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PhD project - Tasmanian devil social networks and disease transmission

Job Type: full-time temporary position

Location: Tasmania

Posting Date: 23 Jan 14

Closing Date: 24 Apr 14

The project: Social networks, behaviour and transmission of Tasmanian devils and facial tumour disease
Social behaviour has a critical role in the transmission and spread of infectious diseases. Describing the structure of a contact network within a population provides the rational basis for understanding and managing epidemic outbreaks in wildlife diseases. Tasmanian devils, the world’s largest marsupial carnivore, are disappearing in the wild from a novel contagious cancer. Almost all animals contract the disease and die once they reach sexual maturity. This project will utilise new technology in telemetry - proximity sensing radio-collars - to estimate the role of network metrics, social behaviour and bite wounds on transmission dynamics as the disease spreads through a wild population. Contact tracing of infected and susceptible individuals will generate data on who infects who, which will be used to estimate important epidemiological parameters such as incubation and latent periods of the disease and the association of network metrics and infection risk. Contact heterogeneities and network metrics at individual and population level will be parameterised to build epidemiological models aimed at predicting realistic infection dynamics at the disease front. This project will improve conservation management actions to protect wild devil populations.

Skills and background required?
This is a field-based study with a strong modelling and statistical component. We are seeking applicants who are experienced working for long periods in the field in potentially adverse conditions and who have a strong background in statistical modelling. 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” supporting an international team in the US, Australia and UK.

Scholarships: Applicants will need to apply for a PhD 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.


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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