Predicting and mitigating impacts of environmental change; evaluating barriers to zoonotic pathogen spillover


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, in the ‘prospective applicants’ tab.

Project overview


Threats from tick-borne diseases are rapidly increasing globally due to environmental change, with severe impacts on human and animal health. The aim of this research project is to identify the drivers of tick-borne disease emergence in a Lyme disease hotspot using substantial existing tick, host and other ecological data and evaluate a novel set of interventions.


  1. Synthesis of the evidence base for interventions to reduce Lyme disease risk from the published literature, and assessment of suitability in the local social and ecological context.
  2. Collection of field data to assess the effect of one or more interventions to reduce tick-borne disease hazard
  3. Mechanistic modelling to understand the drivers of disease emergence, variation in risk and impact of interventions
  4. Development of management recommendations to reduce tick bite exposure of people and animals.

Novelty and Timeliness

Pathogens transmitted by ticks and maintained by animal hosts cause severe disease in humansworldwide and evidence for interventions to limit spread of these diseases to humans are currently limited. Knowledge gaps to design multi-level interventions to reduce spill-over are; 1) quantifying the underlying ecological processes and 2) development and monitoring of the long-term effects of interventions which are acceptable to stakeholders across all sectors. In this project, mechanistic models will be used to understand the role of climate change, altered habitat management and host density, and pathogen introduction in driving disease emergence and spatial variation in current risk. An adaptive management approach (Viana et al 2014) will be pioneered with stakeholders where empirical data collected following interventions will be used to enrich the evidence base for interventions and enhance understanding of disease dynamics. This research will be used to inform policy and approaches needed to reduce human tick-borne disease burden.

Essential and Desirable Criteria


  • Community ecology knowledge and skills in fieldwork and statistics


  • Experience and/or interest in working with stakeholders.
  • Previous modelling experience, or interest in developing skills in modelling


How to Apply

Notes and details of how to apply are available here:

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 a CASE project. Your project will be co-supervised by the non-academic partner organisation, and you will spend 3-6 months on a placement with your CASE partner in their workplace. You will experience training, facilities and expertise not available in an academic setting, and will build business and research collaborations. Your CASE partner will also contribute an additional £1000 per year to your Research and Training Support Grant.




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.



1) Millins C, Leo W, MacInnes I, Ferguson J, Charlesworth G, Nayar D, et al. Emergence of Lyme Disease on Treeless Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom. Emerg Infect Dis. 2021;27(2):538-546.
2) Gandy, S., Kilbride, E., Biek, R., Millins, C., & Gilbert, L. (2022). No net effect of host density on tick‐borne disease hazard due to opposing roles of vector amplification and pathogen dilution. Ecology and Evolution, 12(9).
3) Millins Caroline, Gilbert Lucy, Medlock Jolyon, Hansford Kayleigh, Thompson Des BA and Biek Roman 2017Effects of conservation management of landscapes and vertebrate communities on Lyme borreliosis risk in the United KingdomPhil. Trans. R. Soc. B3722016012320160123
4) Viana M, Mancy R, Biek R, Cleaveland S, Cross PC, Lloyd-Smith JO, Haydon DT. Assembling evidence for identifying reservoirs of infection. Trends Ecol Evol. 2014 May;29(5):270-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.03.002