Biogeography of microbial bioaerosols in a changing climate

Website University of Essex School of Life Sciences

About the Project
Supervisory Team:

Dr Robert Ferguson (School of Life Sciences, University of Essex)

Professor Alex Dumbrell (School of Life Sciences, The University of Essex)

Dr Philippa Douglas (Public Health England. Air Quality and Public Health, Environmental Hazards and Emergencies Department. Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards)

Dr Emma Marczylo (Public Health England. Toxicology Department Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards

Scientific background: This multidisciplinary project will incorporate ecology, public health, and data science to investigate how changes in the climate will drive the ecology of, and our exposure to, the atmospheric microbiome.

The air we breathe is teeming with microorganisms and other biogenic particulates (collectively referred to as bioaerosols). Once inhaled, bioaerosols are associated with a wide range of negative health effects. For example, allergies and infectious diseases such as aspergillosis. Bioaerosols also play important roles in the Earth system by influencing atmospheric chemistry, weather, and microbial dispersal.

Climate change is driving range shifts in many taxa, and microorganisms are no exception. For bioaerosols this is further confounded as their emission and size profiles vary with climate. Due to the profound public health and ecological impacts there is an urgent need to understand how climate will alter bioaerosol biogeography.

Research methodology: You will combine advanced computational methods, field work, and molecular biology to investigate how climate change will drive the biogeography of bioaerosols.

Combining sampling across Europe with existing data, you will use DNA sequencing/metabarcoding to predict airborne microbiome range shifts, and use experimental work and local field sampling (East England) to investigate how climate drives emission profiles of bioaerosols.

Training: You will gain highly sought skills in computer science, bioinformatics, data analysis/statistical modelling, GIS, R, as well as laboratory (molecular biology) and field work skills (including air sampling).

Benefiting from a broad supervisory team comprising academics (The University of Essex) and government scientists at Public Health England, you will become an expert in one of the greatest challenges facing the modern world – the link between air pollution and public health in a changing climate – opening the doors to careers across research, academia, government and policy, ecology, public health, data science.

Person specification: Applicants should have obtained a degree in a relevant biological sciences discipline (environmental science, ecology, bioinformatics) but candidates with skills in computing, who want to gain lab and fieldwork skills are encouraged to apply.

How to apply: Please send a covering letter and CV to [email protected]

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