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Undergraduates 2013-2014

Professional Training Year (PTY) Students

Philipa Ball

Philippa Ball

Philippa Ball

Professional Training Year at Cardiff University: Establishment of BARC (Bag And Remove in Cymru)

I have always had a keen interest in all aspects of biology, including veterinary medicine and throughout my BSc Zoology degree at Cardiff University, I developed a particular interest in Parasitology. I now have the opportunity to merge these interests during my Professional Training Year (PTY) supervised by Prof. Jo Cable. In 2013 I helped establish and I now manage the project BARC (Bag and Remove in Cymru). This project tackles infectious diseases and the socio-economic problems linked to dog fouling in collaboration with Keep Wales Tidy, Cardiff County Council Park Rangers and Dr Eric Morgan and his colleagues at Bristol Veterinary School. For the remainder of my PTY, I manage the parasitology fish labs giving me invaluable management experience and the opportunity to assist with a range of different field and lab projects.

Rob Elmer

Rob Elmer

Rob Elmer

Professional Training Year with the Cardiff University Otter Project: The effects of pollutants on otter bacula

As part of my Professional Training Year project I am looking at the effects of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) on the size & bone mineral density (BMD) of otter bacula. This follows a report published by Cardiff University Otter Project in 2013 that found an increase in reproductive abnormalities and a reduction in bacula (otter penis bone) weight in male otters.

The project aims to measure the length, width and weight bacula collected across England and Wales between 1995 and 2009, and to measure the BMD of a representative subsample using a CT scanner at the Heath Hospital. Data analysis will test for associations with previously measured contaminant concentrations, including PCBs and organochlorine pesticides. Results may have significant implications for the reproductive health of all mammals.

Ben Fowle

Ben Fowle

Ben Fowle

Professional Training Year at Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy: Using GIS (Geographic Information System) to identify and quantiy microbial communities. Supervised by Sarah Perkins

I am spending my PTY at Fondazione Edmund Mach, investigating a novel analytical tool for quantifying bacterial communities. Images of bacteria communities are acquired using a hyperspectral sensor and combined with open-source image analysis software, namely “GRASS GIS”. The reflectance spectra of bacterial species and communities are recorded and compared with controls to determine unique spectral reflectance of specific bacteria species and communities. I aim to explore a cheap, quick method to obtain real-time diversity and composition of bacterial communities.

Kieran O'Malley

Kieran O’Malley

Kieran O’Malley

Professional Training Year at Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy: Network analysis of microbial communities. Supervised by Sarah Perkins

I am spending my PTY working with the ‘ECOBIOME’ group at Fondazione Edmund Mach, in which we study the microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract of wild yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis). We aim to understand how the bacterial community within the gastrointestinal tract interacts with their corresponding macrobiome (helminths).

The microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract is composed of a complex network of interacting bacterial species, most of which contribute to the maintenance of a normal working digestive system, and consequently host health maintenance. Though many of the taxa within the gastrointestinal tract have been classified down to the genus or species level, there is a surprisingly little research establishing the interactions between them. For this reason, my research will expand from the work carried out within the ECOBIOME group, in which I aim to develop a comprehensive understanding of the interactions between bacterial taxa (i.e. co-occurrence patterns) within the gastrointestinal tract of A. flavicollis. I aim to achieve this by carrying out network analysis of sequenced microbiota and combine this with phenotypic traits of bacteria.

Anja Tober

Anya Tober

Professional Training Year at Cardiff University Otter Project: Monitor lizards at Danau Girang Field Centre in the Kinabatangan rainforest of Sabah, Borneo. Collaboration with Drs Benoit Goossens, Ian Vaughan and Prof. Jo Cable.

Habitat fragmentation and loss is currently a major threat to tropical rainforests in Borneo due to the sudden increase of industrial crops such as oil palm. This agricultural development has left the Sabah region of Borneo with highly fragmented secondary forest interspersed with oil palm plantations. Alteration in habitat can have a great impact on the species inhabiting these areas as well as the parasites harboured by them. This study aims to assess the impact of fragmentation on the host-parasite interactions of the Water Monitor Lizard Varanus salvator, focusing on heamoparasite and ectoparasite intensities within secondary forests and oil palm plantations. The lizards are trapped and sampled in a number of plantation and forest sites using traps baited with chicken intestines. Once a lizard is caught morphological measurements and samples such as blood, scale and saliva are taken. The lizard’s body is scanned for ticks which are collected and later identified using existing keys. The heamoparasites intensities are assessed by creating blood smears and the total cell count and packed cell volume of the blood is also estimated to see whether the heamoparasites have a negative effect on the blood cells.

Heather Wood

Heather Wood

Professional Training Year with Cardiff University Otter Project: Investigating the distribution of Toxoplasma gondii bradyzoite cysts in otter tissues with a view to genetically type the different strains present across UK otter populations.

I am a third year Neuroscience undergraduate student currently undertaking a Professional Training Year with Cardiff University Otter Project alongside fellow PTY student Rob Elmer. My responsibilities include performing post-mortem examinations of otters found dead in the UK, volunteer recruitment and coordination, public engagement and liaising with environmental authorities as well as an independent research project investigating the prevalence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii within otter tissues.Toxoplasma gondii is a parasitic protozoan capable of infecting virtually all warm-blooded animals. It’s seroprevalence in otters was examined by Chadwick et al. (2013) and found to be 39.5%. My research will use tissues from the known seropositive individuals identified by Chadwick et al. to investigate whether any one tissue is more likely to harbour T. gondii tissue cysts, and later to genetically type the different strains present.​

Final Year Project Students

Below is a list of the projects that some of the Biology/Ecology/Zoology final year undergraduate students have carried out within CRIPES.

Ali Baird: ‘Impact of artificial lighting on invasive crayfish’

Clare Baranowski: ‘Biology of Branchiobdellid worms’

Heather Chick: ‘The incidence of Toxocara spp. in children’s play areas’

Michael Reynolds: ‘Investigating olfactory perception in the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata: can guppies smell Gyrodactylus turnbulli infections of conspecifics?’

Chiara Singh: ‘The effect of climate change on parasites’

Willow Smallbone: ‘Assessing the toxicity of nitrates in the Guppy (Poecilia reticulata)-parasite (Gyrodactylus turnbulli) system’


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