PHD Project

October 11, 2022

Anthropogenic change and disease susceptibility in poison frogs: identifying links with diet, skin alkaloids, and the microbiome


Anthropogenic disturbance, coupled with climate change, is a leading cause of biodiversity loss. In Ecuador, approximately 97% of the Chocó biodiversity hotspot is now deforested, underscoring the need to understand and predict species’ responses to Anthropogenic change. This project will interrogate behavioural and microbial responses in the diablito poison frog, Oophaga sylvatica as a test case to assess how species respond to disturbance and climate change. Because microbiomes are dynamic and affected by both the ecology and genetics of their host, a central goal in disease ecology is to understand how the environment interacts with an organism’s behaviour to affect both their microbiome and disease susceptibility.

In this project, based at Bangor University and in collaboration with Universidad de Las Américas (Ecuador) and the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (USA), the student will use a combination of fieldwork and molecular approaches to investigate the links between Anthropogenic habitat modification, the microbiome of the diablito poison frog (Oophaga sylvatica), and susceptibility to the fungal skin pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd); considered one of the greatest threats to vertebrate biodiversity around the world.

The project offers a wealth of opportunities for the student to gain experience in molecular biology,
evolutionary genetics, microbiology, disease ecology and science communication. The studentship will be based within the Molecular Ecology and Evolution group (, a world leader in the analyses of molecular data addressing global issues in disease biology and evolutionary genomics. It offers a dynamic and supportive training environment for young scientists. The student will also undertake fieldwork and internships with project partners in Ecuador and the USA.

Essential skills are a minimum 2:1 BSc or equivalent in Life Sciences, with good numerate skills and enthusiasm for disease ecology, genome analyses, and tropical fieldwork. Desirable skills are a postgraduate degree (e.g. MSc or MRes) and/or contribution to scientific publication, molecular laboratory and/or international fieldwork.

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Aaron Comeault ( and Dr Amy Ellison (