Avian Influenza Risk and Surveillance

About this project

The Humber estuary is rich in resident bird life and represents a significant corridor for migratory species. However, it is also a highly dynamic and industrialised landscape thus presents a mix of risks, challenges and benefits to the birds that use it. Conversely, the presence of resident and migratory birds along the estuary raises issues for industrial development and, potentially, human and livestock health. In partnership with the Animal & Plant Health Agency we share an ambition to create a new, vibrant research community with an explicit focus on bird ecology and behaviour in order to answer pure and applied questions regarding the use of the landscape by birds and interactions with human interests. Central to the work programme are three PhD Scholarships, all of which will be underpinned by the deployment of a bird detection radar and mobile laboratory at sites at which birds can be directly observed and sampled.

Avian influenza risk and surveillance

Avian influenza has recently emerged in GB as a seasonally significant threat to the poultry industry and human health. Current biosecurity and control practices are draconian, being based largely on expert opinion, but with limited evidence of the spatio-temporal distribution of risk. Such knowledge could refine these responses in order to avoid unwarranted restrictions on industry and save unnecessary government expenditure. This project will characterise and quantify the relative risks posed by various species of birds at different times of year to inform a) the national strategy for avian influenza management and control and b) biosecurity best-practice. The onset and duration of bird migration seasons will be monitored using the bird radar to validate direct observation data and to track flock movements. Birds will be captured for viral sampling and a proportion may be fitted with telemetry devices to enable tracking of their individual movements in relation to farms, thus enabling identification of key species of risk and risky behaviours. In partnership with APHA the results will be used to inform the avian influenza surveillance and response strategy. Risks to the poultry industry will be evaluated both using the OIE framework for consistency with Defra policy and a bespoke quantitative approach. 


You are strongly advised to contact a potential supervisor and to discuss your research proposal, well before you submit an application. Please refer to the School of Environmental Sciences research pages.

If you have any queries, please email Dr Alastair Ward.

Next steps


To celebrate the University's research successes, the University of Hull is offering a full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarship or International Fees Bursary.

Entry requirements

The successful candidate will be a competent field ornithologist ideally in possession of at least a bird ringing C permit or likely to be awarded one by September 2018.

Applicants should have at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree in Biology/Ecology (projects 2 and 3), or Computer Science/Mathematics (project 1) or related discipline, together with relevant research experience. It is anticipated that the successful applicant will have a 1st class undergraduate degree or Masters level qualification. 

How to apply

Applications for scholarship consideration at the University of Hull should be made through the Postgraduate Application system.

On the second page of your application, please select “Graduate Scholarship” as the type of scholarship you are applying for. 

Applicants are strongly encouraged to first identify and contact a potential supervisor.

Apply now

Application deadline: Monday 19 February


Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU' student rate and maintenance (£14,553 in 2017/18) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Full-time International Fee PhD Studentships will include full fees at the International student rate for three years, dependent on satisfactory progress.