PhD Studentship: Is it safe to go into the sea? Climate change and vibrio bacteria (LAKE_UENV17EE)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Sciences

Start Date: October 2017

Supervisor: Dr Iain Lake

Project description:  

Scientific background

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 microbiological, epidemiological, oceanographic and climatic data, as well as climate projection data, to develop a clear understanding of the role of climate warming on the expansion of these pathogens.

  1. You will gather epidemiological datasets gathered by European disease surveillance centres and combine these with climatic indices such as relevant sea surface temperature datasets to develop an understanding of the influence of environmental factors upon vibrio infections.
  2. Through a targeted summer field campaign in the Baltic, and in combination with collaborators in the Baltic, you will use a range of advance microbiological techniques to quantify the abundance and diversity of vibrios in coastal waters, and identify how these vary seasonally.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 or a related subject, but most of all have an interest in climate change and infectious diseases.

Funding notes: This project has been shortlisted for funding by the EnvEast NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, comprising the Universities of East Anglia, Essex and Kent, with twenty other research partners.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 14/15 February 2017.

Successful candidates who meet RCUK’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. In most cases, UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award. In 2016/17, the stipend was £14,296.

For further information, please visit

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