SAIC funded PhD studentships:

2 July 2015

Scaling up production and implementation of farmed cleaner fish in the Scottish Salmon industry

2nd July 2015

SUPERVISORS: Prof. Herve Migaud, Prof. Sandra Adams, Dr. Andrew Davie and Dr. Oscar Monroig from the Institute of Aquaculture (University of Stirling, School of Natural Sciences) and Dave Cockerill from Marine Harvest (Scotland) Ltd (MHS).

BACKGROUND: Atlantic salmon is Scotland's largest food export with a value of �400 million per year. The industry and Scottish government aspire for the salmon industry to grow by >25% and produce 210,000 tonnes by 2020, however this depends upon new farming areas and improved production efficiency. Sea lice Lepeophtheirus salmonis are the Scottish Salmon industry's main health challenge that represents a barrier to this expansion. The UK is restricted in the number of licensed anti-sea lice medicines and current therapeutants are becoming less effective. A 'greener alternative' to lice control is being sought. Cohabitation with cleaner fish, especially wrasse, has been shown to significantly reduce the sea lice challenge to salmon and can significantly reduce and even abolish the requirement of medicines for sea lice control through entire production cycles. However, collection and use of wild wrasse is not a sustainable solution and thus culture of wrasse is widely accepted to be the way forward. However, the UK wrasse farming industry is still in its infancy and is facing numerous production challenges that limit the upscaling of wrasse production. Research must now focus on boosting numbers and quality, shortening time required to reach deployment and conditioning prior to deployment for optimal delousing efficacy. A new project funded by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre was initiated in June 2015 bringing together world leading salmon producers and feed manufacturer (Marine Harvest, Scottish Seafarms and BioMar) and Stirling academics leading wrasse research in the UK. The main outcomes of the project will include a series of standardised protocols, research tools and new knowledge of the biology of the species that will ultimately result in increased production volume of high quality farmed wrasse in partner hatcheries, and improved delousing efficacy in on growing sites.

PROJECT: Two PhD studentship (3 years each) are offered as part of the project with the following outline remits:

1) Enhanced robustness and welfare of farmed ballan wrasse juveniles with a focus on nutritional and environmental requirements: This studentship will look at the optimisation of rearing practices in early and juvenile life stages to assure that the farmed wrasse are robust and perform optimally during cage deployment. The student will explore the impact of rearing regimes (e.g. live feed enrichment, probiotics, environmental conditions like temperature etc) on traits of commercial relevance in the hatchery (e.g. deformity prevalence, growth, survival) as well as following deployment (delousing activity, survival).

2) Health management of farmed ballan wrasse: focus on bacterial and parasitic challenge, and mitigation strategies. This studentship will perform a body of research intended to improve our understanding of bacterial and parasitic challenges in ballan wrasse and ultimately test mitigation methods (e.g. vaccines) that will increase survivial and assure animal resilience during deployment. This project will first aim to develop tools to monitor the innate and adaptive immune response in ballan wrasse. Then, challenge trials against atypical furunculosis and other pathogens (e.g. AGD) will be performed. Finally, immunological markers of resistance will be investigated and new vaccines tested.

In both projects, the work will involve tank studies at the Machrihanish Environmental Research Laboratory as well as filed investigations on commercial sites (wrasse hatcheries and salmon cage sites) along with laboratory based analyses in Stirling.

TRAINING: Students will be trained in a range of topic specific techniques e.g. nutritional and disease challenge experiments, salmon husbandry and lab techniques such as immune/enzymatic/molecular assays and other transcriptomic/imaging tools as required, as well as scientific writing / reporting.

APPLICANTS: Candidates must have a First / Upper Second Class BSc / MSc in a relevant subject. It is not expected that candidates will have experience in all of above techniques, but they will need to demonstrate the aptitude and commitment to be trained and work in both a laboratory as well as a farm environment. The applicants will be based at the UoS but periods of time (max 1-2 month/year) will be spent at external facilities on the west coast of Scotland. A valid UK approved driving license is an essential criteria.

Applicants are encouraged to contact Prof. Herve Migaud (hm7@stir.ac.uk , telephone +44 1786 467886) for further details of the project.

APPLICATION PROCESS: To apply, send a covering letter and up-to-date CV to by 21st August 2015. Candidates will then be selected and interviewed. The PhD will start in October 2015 or earlier if possible

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