Available study options for 2021

  • Unravelling the basis of virulence in mycoplasmas using a live vaccine model

    Mycoplasma synoviae is an economically important poultry pathogen causing respiratory disease, lameness, reduced egg production and downgrade of egg quality. A Live attenuated vaccine (MS-H) developed in our laboratory is used to control M. synoviae infections. This project is to address the molecular basis of attenuation of the MS-H vaccine by using targeted mutagenesis followed by gene expression and protein analyses, and metabolomics. It is also anticipated that this project will result in development of a protocol for expression of foreign genes in M. synoviae leading to development of recombinant poultry vaccines against diseases that target the upper respiratory system.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Amir Noormohammadi, Dr Marc Marenda, Dr Sara Mahdizadeh

    Affiliated research group: Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health (APCAH)

    The Asia Pacific Centre for Animal (APCAH) is an internationally focused research and research training centre that aims to optimise animal production and product quality through improved control of infectious agents. Previous work at APCAH has resulted in the development and registration of a number of commercial animal vaccines.

  • Characterisation of antimicrobial prescribing in Victorian thoroughbred racehorses

    Antimicrobial use is one of the main drivers of antimicrobial resistance. Resistant bacteria can transfer between humans and animals, particularly those that have close contact with humans, such as dogs, cats and horses. Preserving the efficacy of antimicrobials is therefore crucial for both human and animal health and welfare.

    The aim of this study is to quantify and characterise antimicrobial use in Victorian thoroughbred racehorses. Areas of appropriate antibiotic use and areas for improved antibiotic use will be identified.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Kirsten Bailey

    Affiliated research group: Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health and National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship

    The Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health houses the animal health stream of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS). Our group is committed to a One Health approach to understand current prescribing behaviour, and develop, implement and evaluate practical strategies to improve the way that antimicrobial drugs are used within Australia.

  • Activity of intra-articular gentamicin against equine synovial pathogens

    Bacterial infections in joints, bursa and tendon sheaths of horses are life threatening. Intra-articular gentamicin is an important first line antibiotic therapy but concerns over increasing levels of antimicrobial resistance are driving use of high importance antimicrobials such as amikacin. Clinical breakpoints in current antimicrobial susceptibility testing methods are based on serum antibiotic concentrations achieved after systemic administration and do not reflect the much higher synovial concentration achieved with intra-articular injection. This study aims to investigate whether common equine synovial pathogens that appear resistant to systemic concentrations of gentamicin would be susceptible to higher concentrations achieved with intra-articular administration.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Kirsten Bailey

    Affiliated research group: Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health and National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship

    The Asia-Pacific Centre for Animal Health houses the animal health stream of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS). Our group is committed to a One Health approach to understand current prescribing behaviour, and develop, implement and evaluate practical strategies to improve the way that antimicrobial drugs are used within Australia.

  • Role of dopamine in insulin regulation in ponies and horses

    Equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID; formerly known as Cushing’s disease) is a fairly common condition in older horses and ponies, associated with an overactive pituitary gland due to low dopamine levels. This may cause insulin dysregulation and lead to a foot condition called laminitis. 

    This project is part of a larger study and will involve validating some blood hormone assays and measuring biomarkers of dopamine in insulin-resistant and control ponies.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Simon Bailey, Dr. Nick Bamford

    Affiliated research group: Veterinary Inflammation and Metabolism

    Our Research group investigates the causes of laminitis in equines, which is a common and debilitating condition of their feet, where the hoof attachments weaken, stretch and/or separate. The most common form of this condition is associated with two endocrine conditions - equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) and pituitary gland dysfunction (PPID; formerly known as Cushing’s disease). Our group investigates why ponies and certain horse breeds are prone to endocrine laminitis and the metabolic differences between different breeds and types of equids. We are also investigating the mechanisms of how the disease occurs and are currently developing novel treatments

  • Probiotics, prebiotics and healthy food design

    The growing preference for functional foods favours the probiotic and prebiotic market growth and is expected to reach over USD 66 billion by 2024. There is an obvious potential for a synergetic effect when combining probiotics and prebiotics appropriately, because prebiotics promote the growth and activities of probiotics.

    Research topics available for Honours projects cover the various aspects of probiotic and prebiotic technology from new product development to analysis of functional efficacy of probiotics/ prebiotics using in vitro gastrointestinal and colonic fermentation, probiotic adhesion to gut epithelium and some specific bio marker analysis including basic molecular biological applications.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Senaka Ranadheera, Associate Professor Said Ajlouni

    Affiliated research group: Food Science

    We mainly focus on functional efficacy of probiotic microorganisms using in vitro techniques. Probiotics are associated with maintaining optimum microbial balance in the digestive tract with a number of well-documented health benefits. Therefore, these organisms such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria have been extensively incorporated into various food products over the last decade. We are aiming to maximise the potential health benefits of probiotics through various strategies related to food processing and preservation and offer an exciting and stimulating research environment.

