PhD Studentship (EASTBIO: Ref 02-11-19)

UKRI-level stipend
Closing date: 
Sunday 05 January 2020

EASTBIO: Holistic approach to internal parasite control on hill and upland sheep farms

Project description


Dr Fiona Kenyon, Moredun Research Institute

Dr Claire Morgan-Davies, SRUC, Hill and Mountain Research Centre

Dr Philip Skuce, Moredun Research Institute;;

Dr Ann McLaren, SRUC, Hill and Mountain Research Centre

Prof Neil Sargison, The University of Edinburgh

This PhD will investigate ways to optimise roundworm and liver fluke control in hill and upland sheep, to address the issue of increased anthelmintic (wormer) resistance in flocks. In Scotland, there are ~ 15,000 hill and upland farms with sheep, representing ~60% of the whole agricultural area1.  Despite this predominance, sheep production on these farms is becoming increasingly challenging. Currently, roundworm and fluke control is achieved by anthelmintic use at flock level, but regular whole-flock treatment may select strongly for resistance. Alternative approaches to control parasites whilst maintaining drug efficacy, include faecal egg count (FEC) monitoring, Targeted Selective anthelmintic Treatment (TST), pasture management and host genetic selection. However, their effectiveness will depend on the willingness and ability of farmers to implement them, as each option will have different financial and management implications. 

Recent research on the use of a weight-based precision livestock farming TST method has been carried out by the Moredun Research Institute (MRI) and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), with promising results in terms of reduced use of anthelmintics by 40-50% without adversely affecting lamb production2,3.

This project will identify the scale of anthelmintic related issues faced by hill and upland sheep farmers, by gathering questionnaire information from both farmers and veterinary practices. In parallel, focus farms will be identified, their parasite challenge assessed and their approach to internal parasite control monitored over a full production year. After initial data collection and analysis, customised options for parasite control will be proposed, implemented and monitored on focus farms over the next production year. You will follow detailed sampling protocols and analysis with supervision from staff at SRUC, MRI and University of Edinburgh. Forecasting bio-economic modelling will be used to test the options available. After implementation, economic and performance data will be collected, to analyse the economic effects of improved disease control at farm level. This will allow practical recommendations on optimum internal parasite control on hill and upland sheep farms to be made.


  1. Identify the internal parasite challenge on hill and upland sheep farms
  2. Identify, test and monitor options for internal parasite control on case study/focus farms (approximately 12, including sample collection and analysis)
  3. Propose optimum methods of internal parasite control
  4. Obtain and assess feedback from farmers on implemented methods
  5. Identify and model the economic effects of holistic internal parasite control at farm level

Research Training: You will be mostly based at MRI where you will be integrated into the internationally recognised Parasitology group. You will have regular contact/visits to SRUC Hill and Mountain Research Centre and be registered for your degree at University of Edinburgh.

MRI’s expertise is focused on research and application of practical and sustainable control strategies for helminth parasites of livestock, whilst SRUC’s is on systems research and economic impact assessment. You will learn a range of applied parasitology skills, and novel molecular species identification techniques, as well as protocols for conducting and analysing questionnaires and computer modelling. MRI, SRUC and UoE have close relationships with the farming community, all supervisors actively engage in KE at local and national events and you would be encouraged to participate.

[1] Scottish Government, 2016

2 Greer et al, 2009, Development and field evaluation of a decision support model for anthelmintic treatments as part of a targeted selective treatment (TST) regime in lambs. Veterinary Parasitology 164, 12-20.

3 Morgan-Davies et al, 2018. Impacts of using a precision livestock system targeted approach in mountain sheep flocks. Livestock Science. 208:67-76. DOI:

Application Procedure:

Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts and CV to Moredun Research Institute Human Resources at Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. Please advise your referees to return the reference form to

Funding Notes:

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. This opportunity is only open to UK nationals (or EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3+ years immediately prior to the programme start date) due to restrictions imposed by the funding body. Queries on eligibility? Email Human Resources at the Moredun Research Institute at

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

We anticipate that an initial interview will be held at the Moredun Research Institute during the week commencing 13th January 2020 with a second EASTBIO interview being held in the week commencing 10th February with awards being made in the following week.

Application deadline is 5th January 2020.