The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2012 | Measuring and modelling information and disease transmission under anthropogenic change
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Measuring and Modelling Information and Disease Transmission Under Anthropogenic Change

Lead Supervisor: Dr Andrew King (Royal Veterinary College)

Co-Supervisors: Professor Dirk Pfeiffer (Royal Veterinary College), Dr Ken Eames (LSHTM), Dr Jon Bielby (Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London)

The succesful applicant will use carefully designed experiments and social network theory to understand and predict the responses and adaptations of gregarious freshwater fish and amphibians to human-induced environmental change. The studentship asks how these changes influence association/contact patterns and mixing in social networks, and consequently transmission of information and diseases within micro- and macro-populations. We hypothesise that changes in the environment will indirectly affect network structures, but the consequences of this are difficult to predict. Changes could increase contact rates (e.g. increased cohesion), and so heighten disease and information transmission. Conversely, changes could reduce contact rates (e.g. reduced activity), dampening disease and information transmission. Depending on the direction and magnitude of these effects, anthropogenic change could therefore result in a net costs or benefits to populations.

The successful applicant will benefit from working within a lively research environment within the Structure and Motion Laboratory and the Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health Group at the Royal Veterinary College Hawkshead Campus. The student will acquire diverse research skills, including field and laboratory techniques and advanced data analysis/statistical skills. The project will be supervised principally by Dr Andrew King, an expert on the structure and function of animal societies. The project will take an interdisciplinary approach and the student will work closely with Prof Dirk Pfeiffer (RVC) with expertise in analytical epidemiology, advanced multivariate techniques, spatial and temporal analysis of epidemiological data, Dr Ken Eames, a mathematical biologist based in the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (LSHTM) who is an expert on social network analyses, and Dr Jon Bielby (Institute of Zoology, ZSL) a conservation biologist whose expertise is how life-history, ecology and threat intensity interact to determine the susceptibility of a species.

Entry requirements

A strong undergraduate degree (at least an Upper Second Class Honours or equivalent) in a relative subject. An MSc and/or relevant experimental/methodological experience would also be an advantage.

Key References

  1. Danchin, E., Giraldeau, L-A., Valone, T.J., & Wagner, R.H. (2004) Public Information: From Nosy Neighbours to Cultural Evolution. Science. 305, 487-491.
  2. Eames, K.T. (2008) Modelling disease spread through random and regular contacts in clustered populations. Theoretical Population Biology. 73: 104-11.
  3. Haddadi, H., King, A.J., Wills, A.P., Fay, D., Lowe, J., Morton, A.J., Hailes, S & Wilson, A.M.(2011) Determining association networks in social animals: choosing spatial-temporal criteria and sampling rates. Behavioural Ecology & Sociobiology. 65: 1659-1668.
  4. Pfeiffer, D.U., Robinson, T.P., Stevenson, M., Stevens, K.B., Clements, A.C.A. & Rogers, D. (2008). Spatial analysis in epidemiology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 208pp.

Further details about this project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor:

Dr Andrew King,,,


Professor Dirk Pfeiffer,,

Dr Ken Eames,,

Dr Jon Bielby,,

Further information about PhDs at the Royal Veterinary College is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

The Graduate School

The Royal Veterinary College

Royal College Street

London NW1 0TU

United Kingdom


Tel: +44 (0) 20 7468 5134

Fax: +44 (0) 20 7468 5060

Closing dates for applications: this studentship is now closed.