  • Functional anatomy and biomechanics of locomotory structures

    Project titles:

    1. Functional locomotory anatomy of athletic animals (horses and dogs)
    2. Hoof/surface interactions
    3. Fascial/joint anatomy and function in horse/dog/cloven-hoofed animals (sheep/cows)
    4. Modelling bones and joints
    5. Anatomical or behavioural questions

    Potential supervisors: Associate Professor Helen M S Davies, Dr Reza Sanaei

    Associated research group: Functional Anatomy and Biomechanics

    The functional anatomy and biomechanics research group includes 6 doctoral researchers, one or two masters/honours students each year and several external collaborators including veterinarians, other scientists and engineers. The group is involved in investigating functional anatomy and developing models to elucidate how locomotory structures may be optimised through training and field measurements to optimise function while preventing damage. Current projects include dissection and histology based studies; non-invasive measurements of athletic animals; modelling of specific joints and regions; prosthesis development; and comparative anatomical and biomechanical investigations.

  • Use of 3D printed technology in the treatment of bone disease

    This study will involve testing of various 3D printed prosthetic designs in the treatment of bone defects using an animal model.

    Potential supervisors: Associate Professor Helen M S Davies, Dr Reza Sanaei

    Associated research group: Functional Anatomy and Biomechanics and Laboratory for Bone and Muscle Cell Biology

    The functional anatomy and biomechanics research group includes 6 doctoral researchers, one or two masters/honours students each year and several external collaborators including veterinarians, other scientists and engineers. The group is involved in investigating functional anatomy and developing models to elucidate how locomotory structures may be optimised through training and field measurements to optimise function while preventing damage. Current projects include dissection and histology based studies; non-invasive measurements of athletic animals; modelling of specific joints and regions; prosthesis development; and comparative anatomical and biomechanical investigations.

    Laboratory for bone and muscle cell biology studies the regulation of differentiation and activity of cells of the musculoskeletal system using a variety of molecular, imaging and histological techniques.

  • Role of the complement system in gum disease and tooth loss

    Using highly detailed CT scans of teeth and associated tissues in mice, this study will undertake to look into the effect of a loss of function mutation in a gene that encodes a complement system receptor. The complement system is an essential component of the innate immunity and plays an important role in body’s inflammatory response.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Reza Sanaei, Dr Charles Pagel 

    Associated research group: Laboratory for Bone and Muscle Cell Biology

    Laboratory for bone and muscle cell biology studies the regulation of differentiation and activity of cells of the musculoskeletal system using a variety of molecular, imaging and histological techniques.

  • Bone structure in BawBaw frogs determined by histomorphometry and microCT scanning

    Metabolic bone disease is a common problem in captive frog populations world-wide and often leads to pathological fractures and significant subsequent mortality.  Little is known about the development of bones in frogs as they morph from tadpoles to subadults, or the influence of environmental, nutritional or regulatory processes that affect bone structure and function. In collaboration with scientists at RMIT, Dr Liz Dobson (a wildlife specialist pathologist) and Dr Michael Lynch at The Royal Melbourne Zoo, we have collected specimens of BawBaw frogs after tetracycline labelling of bones.  The project involves high resolution CT scanning of frog skeletons to determine bone morphology and density, as well as documenting appositional bone growth rates (from tetracycline labelling) and microscopic descriptions of bone structure in animals that were considered clinically normal. This study is fundamental to determination of normal values for BawBaw frogs and will enable improved understanding, detection and monitoring of captive frog populations faced with the high risk of developing osteoporosis.

    Skills focus: Microanatomy and histopathology, 2D and 3D modelling and diagnostic imaging techniques.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Ron Slocombe, Dr Reza Sanaei

    Frog populations are considered key indicators of environmental health and worldwide, wild populations are in serious decline.  For some species, only captive populations remain, and these captive collections often develop metabolic bone disease.  Collectively, our group has specific expertise in the structural evaluation of calcified tissues and has waited for years for an opportunity to turn this expertise to this important work, the study of frog skeletal development.  Our group has expertise in wildlife pathology, imaging, bone histomorphometry and clinical management of captive animal populations at zoos, including frog populations.

  • Equine orthopaedic research

    The Equine Orthopaedic Research Group is a multidisciplinary team that works closely with the racing industry, and has a strong collaborative relationship with Racing Victoria. We welcome honours project enquiries from students interested in working with big data, diagnostic imaging, pathology, and behavioural methods for identifying orthopaedic pain.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Chris Whitton, Dr Peta Hitchens

    Associated research group: Equine Orthopaedic Research Group

    The Equine Orthopaedic Research Group conducts research aimed at the prevention of musculoskeletal injury in athletic horses. We are a multidisciplinary group using detailed investigation of bone microstructure, bone biomechanical properties, computational modelling of limb loads and epidemiological studies of injury to investigate the causes of bone and joint injury in horses and to develop preventative strategies that can be implemented by the equine industry.

  • Genomic tools to characterise molecular variation in parasites

    Reference genomes for many parasitic worms are now available. These genomes are now the foundation of molecular research that aims to understand the biology of these parasites and their host-pathogen interactions. To explore genetic variation in parasite populations, genome sequence surveys are being used to construct phylogenies using nuclear genomic data sets and assess genetic variation in genes between populations. These data are also being used to verify intraspecific conservation in vaccine or drug target candidates as an important first step toward developing effective vaccines and chemotherapies against these parasites. You will help refine an established bioinformatic approach developed in our lab to explore genetic variation in parasite populations using Illumina sequence reads. The results of your study will be used to prioritise the search for new drug candidates to treat a broad range of parasitic infections. Skills focus: Parasitology, population genetics and genomics.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Neil Young, Professor Robin Gasser

    Affiliated research group: Parasitology

    Our team works mainly on socio-economically important parasites. Parasitic diseases cause millions of deaths and enormous suffering in people and animals around the world. Our main goal is to understand parasites and the diseases that they cause, so that we can develop effective treatments, vaccines, diagnostic tests and strategies for effective control.

