantageous. Fluency in English are essential.
The PhD Fellowship is a joint research project between Teagasc and NUI Maynooth. Supervision will be provided by Dr Fiona Walsh (Maynooth), Dr Kaye Burgess (Teagasc) and Dr Fiona Brennan (Teagasc). The fellowship funding is €22,000 per annum and includes University fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum and is tenable for 4 years.
Dr Fiona Walsh, Phone:+353 (0) 14747246; email: Fiona.Walsh@nuim.ie
Applicants should submit a CV (including the names of two referees) and covering letter detailing their qualifications, research experience and motivation to: Fiona Walsh (Fiona.Walsh@nuim.ie)