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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Supervisor: David Aldridge (Zoology)  

Importance of the area of research:

Pathogens and parasites play an important role in regulating animal populations. The success of many invasive species is often attributed to the fact that they arrive in new locations without their natural enemies - so called'enemy release'. Organisms that possess planktonic larvae may be especially prone to enemy release because they can be transported in a life stage where parasites may not have a close association with them. Most freshwater bivalves have planktonic larvae and are particularly important invaders because they reach high abundance and can be ecosystem engineers, driving both direct and indirect changes to invaded ecosystems. This project will investigate the role of parasitism and enemy release on the population dynamics of high risk invasive bivalves such as zebra mussels, quagga mussels and Asian clams. Recent studies have also indicated that parasites may be instrumental in driving declines in some threatened native freshwater mussels. The project will also investigate the relationship between parasites and population dynamics in endangered native freshwater mussels.

Project summary:

This project will aim to assess the importance of enemy release in driving bivalve invasions, and the role of parasitism in driving declines in native freshwater mussels. The project will include field surveys, laboratory analysis and experimentation. It is possible that natural enemies could be used as control agents for high risk invasive bivalves.

What the student will do:

The student will catalogue the identity and abundance of parasites in bivalve molluscs. Bivalves will be collected from the UK and mainland Europe. Additional material will be provided by collaborators further afield. Standardised measures of population structure will be made (e.g. size-frequency, growth rates, body condition, recruitment, fecundity) and compared against parasite load. Animals in the laboratory will be inoculated with parasites and their subsequent feeding rates and growth will be monitored within the laboratory.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.


Sousa, R., Gutierrez, J. L., & Aldridge, D. C. 2009. Non-indigenous invasive bivalves as ecosystem engineers. Biological Invasions vol. 11, pp. 2367-2385, DOI 10.1007/s10530-009-9422-7

Arundell K, Dunn A, Alexander J, Shearman R, Archer N, Ironside JE 2015. Enemy release and genetic founder effects in invasive killer shrimp populations of Great Britain BIOLOGICAL INVASIONS, vol. 17, pp.1439-1451, DOI:10.1007/s10530-014-0806-y

Taskinen J, Saarinen M. 1999. Increased parasite abundance associated with reproductive maturity of the clam Anodonta piscinalis. Journal of Parasitology Vol. 85, pp. 588-591, DOI: 10.2307/328580

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Other projects available from the Lead Supervisor can be viewed here.

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