  • Prediction and classification of novel protein families in parasitic worms

    Our lab has generated a wealth of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data sets for a range of parasitic worms responsible for human and livestock disease. We have identified a range of conserved and species-specific protein families and are beginning to unravel their involvement in biological and developmental processes. In most cases, there is no detailed characterisation of these proteins. You will use bioinformatics to identify, classify and investigate protein families in a range of parasitic worms. You will assess their potential for parasite-specific proteins to become the next drug target candidate, and explore their role in host interactions and pathogenesis at the molecular level. Skills focus: Parasitology, genomics, pattern searching and modelling.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Neil Young, Professor Robin Gasser

    Affiliated research group: Parasitology

    Our team works mainly on socio-economically important parasites. Parasitic diseases cause millions of deaths and enormous suffering in people and animals around the world. Our main goal is to understand parasites and the diseases that they cause, so that we can develop effective treatments, vaccines, diagnostic tests and strategies for effective control.

  • Assessment of two sheep breeds for their natural resistance to a parasitic nematode, Haemonchus contortus

    A variety of gastrointestinal nematodes can infect sheep, resulting in significant economic losses due to reduced production and mortality. Owing to the development of drug resistance in nematodes, alternative methods are needed to control worms in sheep. This project aims to evaluate the two sheep breeds for their natural resistance to a parasitic nematode, Haemonchus contortus. The project activities will involve the experimental infection of sheep, collection of sheep blood, blood and serum analysis, and histological examination of various tissues.

    Potential supervisor: Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar

    Associated research group: Veterinary Parasitology

    Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar’s research is focussed on molecular diagnosis and epidemiology of parasites of veterinary and medical significance and the discovery of antiparasitic drugs. Our work has led to the improved understanding of various parasitic diseases of domestic animals and the establishment of novel diagnostic methods.

    Currently, we are improving the diagnosis of parasites as well as exploring various novel non-chemical methods to control parasites of livestock.

  • Development of novel diagnostic methods for the detection and quantification of horse parasites

    Various parasites can affect the health, performance and welfare of horses. Currently, various conventional methods are used to detect, quantify and differentiate horse parasites. This project would involve the development of novel molecular and artificial intelligence methods to improve the diagnostics of parasites of horses. The project activities will involve the visit to Australian Thoroughbred farms, collection and testing of horse faeces for parasites, use of molecular methods and artificial intelligence tools.

    Potential supervisor: Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar

    Associated research group: Veterinary Parasitology

    Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar’s research is focussed on molecular diagnosis and epidemiology of parasites of veterinary and medical significance and the discovery of antiparasitic drugs. Our work has led to the improved understanding of various parasitic diseases of domestic animals and the establishment of novel diagnostic methods.

    Currently, we are improving the diagnosis of parasites as well as exploring various novel non-chemical methods to control parasites of livestock.

  • Epidemiology of coccidiosis in Australian dairy goats

    Various unicellular protozoan parasites (coccidia) can affect the young dairy goats, leading to a disease, coccidiosis resulting in significant economic losses to the industry. Very little is known about the disease in Australian dairy goats. This project will involve the visit to various goat farms in Victoria, collection of faeces from goats, testing of faeces for the presence of coccidian parasites, use of DNA-based tests to identify the parasites.

    Potential supervisor: Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar

    Associated research group: Veterinary Parasitology

    Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar’s research is focussed on molecular diagnosis and epidemiology of parasites of veterinary and medical significance and the discovery of antiparasitic drugs. Our work has led to the improved understanding of various parasitic diseases of domestic animals and the establishment of novel diagnostic methods.

    Currently, we are improving the diagnosis of parasites as well as exploring various novel non-chemical methods to control parasites of livestock.

  • Anthelmintic resistance in parasites of Australian Thoroughbred horses

    Various parasites can affect the health, performance and welfare of horses. Currently, drugs (anthelmintics) are used to control important intestinal parasites of horses. However, owing to the frequent and indiscriminate use of anthelmintics, anecdotal reports suggest the emergence of resistance in intestinal nematodes of Australian horses.

    This project will involve the testing of various anthelmintic drugs on various Thoroughbred horse farms across Australia to assess the status of anthelmintic resistance in parasitic nematodes. The project activities will involve the visit to Australian Thoroughbred farms, administration of drugs to horses under supervision, collection and testing of horse faeces for parasites and use of molecular methods to identify nematodes.

    Potential supervisor: Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar

    Associated research group: Veterinary Parasitology

    Associate Professor Abdul Jabbar’s research is focussed on molecular diagnosis and epidemiology of parasites of veterinary and medical significance and the discovery of antiparasitic drugs. Our work has led to the improved understanding of various parasitic diseases of domestic animals and the establishment of novel diagnostic methods.

    Currently, we are improving the diagnosis of parasites as well as exploring various novel non-chemical methods to control parasites of livestock.

