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PhD project - demography and epidemiology of the contagious cancer in Tasmanian devils

Job Type: full-time temporary position

Location: Tasmania

Posting Date: 23 Jan 14

Closing Date: 24 Apr 14

The project: Demography and epidemiology of Tasmanian devils and facial tumour disease in long-diseased areas
Infectious diseases of wildlife can cause extinction, particularly when transmission is dependent on density-independent contact such as occurs during seasonal breeding. Tasmanian devils, the world’s largest marsupial carnivore, are threatened with extinction in the wild from a novel contagious cancer. Almost all animals contract the disease and die once they reach sexual maturity when exposure increases during sexual conflict in mating and male contests. While the facial tumour disease has caused in excess of 90% population decline in eastern Tasmania where the disease has been present for 15 years, devils still persist. The aim of this project is to understand the demographic processes in the host populations and the epidemiology of the disease in these long-diseased areas in a framework of microevolution of the host and tumour. Temporal change will be studied at two long-term study sites with regular trapping and sampling of the devil population and tumours. Spatial population processes will be studied at a regional scale using a combination of remote cameras, non-invasive hair collection, field trapping and population genetics of dispersal.

Skills required? This is a field-based study with strong statistical and laboratory genetics components. Minimum requirement for candidature is 2A Honours. Selection of applicants will be based on merit.

Project funding: This project is funded under a collaborative US National Science Foundation grant “Emergence, transmission and evolution of Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease” (including Menna Jones).

Supervisors: Dr Menna Jones, Dr Rodrigo Hamede and Dr Chris Burridge.

Scholarships: applicants will need to apply for a scholarship
Domestic students (Australia and New Zealand) can apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) through the University of Tasmania worth $24,653, with merit-based schemes available for top-ups.
International students: UTAS offers a number of schemes by which international students can obtain a scholarship; some offer assistance with tuition fees. Prospective candidates are also encouraged to seek scholarship schemes from their own country.

UTAS provides a free laptop to all PhD students and funding schemes for international conference attendance during the PhD.


Contact Information:

Please send an email to Dr Jennifer Sprent with a statement of your background and interest in the project, your Curriculum Vitae, and a copy of your undergraduate academic transcripts.
Email:; Phone: +61 0439 591262

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