PhD: Pathways to parasitism in the kinetoplastids
Recent environmental DNA surveys have revealed that close relatives of kinetoplastid parasites are some of the most abundant organisms in the world’s oceans, and monitoring of UK fish and shellfish stocks has identified several novel fish and crustacean parasites that represent early-diverging members of the kinetoplastid clade. These parasites are distantly related to those causing disease in humans, but potentially share some of the same genomic adaptations. The aim of this project is to sequence the genomes of three of these new parasites, and compare them to existing kinetoplastid genomes, in order to address the following questions:
1. What is the environmental diversity of basal kinetoplastids, and how prevalent are they in UK aquaculture stocks?
2. How was the suite of adaptations observed in human-infecting kinetoplastids assembled during the evolution of the group, and which features are shared with the novel aquacultural parasites?
3. Can we identify parasitic genes shared across the kinetoplastids that might represent new drug targets?
This project is an industrial CASE collaboration between Dr. Tom Williams (Earth Sciences, University of Bristol), Prof. Wendy Gibson (Biological Sciences, Bristol) and Dr. David Bass (Cefas), and represents an exciting training opportunity to learn distinct but highly complementary sets of skills: bioinformatics (including genome assembly and analysis) from Dr. Williams, cell biology from Prof. Gibson and parasitological methods (sampling, histopathology, in situ hybridisation, transmission electron microscopy) at Cefas. You will be based at Bristol, but the project will also include a secondment at Cefas in Weymouth. These skills will equip you not only for a career in academic research, but also for a variety of other fields (government laboratory work, science applied to policy, diagnostics) and are valued in and transferable to data science, computing, and finance.