  • Are general level health claims promoting healthy food choices or are they just providing a ‘health halo’ for unhealthy foods?

    General level health claims link consumption of a food or a component of food to health.  The intention of the standard regulating their use is to protect and improve the health of the population and to promote healthy food choices.

    The aim of this research project is to use the FSANZ health claims register to identify the types of foods using self-substantiated general level health claims and to assess if the use of these claims is: 1) likely to protect and improve the health of the population and; 2) likely to promote healthy food choices.

    Potential supervisor: Dr Anita Lawrence

    Associated research group: Human Nutrition

    The strategic goal of the Human Nutrition team’s research is to improve knowledge of the relationships between human nutrition and health.

  • What are the nutritional implications of switching from traditional animal-source foods to plant-based ‘alternatives’?

    In recent years, the range of plant-based ‘alternatives’ to meat and dairy foods available to consumers has rapidly grown.  For example, between 2015 and 2019, there was an approximately five-fold increase in the number of plant-based meat substitutes available in Australian supermarkets. Similarly, whereas the main alternative to milk used to be soy drink, there is now an extensive range of plant-based dairy ‘alternatives’ available in supermarkets and at cafés.

    This project will use data from the most recent National Nutrition Survey to model the potential nutritional implications of substituting plant-based ‘alternatives’ for meat and dairy products.

    Potential supervisor: Dr Anita Lawrence

    Associated research group: Human Nutrition and Future Food Hallmark Research Initiative

    The strategic goal of the Human Nutrition team’s research is to improve knowledge of the relationships between human nutrition and health.

    The Future Food Hallmark Research Initiative is focused on the production of alternative proteins and the development of sustainable, healthy and affordable protein products.

  • The BABY-SIT Study: Behavioural assessment of breaks in sitting in pregnancy study

    Sedentary behaviour (too much sitting) may represent a previously unrecognised modifiable risk factor in the development of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). This project, which is being conducted in collaboration with Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, involves the analysis of objective measurements of sedentary time and physical activity collected from an observational study involving 70 pregnant women recruited from outpatient clinics at a tertiary, public hospital. This honours project will investigate whether certain patterns of behaviour (relating to activities of daily living, sitting times and sleep quality) are associated with gestational weight gain of pregnancy and risk of developing GDM.

    Potential supervisor: Dr Robyn Larsen, Professor David Dunstan (external supervisor), Assoc Professor Martha Lappas (external supervisor)

    Associated research group: Human Nutrition, Physical Activity and Behavioural Epidemiology Laboratory, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and The Mercy Hospital for Women

    The strategic goal of Human Nutrition research group is to improve knowledge of the relationships between human nutrition and health by providing capacity to measure and interpret, biochemical, functional and dietary indicators of nutritional status and health.

  • The TARGET Study: Taking regular breaks from sitting to improve glycaemic control, blood pressure and endothelial function in Type 1 diabetes

    Emerging evidence suggests that reducing and breaking up prolonged sitting may be a suitable self-care behaviour to improve glycaemic control in type 1 diabetes (T1D). This collaborative project with Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute will examine data collected from a randomised, cross-over, laboratory-based trial that involved individuals with T1D on insulin pump therapy. This project examined the effects of interrupting sitting with brief bouts of activity on postprandial glycaemia and blood pressure. This project will also examine continuous subcutaneous insulin delivery, glycaemic variability, glycaemic control, dietary intakes, sedentary time and physical activity within this study sample.

    Potential supervisor: Dr Robyn Larsen, Professor David Dunstan (external supervisor)

    Associated research group: Human Nutrition, Physical Activity and Behavioural Epidemiology Laboratory, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

    The strategic goal of Human Nutrition research group is to improve knowledge of the relationships between human nutrition and health by providing capacity to measure and interpret, biochemical, functional and dietary indicators of nutritional status and health.

  • Nutritional genomics

    The deeper understanding of human genetics is giving us insights into the mechanisms behind individual response to food and diet.  New platforms that include single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and gene expression analysis dataset (GEO) are some of the most transformative technologies in biomedical science. The growing impact on public health of long-term chronic illnesses affected by modern diet and lifestyle requires innovative approaches to unravel biological underling mechanisms. This Honours project seeks to investigate this burgeoning public health emergency. Specifically, we will perform bioinformatic analysis on large data sets of genetic variants (SNPs) and gene expression to find new biomarkers, therapeutic targets and future diagnostics for chronic diseases associated with diet and lifestyle. Students will gain experience in a range of laboratory and in silico techniques and technologies.

    Potential supervisor: Dr Chiara Murgia

    Associated research group: Human Nutrition

    The strategic goal of Human Nutrition research group is to improve knowledge of the relationships between human nutrition and health by providing capacity to measure and interpret, biochemical, functional and dietary indicators of nutritional status and health.

  • Is dietary zinc intake associated with insulin secretion in overweight adults?

    Zinc is an essential micronutrient found in meat, eggs and dairy products that plays a vital role in insulin metabolism. Preliminary evidence suggests that higher levels of dietary zinc intake are associated with improvements in glucose homeostasis. We have access to a database of approximately 80 overweight individuals containing information on body composition, biochemical biomarkers, 3-day dietary record and hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp (a gold standard technique used to determine insulin secretion and resistance). The aim of this project is to determine the relationships between dietary zinc intake and body composition, insulin resistance and inflammatory status.

