Environment Magazine

Job: Research Associate in Eco-epidemiological Modelling

Posted on the 03 March 2017 by Bradshaw @conservbytes
Job: Research Associate in Eco-epidemiological modelling

European rabbit infected with myxomatosis

Earlier this week I advertised two new PhD scholarships in palaeo-ecological modelling. Now we are pleased to advertise a six-month Research Associate position in eco-epidemiological modelling.

The position will be based in the School of Biological Sciences at Flinders University. Flinders University offers a dynamic research environment that explores the continuum of environmental and evolutionary research from the ancient to modern ecology. The School of Biological Sciences is an integrated community researching and teaching biology, and has a long history of science innovation.

Project background

Since 1996, Biosecurity South Australia has been running a capture-mark-recapture study on a European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) population located at Turretfield (~ 50 km north of Adelaide). Now into the 21st year, this is one of the world’s longest studies of its kind. Approximately every 8 weeks cage traps are reset and the population trapped over five days, with the captured rabbits weighed, sexed, tagged and blood-sampled. The study was established to investigate the epidemiology and efficacy of the two imported rabbit biocontrol agents, rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) and myxomatosis. To date, from 119 formal trapping events and RHDV-outbreak carcass-sampling trips, > 4500 rabbits have been monitored with > 8700 cELISA RHDV antibody tests and 7500 IgG, IgM and IgA RHDV antibody tests on sera (similarly for myxomatosis), and 111 RHDV-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses run on tissue samples of the sampled rabbits. This represents an unparalleled dataset on rabbit survival, population fluctuations and disease dynamics.

It is unknown what introducing pathogenic protozoans Eimeria intestinalis and E. flavescens, found in Australia only in Western Australia would do to the Turretfield population. Hypotheses include:

  • the population will tend towards and be maintained at low density;
  • the population will recover because Eimeria removes so many of the juveniles that myxomatosis no longer has a major influence;
  • Eimeria alters the timing of RHDV outbreaks, or returns them to a biannual cycle;
  • Eimeria does not alter the current disease dynamics on the population.

To test these hypotheses indirectly, and guide national decision making, we are seeking a suitably interested and qualified person to assist with the modelling and analysis of this comprehensive dataset.

The successful applicant will be expected to focus on developing mathematical models in the following themes:

  • Construct and query individual mark-capture-recapture models (ideally using program MARK and the R programming language) to estimate vital parameters (apparent survival, sighting probability, permanent emigration)
  • Develop population projection models using parameters estimated in the above step.
  • Develop eco-epidemiological models that test hypothetical management interventions for the management of Australian rabbit populations.

The applicant should have:

  • PhD or equivalent degree (or thesis submitted) in a discipline relevant to population ecology, or ecological modelling, or eco-epidemiological modelling, or comparable relevant experience. The candidate may not necessarily possess a PhD at the time of application if other relevant experience and/or analogous research capacity can be demonstrated.
  • Well-developed research skills, ideally, but not necessarily, demonstrated by publications in scientific journals.
  • Some proficiency in programming, ideally with a demonstrated ability in quantitative ecology, environmental and/or epidemiological modelling.
  • Demonstrated ability to work effectively as a member of a research team as well as doing independent research and project leadership.
  • Good verbal and written communication skills and interpersonal skills, including a willingness to engage with students in the lab and external research partners.
  • Willingness to travel between Flinders University, Biosecurity SA offices at the Waite Campus, and the University of Adelaide (locations of project investigators) at a regular frequency.


Position (Level A4—6): AU$82,076—88,102 per annum, for a maximum of 6 months.

The successful applicants will be appointed at the appropriate level depending on qualifications and relevant experience. An employer superannuation contribution of 9.5% applies.

This full-time, fixed-term position is available immediately.

Please refer to the selection criteria or contact Professor Corey Bradshaw.

Closing date: 20 March 2017

Your application should:

  • include your résumé/Curriculum Vitae
  • address the selection criteria
  • quote the relevant reference number
  • include residency status
  • include the names, addresses and/or email details of two referees

E-mail applications to Corey Bradshaw.

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