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Applications are now open for PhD studentships starting in October 2018. 

Please read the recruitment introduction for more information about eligibility, how to apply, and possibilities for further funding.

The deadline for applications is 8 January 2018.

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LAKE_UENV18EE - Is it safe to go into the sea? Climate change and vibrio bacteria (CASE studentship with Cefas)

Project description

Selected other project supervisors
Dr Craig Baker-Austin (Cefas)

Figure. Sea salinity across Europe. Low salinity in the Baltic and Eastern North Sea region represent the regions where most Vibrio infections are reported

Scientific background
There is huge uncertainty in terms of how climate change may affect human of health (IPCC 2014), and this PhD provides an exciting opportunity to explore these research questions.

Vibrios are Gram negative bacteria that grow in marine and estuarine environments. They thrive in warm, low salinity waters. Current climate warming is believed to be behind the significant increase in vibrio infections, especially in Europe. As such, vibrios are considered the pathogen group in Europe of greatest concern because of climate change (Baker-Austin et al., 2012). Rising sea temperature and vibrios are identified as a future risk for UK populations (Lake, 2016). However, a fundamental unknown is how their abundance and the incidence of vibrio infections will change as a consequence of climate change.

Research methodology
This PhD project will gather relevant climatic, epidemiological and oceanographic data, to develop a clear understanding of the role of climate warming on the expansion of these pathogens.

  1. You will gather health datasets gathered by European disease surveillance centres and combine these with relevant climate data such as sea surface temperature and salinity to develop an understanding of the influence of environmental factors upon human health (i.e. vibrio infections). These outputs will be used to inform our real-time risk assessments.
  2. You will apply the relationships uncovered in (1) to a number of regional climate models, for different levels of climate change, to generate future projections for vibrios and human illnesses in European waters.
  3. Finally, you will model a number of future scenarios for vibrios taking into account likely population change, trends in the recreational use of coastal waters and possible intervention strategies to minimize the risk of infections.


You will be based at UEA but undergo training at Cefas Weymouth in molecular microbiological techniques, and use their laboratories for microbial analyses.  

Person specification
As a minimum you should have a good first degree (2:1 or higher) in science, geography or a related subject, but most of all have an interest how climate change may affect human health.

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with over twenty other research partners. Undertaking a PhD with the EnvEast DTP will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by EnvEast on 12/13 February 2018.

Selected candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - in 2017/18, the stipend is £14,553. Ordinarily, EnvEast studentships are for 3.5 years, although longer awards may be made to applicants from quantitative disciplines who have limited experience in the environmental sciences, to allow them to take appropriate advanced-level courses in the subject area.

In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a stipend. For non-UK EU-resident applicants NERC funding can be used to cover tuition fees, RTSG and training costs, but not any part of the stipend. Individual institutes may, however, elect to provide a stipend from their own resources.

This PhD studentship is expected to begin in September/October 2018. Both full-time and part-time study are possible (those planning to study part-time may wish to discuss this with the supervisor before applying).


  1. Baker-Austin, C. et al. (2012). Emerging Vibrio risk at high latitudes in response to ocean warming. Nat. Clim. Change 3(1), 73-77 (DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1628).
  2. Lake, I.R. (2015). Food-borne disease and contamination. In S. Kovats (eds.) (2015) Health Climate Change Impacts Summary Report Cared, Living with Environmental Change.
  3. Baker-Austin, C., J. A. Trinanes, S. Salmenlinna, M. Löfdahl, A. Siitonen and J. Martinez-Urtaza. (2016). Heatwave-associated vibriosis in Sweden and Finland, 2014.  In press, Emerg. Infect. Dis.
  4. Vezzulli, L., et al. (2016). Climate influence on Vibrio and associated human diseases during the past half-century in the coastal North Atlantic. PNAS, 1609157113v1-201609157.
  5. IPCC (2014). Human health: impacts, adaptation, and co-benefits. . In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.