    Potential supervisor: Dr Chiara Murgia, Dr Nicole Kellow (external supervisor, Monash University)

    Associated research group: Human Nutrition

    The strategic goal of Human Nutrition research group is to improve knowledge of the relationships between human nutrition and health by providing capacity to measure and interpret, biochemical, functional and dietary indicators of nutritional status and health.

  • Facilitating transformative change in nitrogen management for agricultural and environmental sustainable

    Food security necessitates the use of nutrients to grow crops and feed animals, with nitrogen being a key nutrient. However current nitrogen fertilisers available on the market are inefficient as nitrogen can be lost once applied to soil via gaseous and leaching pathways, and growers can struggle to understand how best to manage their nitrogen. We work closely with industry and colleagues in chemistry and engineering, to develop and test new fertiliser compounds that have much greater efficiency and less environmental impact, and provide tools to assist growers, advisors and policy makers with decision making. The projects available include;

    • Smart fertilisers and biofertilisers: These projects provide the opportunity for students to test the efficiency of newly developed nitrogen and bio-fertilisers through laboratory and glasshouse trials and environmental impacts using a range of analytical techniques including 15N isotopes.
    • Decision support tools and Environmental / Societal cost assessments: These projects provide the opportunity for students to critically evaluate the agronomic and environmental implications of nitrogen use to develop tools to support growers, and metrics to identify impact.

    You will have the opportunity to work closely with our industry partners and gain industry insight. Skills focus: Soil science, agronomy, gaseous (including greenhouse gases) emissions measurement, stable isotope techniques, statistics, data interrogation.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Helen Suter, Professor Deli Chen, Dr Raymond Lam

    Affiliated research group: Soils and Environment Research Group

    The Soils and Environment Research Group seeks to understand the impacts of human management on soil processes and develop technology to improve agricultural and environmental sustainability. We work closely with industry to carry out a range of fundamental and applied research. Our aim, to help policy makers, industry partners and farmers make evidence-based decisions. Current research strengths  and activities include:  Nutrient cycling in agro-ecosystems; Measuring, modelling and mitigating air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, particularly intensive animal production systems; Novel fertiliser technologies; Agro-ecosystem modelling and decision support tools for efficient fertiliser use; Reuse and recycling of wastes with particular emphasis on closing nutrient loops; Big data (data mining): Green index, nitrogen footprint, decision support systems for fertiliser use; Environmental microbiomes; Transmission of antibiotic resistance genes in the environment; Soil microbial evolution and biogeography. Our research projects tackle global issues at a range of scales, from small subsistence farms in Myanmar and China to broadacre cropping enterprises in Australia.

  • Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from dairy production in northern Victoria

    Greenhouse gas emissions from dairy production is an major issue, as it relates to climate change/global warming. The Australian animal production industry is under pressure to meet its emission targets, in line with the Paris Agreement, through application of mitigation strategies. To support the development of mitigation strategies, this research aims to utilise existing connection with Dairy Australia’s Murray Dairy RDP in northern Victoria to:

    1. Model greenhouse gas emission from grazing vs. mixed ration dairy production systems
    2. Investigate potential mitigation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farms

    We are looking for enthusiastic students to join our team that are interested in sustainable development of animal production. The student will need to spend time at Dookie campus and he/she should hold a valid driving licence, as travel to commercial farm to obtain sample is expected.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Paul Cheng, Dr Brendan Cullen, Professor Richard Eckard

    Affiliated research centre: Primary Industries Climate Change Challenges Centre

    Our team comprises early-, mid- and late-career researchers working in sustainable development of agricultural production. We carry out a range of laboratory and field research with the aim to help policy makers, industry partners and farmers make evidence-based decisions. The team utilises resources from the Primary Industries Climate Change Challenges Centre and Dookie campus robotic dairy farm to conduct projects.

  • Mitigation against heat stress in livestock

    With increasing severity of severity and incidence of cyclic heat events as well as an increase in livestock production in sub-tropical and tropical areas, the management of heat stress (HS) is paramount. Livestock reared under high heat load conditions exhibit a reduced growth rate and increased respiration rate and body temperature. There is also some limited evidence that skeletal muscle from animals exposed to high environmental heat has reduced rates of protein synthesis and proteolysis which may impact on subsequent meat quality. The aims of research is investigate dietary additives or manipulations that may mitigate against the effects of heat Stress in livestock and maintain product quality and animal welfare. Studies may be based at Parkville or Dookie campus.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Frank Dunshea, Dr Jeremy Cottrell, Dr Surinder Chauhan, Dr Hafiz Suleria, Professor Brian Leury, Dr Kristy DiGiacomo

    Our research team works on the effects of thermal stress on the physiology, endocrinology and metabolism of livestock. We have already developed a range of dietary strategies to protect against some aspects of Heat Stress and we are now shifting our focus towards plant derived bioactives and polyphenols. We are also interested in the quality of meat, wool and milk produced from animals exposed to thermal stress.

