Funded PhD opportunities

Antimicrobial Resistance in Aquaculture

  • Application end date: 11th February 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (EU/UK students only)
  • Department: School of Biological Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Joy Watts, Dr Michelle Hale

Project code: BIOL4010218

Project description

As the global human population increases there is an increasing reliance on aquaculture to supply a safe, reliable, and economic supply of food. Although food production is essential for a healthy population, an increasing threat to global human health is antimicrobial resistance. Extensive antibiotic resistant strains are now being detected in all environments; the spread of these strains could greatly reduce medical treatment options available and increase deaths from previously curable infections. Antibiotic resistance is widespread due in part to overuse and misuse; however, the natural processes of horizontal gene transfer and mutation events that allow genetic exchange within microbial communities have been ongoing since ancient times. By their nature, aquaculture systems contain high numbers of diverse bacteria, which exist in combination with the current and past use of antibiotics, probiotics, prebiotics, and other treatment regimens—singularly or in combination. These systems have been designated as “genetic hotspots” for gene transfer. As our reliance on aquaculture grows, it is essential that we identify the sources and sinks of antimicrobial resistance, and monitor and analyse the transfer of antimicrobial resistance between the microbial community, the environment, and the farmed product, in order to better understand the implications to human and environmental health. In this project different aquaculture systems such as, open environment, open organic and closed recirculating will be examined for the presence and transfer of clinically important antimicrobial resistance genes, using a number of molecular and traditional tools. To better understand the resistome laboratory based studies will be employed, to model the transfer frequencies and hot spots. Transfer of antimicrobial resistance provides a global threat to healthcare systems and human longevity, it is therefore critical that we better understand how AMR genes persist in the environment and spread - especially into clinically relevant pathogen species.

Supervisor profiles

Dr Joy Watts

Dr Michelle Hale

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

An understanding of how the environmental resistome interacts with the food chains and its effects on the sustainability of high density aquaculture are critically important


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Joy Watts at (02392 846211) or Dr Michelle Hale at (02392 842290).

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

When applying, please quote project code: BIOL4010218.

Interview date: TBC

Start date: October 2018.

Funding notes

The fully-funded, full-time three-year studentship provides a stipend that is in line with that offered by Research Councils UK of £14,553 per annum.

The above applies for Home/EU students only.

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