Population structure of liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) in wild and domestic hosts


The ACCE DTP is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, faith or religious belief, pregnancy or maternity, parental or caring responsibilities or career pathway to date. We understand that a student’s potential can be shown in many ways and we strive to recruit students from all backgrounds, and support them on their scientific journey.

We have designed our application systems to identify candidates who are likely to be successful in research regardless of what opportunities may have been available to them prior to their application.

Various support and guidance on applying for an ACCE DTP studentship, including how to apply; what we’re looking for (including our assessment rubric); details of financial support, training, and placement opportunities available; and details of our recruitment process, can be found at https://accedtp.ac.uk, in the ‘prospective applicants’ tab.

Project overview


Many parasites infect a range of host species, which provide different evolutionary selection pressures and opportunities for persistence. Liver fluke (Fasiola hepatica) infects multiple definitive hosts, including sheep, cattle, deer, rabbits, and hares. It causes serious economic damage in livestock causes, and control has in recent years been compromised by the widespread evolution of drug resistance. Wild host species are thought to act as reservoir populations and, potentially, refugia which can slow the emergence of drug resistance.


This project will ascertain the prevalence of liver fluke in a range of natural and domestic host species, and the transmission within and between host species. The student will use (i) fieldwork to evaluate the prevalence of liver fluke in different host species, using fecal samples and (where available) adult worms from dead hosts (ii) lab assays to ascertain the ability of larvae emerging from eggs from one host species to infect different host species, and (ii) computer modelling to predict how this would translate into parasite population dynamics across the host species, and the potential for wild species to act as a refugium to slow drug resistance. Model building and validation could be supplemented by (i) GPS tracking of wild host species to help quantify their contact with domestic hosts, and (ii) determination of the genetic population structure of the parasite among its definitive host species


Little is known about the transmission of this parasite between its host species. The project brings together techniques from a wide range of disciplines, including fieldwork, lab work, and modelling. The idea of natural host species providing “refugia as an ecosystem service” is novel in the context of parasite control.


The parasite is very important economically, and drug resistance has increased dramatically in recent years.

Essential and desirable criteria


  • Understanding of population and community ecology
  • Understanding of population dynamics models
  • Understanding of parasite biology


  • Mathematical modelling skills
  • Programming skills
  • Fieldwork experience
  • Wet lab experience

How to apply

Notes and details of how to apply are available here: https://accedtp.ac.uk/phd-opportunities/

All applicants to ACCE must complete the ACCE personal statement proforma. This is instead of a personal/supporting statement or cover letter. The proforma is designed to standardise this part of the application to minimise the difference between those who are given support and those who are not. Candidates should also submit a CV and the contact details of 2 referees.

Part-time study options

All ACCE PhDs are available as part time or full time, with part time being a minimum of 50% of full time. Please discuss potential part time arrangements with the primary supervisor before applying to the programme.

Project CASE status

This project is not a CASE project. While individual applicant quality is our overriding criterion for selection, the ACCE DTP has a commitment for 40% of all studentships to be CASE funded - as such, CASE projects may be favoured in shortlisting applicants when candidates are otherwise deemed to be equal or a consensus on student quality cannot be reached. This will only be done as a last resort for separating candidates.


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

NERC ACCE DTP programme starts from October 2024.
UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:

  • Stipend (2023/24 UKRI rate £18,622)
  • Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2023/24 rate £4,712)
  • Research support and training grant (RTSG)

Note - UKRI funding only covers UK (Home) fees. The DTP partners have various schemes which allow international students to join the DTP but only be required to pay home fees. Home fees are already covered in the UKRI funding, meaning that successful international candidates do not need to find any additional funding for fees.



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