  • Optimising an in vitro digestion technique to estimate protein digestibility of novel protein sources in different regions of the gastrointestinal tract

    There will be increasing reliance on non-invasive techniques to estimate the nutrient availability of novel plant products and by-products for ruminants. The Ankom gas fermentation system has the potential to be used to estimate fast and slow rumen fermentation of protein as well as rumen bypass protein of feedstuffs. This project will focus on feed with the potential to be used in the both Australia and some developing countries.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Frank Dunshea, Professor Brian Leury, Dr Kristy DiGiacomo

    Our research team has a strong background in ruminant nutrition and conduct research with sheep, cattle and goats. We have extensive experience in using the Ankom system to determine fermentation patterns of a variety of grains, conserved fodder and dietary protein sources. This research will extend these capabilities to better characterise the sites of digestion.

  • Nutrient (re)cycling and agricultural waste management

    Nutrient use-efficiency of agricultural production systems are sub-optimal. A large proportion of the protein which is consumed by animals is lost to the atmosphere as ammonia gas. In addition, animal manures and other agricultural by-products are regarded as wastes but are valuable co-products which are high in nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus). Our research looks at mitigating reactive nitrogen losses from intensive animal industries, retaining the nutrients in these ‘waste’ materials during subsequent composting/processing and ultimately producing stable, pathogen-free, bio-fertilisers and soil amendments. We are interested in studies that investigate nutrient dynamics during animal production, nutrient (re)cycling of agricultural products and the use of bio-products to overcome chemical, physical and biological constraints to productivity (eg, soil acidity, compaction, sodlcity, soil-borne pathogens). We are looking for enthusiastic students to join our lab that are interested in nutrient (re)cycling, re-use and agricultural waste management, with a passion for agricultural sustainability and food security.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Clayton Butterly, Dr Tony Weatherley, Professor Deli Chen

  • Improving subsoil properties using organic amendments

    Many subsoils across medium and high rainfall zones of south-eastern Australia contain a range of soil physical and chemical constraints that restrict the growth of crops roots by limiting the ability of the roots to efficiently extract water and nutrients from the subsoil. These constraints include poor physical structure, transient salinity and a range of specific chemical toxicities including high aluminium and nutrient deficiencies. These different constraints occur simultaneously in many subsoils which can significantly reduce crop yields and quality. Application of organic ameliorants such as biochar, green waste and lignite into clay subsoils offer the potential to overcome some of the major subsoil constraints and improve the productivity of these hostile subsoils. We are looking for enthusiastic students to join our project that are interested in improving subsoil properties using organic amendments.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Bhawana Bhatta, Dr Graham Brodie, Dr Tony Weatherley, Professor Deli Chen

  • Bioactive compounds from food processing waste and their bioactivities

    Food processing (fruit, vegetables and marine) industries produce large amounts of processing waste, are discarded as by-products. This food processing waste is enriched with bioactive compounds especially polyphenols that provide a variety of health benefits and could potentially be used as ingredients in functional foods and nutraceuticals and provide candidates for drug discovery and pharmaceutical development. The aim of our project is to establish high-throughput screening of bioactive molecules (polyphenols) from food processing waste, elucidate the relationship between their structure and molecular mechanism involved and to determine their potentially useful bioactivities. By identifying and enhancing the health-promoting compounds from food processing waste can be used to develop further innovative functional food and nutraceuticals on large scale.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Hafiz Suleria, Professor Frank Dunshea

    Affiliated research group: Sustainability

    Our research team works on isolation and characterization of bioactive compounds from different food waste streams. Our main objectives are (1) extraction of bioactive compounds from different food materials especially food waste stream using different solvent extraction systems (2) purification and characterization of bioactive compounds using high pressure liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (HPLC and LCMS) (3) to screen bioactivities of targeted compounds by adopting our previously developed high-throughput screening assays including 96-well plate reader, spectrophotometric and chromatography methods.

  • Barriers and opportunities to a circular food economy for Melbourne: A policy analysis

    There is an increasing international focus on circular food systems and circular food economies that minimise food waste, make the most of natural resources and regenerate natural ecosystems. With rapid urbanisation, cities are likely to play an important role in creating circular food economies. This project will investigate the policy barriers and opportunities to creating a circular food economy in Melbourne. You will undertake a review of the relevant literature on circular food economies at city region level and undertake a small number of interviews with waste, policy and other food system stakeholders in Melbourne and elsewhere in Victoria. This research will contribute to an understanding of the policies needed to promote circular food systems in rapidly growing cities.

    This is a social science research project that uses qualitative methods. You will complete a subject in social research methods and develop a human ethics application to conduct research interviews. You will develop skills in qualitative research, interviewing and policy analysis.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Rachel Carey

    Affiliated research group: Foodprint Melbourne

    Dr Rachel Carey leads the Foodprint Melbourne research team, which is based at the Parkville campus. The Foodprint Melbourne team conducts research to inform the development of a resilient and sustainable food system for Melbourne and has a particular focus on research for policy impact. The team partners with a wide range of stakeholders, including the City of Melbourne.

