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Name of scholarship/program

Potential for biological control of the killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus)

Important description
Control of invasive species is essential to meet the EU Water Framework Directive targets for rivers .The killer-shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus) is top of the UK Environment Agency’s Ten Worst Alien Invaders (EA 2011). This invasive amphipod crustacean was first reported in the UK in September 2010. It becomes superabundant in invaded communities. Replacement of the native species by this invader is therefore predicted to have wide-reaching consequences for aquatic community ecosystems, for biodiversity and for water quality. The killer shrimp has a much lower rate of detritus processing than the native Gammarus pulex, hence invasion is predicted to result in reduced energy flow in these important ecosystems. Furthermore, the predatory impact of the killer shrimp on native invertebrates is twice that of the native amphipod.
A recent study of the killer shrimp revealed an absence of the key pathogens that regulate D. villosus populations in its native range. This lack of enemies is likely to facilitate the spread of the invader, and its impact on biodiversity and the ecological status and water quality of UK rivers.
The control of aquatic invasive species presents a challenge for environment management. Use of chemical treatments has negative effects on biodiversity and water supplies. The aim of this project is to investigate pathogens that could be used for biocontrol of the killer shrimp.
1. Identify the parasite profile in native range. Killer shrimp will be surveyed from populations in the native Pontocaspian range and screened for known and novel parasites via histology (all parasites), transmission electron microscopy, and PCR (targeting microsporidia
2. Measure parasite transmission rates and effect on host survival (Y2).
3. Measure parasite virulence in the lab (Y2)..
4. Test for impact on non-target invertebrates.
5. Undertake biocontrol trials in laboratory mesocosms

Outputs. The studentship will provide fundamental evidence in the potential for biocontrol using pathogens for the killer shrimp.
Project supervision and training
The student will be jointly supervised by Alison Dunn (University of Leeds), and Grant Stentiford and Paul Stebbing (Centre for Ecology Fisheries and Aquatic Science) The student will receive training in host-parasite evolution and specificity, statistical analysis, presentations for conferences and academic papers at Leeds; and in biosecurity, histology and parasite detection, report writing for Defra and other stakeholders at Cefas.

Funding Notes:

Eligibility and other criteria
(European/UK Students Only)
This research project has funding attached. Funding for this project is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Application deadline
* 18 January 2013

Additional information, and important URL
Funding opportunities; nerc case competitive studentshi (UK)
. Excellent candidates could apply for a University Research Scholraships (UK or international)
. Externa direct funding may be available

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