PhD Opportunity: Salmon louse treatment efficacies

Molecular mechanisms underlying variability in hydrogen peroxide treatment susceptibility in the salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis – towards an understanding of differences in treatment efficacies

Project Description


The salmon louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis (Krøyer, 1837) is an ectoparasite infecting wild and farmed salmonid fishes. At high infection levels, salmon lice can cause skin lesions leading to osmotic imbalances and a variety of health impacts. Control of salmon lice infections at fish farms is mandatory to safeguard farmed animal health and welfare and prevent impacts of farm-origin parasites on wild fish populations.

Salmon louse control relies upon an integrated pest management strategy combining non-medicinal approaches, such as biological control using cleaner fish, and treatments with veterinary drugs applied as topical baths or medicated feeds. Chemical control strategies are potentially threatened by the risk of resistance development, particularly when a treatment is overused and rotation between drugs of different modes of action is not applied.

Project description

This three year collaborative PhD project between the University of Stirling and Solvay Interox limited, the producer of hydrogen peroxide used in delousing baths, aims to provide insights into molecular pathways affecting the susceptibility of salmon lice to hydrogen peroxide. Work within the PhD project will mainly take place at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, but also involve experimentation at the Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (MERL) located in Machrihanish on the Kintyre peninsula. It is desirable that applicants hold a driving licence, and essential that they are comfortable with working away from home for short periods. The experimental approach will involve the analysis of laboratory maintained parasite strains showing heritable differences in hydrogen peroxide susceptibility. Genetic crosses between strains will be made and the generated families will be used in screens for single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) showing association to the susceptibility phenotype. Parallel transcriptomic and proteomic experiments will elucidate pathways that are differentially regulated between salmon lice differing in susceptibility. An important translational aim of the project is to identify molecular markers that can be used for the fast diagnosis of hydrogen peroxide resistance in farm situations.

About us

Founded in 1967, the University of Stirling is home to leading researchers and scholars attracted by the unique learning environment, exceptional facilities and student-centred approach, where ability, not background, is recognised and valued. The Faculty of Natural Sciences, which brings together the Institute of Aquaculture, Biological & Environmental Sciences, Psychology and Computing Science & Mathematics, offers a unique academic environment where new ideas on the complex and challenging relationships between human behaviours and social, biological and environmental systems are explored.

How to apply

To apply, send a covering letter and supporting documents to by 17:00 GMT on Wednesday June 15th 2016. Candidates will then be selected and interviewed w/c 20th June 2016. The PhD will start by September 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter. Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a first class or good upper second class degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate biological, medical or veterinary science. Some experience of genetics, genomics, population genetics, molecular biology or bioinformatics will be an advantage, but is not essential. Applicants are asked to enclose the following supporting documents with their application:

  • CV/Resume
  • Degree certificate
  • Language test (if relevant)
  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • Personal statement
  • Reference 1 (should be from an academic who has knowledge of your academic ability from your most recent study/programme)
  • Reference 2 (should be from an academic who has knowledge of your academic ability)
  • Transcript

Funding Notes

The studentship offers an annual stipend of £14,057 per annum for three years and payment of tuition fees (current value £4052). Due to funding restrictions, these studentships only provide funding for students from the UK/EU.


Rose S, Altenburger R, Sturm A. 2016. Mixture toxicity effects of sea louse control agents in Daphnia magna. Chemosphere, 144:599-606.

Carmona-Antoñanzas G, Carmichael SN, Heumann J, Taggart JB, Gharbi K, Bron JE, Bekaert M, Sturm A. 2015. A Survey of the ATP-Binding Cassette (ABC) Gene Superfamily in the Salmon Louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis). Plos One, 10(9), e0137394.

Carmichael SN, Bekaert M, Taggart JB, Christie HRL, Bassett DI, Bron JE, Skuce PJ, Gharbi K, Skern-Mauritzen R, Sturm A. 2013. Identification of a sex-linked SNP marker in the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) using RAD sequencing. PloS One 8(10): e77832.

Carmichael SN, Bron JE, Taggart JB, Ireland JH, Bekaert M, Burgess STG, Skuce PJ, Nisbet AJ, Gharbi K & Sturm A. 2013. Salmon lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) showing varying emamectin benzoate susceptibilities differ in neuronal acetylcholine receptor and GABA-gated chloride channel mRNA expression. BMC Genomics 14: 408.

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