  • How to prevent grain loss in cereals

    Plant domestication is one of the major pillars for the transition of humans from hunter-gatherer to agriculture-based societies. Loss of the natural mode of grain dispersal was perhaps the single most important event in the process of cereal domestication. We discovered two genes responsible for grain separation in wheat and barley named Brittle rachis 1 and Brittle rachis 2 (Btr1, Btr2). Based on amino acid sequences, these two genes were found independent, and their orthologue does not exist in rice, Arabidopsis or any other plant species out of the Triticeae tribe. We hypothesis that Btr1 and Btr2 raised as a result of a block duplication event from ancestral genes called Btr1-like/Btr2-like followed by functional divergence. The molecular and physiological function of ancestral Btr-like genes is completely unknown.  In the current project, you will build on these discoveries, to investigate the function of Btr1-like/Btr2-like genes using genomics and transcriptomics tools. This will be integrated into a larger effort to understand the evolution of grain dispersal mechanisms in wild cereals.  Skills focus: Plant genomics, transcriptomics, bioinformatics, and molecular biology.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Mohammad Pourkheirandish, Professor Prem Bhalla

    Affiliated research group: Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

    The Plant Biotechnology group offers an exciting and stimulating world class environment for research, education and training in plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology. Programs cover the broad spectrum of research using modern techniques to genetically engineer pasture, vegetable and horticulture crops for future agricultural and environmental needs. The group is part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre for Excellence for Integrative Legume Research.

  • Novel wine making by incorporation of teas

    Wine is a very popular alcoholic beverage globally. Traditionally, wine is made by different grape cultivars and their flavour/taste are varied accordingly. Grape polyphenols are a group of important chemical compounds significantly contributed to the flavour/taste of the resultant wine. It is also well-known that the polyphenols in teas contribute to the tea taste/flavour. In this project, we plan to make a series of innovative wines by incorporating of different type of teas during the wine making process. The flavour/taste related compounds will be analysed by LC-MS and GC-MS, and further the sensory properties of the wine will be evaluated in our FVAS state-of-art sensory facilities. Skills focus: analytical chemistry, microbiology, fermentation, winemaking, LC-MS, GC-MS, sensory evaluation.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Zhongxiang Fang, Dr Pangzhen Zhang

  • Survival of bacterial and viral animal pathogens in the environment

    Survival of pathogens in the environment has important implications for disease control in animal populations. This project will study the survival of an important viral pathogen of chickens (infectious laryngotracheitis virus, ILTV) and an important bacterial pathogen of cattle (Mycoplasma bovis) under different environmental conditions, including survival of a novel vaccine strain of ILTV in water and other substrates used for vaccine administration. The project will involve a number of traditional laboratory techniques including bacterial culture, cell culture and viral propagation.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Joanne Devlin, Professor Glenn Browning

  • Mycoplasmas causing mastitis in Australian dairy herds

    Mycoplasmas can cause a range of diseases in cattle, including mastitis. However, we know relatively little about which mycoplasmas cause mastitis in Australian dairy herds or how important each of them is. In this project you will isolate mycoplasmas from cases of mastitis in different dairy herds and characterize these isolates to determine which species occur most commonly, then sequence and analyse their genomes to determine how much they vary from herd to herd and determine whether they differ from isolates found in other countries. The project will be based in the Melbourne Veterinary School Preclinical Centre in Parkville.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Glenn Browning, Dr Nadeeka Wawegama

    Affiliated research centre: Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health (APCAH)

    The Asia Pacific Centre for Animal (APCAH) is an internationally focused research and research training centre that aims to optimise animal production and product quality through improved control of infectious agents. Previous work at APCAH has resulted in the development and registration of a number of commercial animal vaccines. Recent work has generated novel ILTV and M. bovis vaccines that are currently undergoing development by our commercial partners.

  • Transcriptional reprogramming during pollen development

    Analogous to animal systems, in most land plants sexual reproduction requires pollination involving transfer of the male sperm carried in the pollen to the female part of a flower, the stigma. In flowering plants, pollen is produced within anthers, the male reproductive organs of flowers, and its formation is a culmination of a highly specialized and tightly regulated developmental program. From economic perspective, sexual reproduction results in formation of edible fruit and grains, underpinning crop yield and global food security. Although indispensable to sexual reproduction pollen formation has been identified as developmatal stage most vulnerable to heat stress, which commonly results in significant yield losses especially due to climate change. This project will use available genomics resources and in-house RNA sequencing data to help understand the biological processes involved in pollen formation and identify target genes conferring pollen heat stress-tolerance. (Supervisors; Dr Agnieszka Golicz and Prof Mohan Singh).
    Skills gained: Bioinformatics, Transcriptomics, RNA-Seq data analysis, differential gene expression analysis, Linux command line.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Prem Bhalla, Professor Mohan Singh

    Affiliated research group: Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

    The Plant Biotechnology group offers an exciting and stimulating world class environment for research, education and training in plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology. Programs cover the broad spectrum of research using modern techniques to genetically engineer pasture, vegetable and horticulture crops for future agricultural and environmental needs. The group is part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre for Excellence for Integrative Legume Research.

  • Understanding plant meiosis across 500 million years of evolution

    Sexually reproducing eukaryotes, including plants, generate gametes using a specialized cell division called meiosis which serves both to halve the number of chromosomes and to reshuffle genetic variation present in the parent. Although the core processes of meiosis remain the same, changes arose in the course of evolution including diversification and neo-functionalization of meiosis related genes. Better understanding of the context, initiation, and progression of meiosis in diverse plant groups will help harness the existing variation and fuel improvement of key plant breeding programs. With over 250 plant genome sequences available to date, this project will use integrative analysis, comparative genomics and transcriptomics to identify homologues of known meiotic genes in diverse plant species and novel plant-specific genes which arose during evolution.
    Skills gained: Bioinformatics, comparative genomics, genome annotation, nucleotide and protein sequence comparative analysis, phylogenetic analysis, Linux command line.

