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Photo: Danny Rogers

Are pollutants and emerging diseases

endangering a global migratory flyway?
Project Summary
Are pollutants and emerging diseases endangering a global
Title of Project migratory flyway?

School/Institute School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Campus Waurn Ponds (Geelong)

Principal Supervisor Prof Marcel Klaassen

Veerle Jaspers, NTNU, Norway
Additional Supervision team
Aeron Hurt, Peter Doherty, Melbourne

Research Topic

Among all long-distance migratory birds, the ~8M shorebirds along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway have
notably been hit hard by global change, with population declines up to 80%. This Australian-Research-Council
funded project investigates the role of chemical pollution on disease susceptibility and survival in these
shorebirds. This will be done using data from birds on their Asian migratory stopover sites, along with data
from 7 years of blood and virus samples, and 38 years of banding data collected by the Victorian Wader Study
Group while the birds are staying on the Australian non-breeding grounds. The research, conducted in
collaboration with the Victorian Wader Study Group, Australasian Wader Studies Group, Taiwan Wader Study
Group, ecologists from Shenzhen University of Science and Technology, eco-toxicologists from the Norwegian
University of Science and Technology and virologists from the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne, will
provide essential data for developing mitigation strategies to help curb the populations’ demise, while
simultaneously informing on the effects of pollution on the role of migrants in disease spread.

Project Aim

The project includes five specific objectives:
1) How do pollutant levels affect the survival of migratory shorebirds?
2) Are there geographical ‘hot-spots’ along the East Asian coast that result in high levels of pollutants in
migratory birds and how do these alter migratory performance?
3) How do pollutant levels in individual birds change at different points of their migration and over a
4) How do pollutant levels alter the diversity and prevalence of viruses, bacteria or fungi present in migratory
birds at both the population and individual level?
5) How do pollutant levels alter influenza virus infection?

For conducting this work we seek the involvement of an enthusiastic and talented PhD candidate that will be
involved in the fieldwork and the integration of the various data sources (including data on pollutant and
microorganism prevalence collected by others within the consortium).

Value and Duration

Value: a stipend of $27,596 per annum tax exempt (2019 rate). Tuition fee waiver. A relocation allowance
from $500 to $1,500 (for single to family) awarded to students who are moving from interstate or overseas in
order to study at Deakin. For international students only: overseas health coverage for the duration of the
tuition fees offset.
Duration: 3 years for stipend and 4 years for the tuition fees offset.
For further details see: DUPR value and duration.

Eligibility criteria
• We welcome both domestic and international applicants. Applicants must meet Deakin's PhD
entry requirements, be enrolling full time and hold an Honours degree (First Class) or an
equivalent standard Master's degree with a substantial research component. Please refer to the
entry pathways to higher degrees by research for further information.
• Desirable: Applicants will preferably have some experience with handling large data sets and
appropriate techniques for analysing them (e.g. phylogenetic comparative analysis, linear
models, model selection). Experience with R would be advantageous.
• Desirable: Previous experience of either of working with museum specimens, or research
experience with birds would be advantageous

Important Dates
Advertisement closing date 7 June 2019

How to Apply

Please send an application letter, together with your CV, to Prof Marcel Klaassen

Further Information

Primary contact name Prof Marcel Klaassen

Primary contact phone number +61 (0)3 5277 2464

Primary contact email