PhD opportunity: Mitochondrial content and function and its role in whole animal metabolism in ruminants
Global population growth is placing increasing demands on the agriculture sector to produce greater amounts of food more efficiently. Livestock products provide a source of protein for the world population and more efficient production will be required in the future to meet increasing demand.
Some cattle and sheep utilise feed more efficiently for production than others, while some are able to maintain muscle mass, liveweight and productivity under periods of nutritional and environmental stress. Why is this?
There is substantial individual and breed-level variation in metabolic efficiency, with low performing animals a commercial and welfare liability. In extensive grazing systems in northern Australia, the issue manifests largely as poor resilience and loss of muscle mass in the dry season when forage quality and quantity are low. Surprisingly, a few animals appear to thrive in these difficult conditions. In crop-livestock systems of southern Australia metabolic efficiency may express as variation in liveweight gain and fatness under more favourable nutritional environments. In both circumstances, it is not known why some animals fare better than others, although various aspects of physiology and behaviour are thought to play a role. We hypothesise that variation in a particular aspect of muscle structure (mitochondrial content and function) is a key factor through an effect on determining animal maintenance costs.
An exciting opportunity exists for a PhD student to join a team of experienced molecular biologists and ruminant nutrition researchers in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at The University of Queensland investigating metabolic efficiency in ruminants. The successful applicant will undertake research on the biology of the mitochondria and its role in determining metabolic efficiency in cattle and sheep. The student will develop skills in several of the following: molecular biology, including real-time PCR, bioinformatics, big data analytics and interpretation, electron microscopy and flux analysis. Initial research will utilise tissue samples collected from previous animal trials with different cattle and sheep models but there may be the opportunity to conduct additional animal trials. The research will be undertaken at The University of Queensland’s St Lucia and Gatton campuses. The research is fully funded however a living and tuition scholarship will need to be obtained; the successful applicant will be assisted to apply for scholarships.
For more information contact Dr Nicholas Hudson, firstname.lastname@example.org