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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Molecular diagnostics for pollinator health

Supervisor: Dr Yannick Wurm

Project description

Effective pollination is crucial for the stability of the ecosystem, and for crop productivity. Governments had approved what they thought were "safe" levels of pesticides. But in fact, the pesticides are generic neurotoxins: they reduce the learning abilities, dexterity, foraging ability and ultimately survival of pollinators who consume nectar or pollen. As a result, to protect bees, hoverflies, butterflies, beetles and other pollinators, several commonly used pesticides have now been banned.

Thus there is an urgent need for approaches that are more powerful and sensitive to identify pesticides that are safe. The 50,000-fold drop in the cost of DNA sequence over the past 10 years has completely changed medical research and practice. Inspired by the changes, we are developing high-resolution molecular diagnostics approaches for pollinator health – these are poised to fundamentally change for the better how research on pesticides is performed and the mechanisms through which the effects of such crop chemicals are evaluated.

We will collaborate with relevant national and international partners and stakeholders. The student will receive extensive training in big data bioinformatics, phylogenomics, data visualisation, and experimental research approaches in evolution and genomics. Furthermore, the student will receive hands-on training in interdisciplinary project management, communicating science in writing and verbally, including by presenting at workshops and conferences.

Eligibility and applying

Applicants can refer to the minimum entry requirements and English language requirements for our PhD programmes on our entry requirements page.

For more specific advice on experience/skills required for the project, and for any other enquiries about the project, please contact Dr Yannick Wurm ( 

Before submitting a formal online application, it is recommended that you contact Dr Wurm by email to express your interest in the project, also including your CV and information on how you intend to fund your studies.


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