Self-funded PhD opportunities

The effects of neurological drugs (antidepressants) on aquatic wildlife

  • Application end date: All year round
  • Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
  • Department: School of Biological Sciences
  • PhD Supervisor: Alex Ford

A wide range of biologically active pharmaceutical compounds can be detected in rivers and estuaries as a result of human, veterinary and industrial waste. Currently the technology in our sewage treatment processes is unable to eliminate the vast majority of these chemicals resulting in highly biologically active compounds impacting the health of our ecosystems. Antidepressants are act by modulating the action of the neurohormone and neurotransmitter, serotonin. Within many of the invertebrates, serotonin not only controls behaviour, but also growth, reproduction, metabolism and maturation. Therefore, any chemicals in the environment with the capacity to alter serotonin also have the capability to disrupt wide-scale biological functions (Fong and Ford, 2014). Currently the ability to determine neuroendocrine disruption in the wildlife has been hindered by lack of appropriate biomarkers. For example, altered behaviour can be very transient in time, hard to quantify and practically impossible to detect in the wild. Fortunately, and unlike other biological systems (e.g. reproduction), the nervous systems of animals (invertebrates and vertebrates) are relatively conserved meaning that advanced techniques employed in the biomedical sciences are more easily transferred to non-model organisms. Humans exposed to long-term antidepressants have displayed increased neurological dysfunction thus it is conceivable that wildlife exposed to long-term neurological disrupting chemicals may issue display neural function and architecture.

The aim of this project would be to transfer and optimise skills and techniques employed in advanced neurobiology to assist in the developed of appropriate ecotoxicological biomarkers in invertebrate crustaceans. The student would be trained in ecotoxicology, immunohistochemistry and molecular techniques with the view to determining whether environmental exposures of neuroendocrine disrupters can alter the neurophysiology of key crustacean species.

Funding Notes:

This PhD opportunity is available to self-funded students. Bench fees may apply. For more information please contact the project supervisor.

How to apply:

To apply or make an enquiry, please visit postgraduate research: Biological sciences

All applications should use our standard application forms and follow the instructions given under the ‘Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages:

When applying please note the project code - BIOL2890217