    Potential supervisors: Professor Prem Bhalla, Professor Mohan Singh

    Affiliated research group: Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

    The Plant Biotechnology group offers an exciting and stimulating world class environment for research, education and training in plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology. Programs cover the broad spectrum of research using modern techniques to genetically engineer pasture, vegetable and horticulture crops for future agricultural and environmental needs. The group is part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre for Excellence for Integrative Legume Research.

  • Inoculum threshold levels required to cause collar and root rot in tomato and rotation crop plants

    In recent years, tomato processors in northern Victoria and southern NSW have experienced a reduction in profitability due to progressive yield decline. Soil-borne pathogens such as Pythium species and Fusarium oxysporum have been shown to have a significant impact on root development and plant growth. Soil-borne pathogens require a minimum level of inoculum in the soil to enable infection and subsequent disease development. The aim is to determine the threshold level of soil inoculum of Fusarium oxysporum and Pythium irregulare required to cause infection and disease in tomato plants. This project will include $3,000 bursary from the Australian Processing Tomato Research Council.

    Potential supervisor: Professor Paul Taylor

    Affiliated research group: Plant Pathology

    The Plant Pathology group researches mostly into fungal plant pathogens of agricultural and horticultural crops in the areas of:

    1. Plant Soil Health - Identification of fungal pathogens associated with yield decline of cropping systems
    2. Biosecurity - Mitigating risk of incursion of exotic fungal pathogens; developing qPCR diagnostics
    3. Fungal Pathogen Genomics - Genome sequencing, taxonomy, identification of pathogenicity factors
    4. Biotechnology - Genetic transformation of fungal pathogens; and Genetic transformation of Brassica for cold tolerance

  • Interaction between soilborne pathogens associated with poor growth of tomato plants and water stress

    In recent years, tomato processors in northern Victoria and southern NSW have experienced a reduction in profitability due to progressive yield decline. Soil-borne pathogens such as Pythium species and Fusarium oxysporum have been shown to have a significant impact on root development and plant growth. A previous glasshouse study showed a synergistic interaction between Pythium irregulare and a three-day water logging stress that lead to severe root damage and subsequent reduced plant growth and reduced photosynthesis. The aim is to determine the effect of water logging and water deficit on pathogenicity and plant growth with the most aggressive Pythium irregulare and Fusarium oxysporum isolates.  The trials will be undertaken in environmental chamber on the Parkville campus. This project will include a $3,000 bursary from the Australian Processing Tomato Research Council.

    Potential supervisor: Professor Paul Taylor

    Affiliated research group: Plant Pathology

    The Plant Pathology group researches mostly into fungal plant pathogens of agricultural and horticultural crops in the areas of:

    1. Plant Soil Health - Identification of fungal pathogens associated with yield decline of cropping systems
    2. Biosecurity - Mitigating risk of incursion of exotic fungal pathogens; developing qPCR diagnostics
    3. Fungal Pathogen Genomics - Genome sequencing, taxonomy, identification of pathogenicity factors
    4. Biotechnology - Genetic transformation of fungal pathogens; and Genetic transformation of Brassica for cold tolerance

  • Interaction between soilborne Pythium spp. associated with poor growth of pyrethrum plants and water stress

    A range of foliar and soilborne pathogens have been identified to be associated with yield decline affected pyrethrum plants in Tasmania and Victoria. Pythium spp may have a role in causing damage to new roots. It is likely the interaction with abiotic stresses, in particular water logging, makes the situation worse Understanding the importance of the interactions will help in finding a solution for an integrated disease management approach to control.  The aim of this project is to determine the effect of water logging on pathogenicity and plant growth of pyrethrum plants infected with Pythium spp. This project will include a $3,000 bursary from Botanical Resources Australia.

    Potential supervisor: Professor Paul Taylor

    Affiliated research group: Plant Pathology

    The Plant Pathology group researches mostly into fungal plant pathogens of agricultural and horticultural crops in the areas of:

    1. Plant Soil Health - Identification of fungal pathogens associated with yield decline of cropping systems
    2. Biosecurity - Mitigating risk of incursion of exotic fungal pathogens; developing qPCR diagnostics
    3. Fungal Pathogen Genomics - Genome sequencing, taxonomy, identification of pathogenicity factors
    4. Biotechnology - Genetic transformation of fungal pathogens; and Genetic transformation of Brassica for cold tolerance

  • Colletotrichum coccodes identification

    Anthracnose, caused by Colletotrichum coccodes is a major disease of processing potatoes and tomatoes. A recent study in Australia indicated that there may be a new Colletotrichum species associated with this disease. The aim of this project is to use multigene phylogenetics to identify the taxonomy of isolates collected from tomatoes and compare these to a global collection f C. coccodes.

    Potential supervisor: Professor Paul Taylor

    Affiliated research group: Plant Pathology

    The Plant Pathology group researches mostly into fungal plant pathogens of agricultural and horticultural crops in the areas of:

    1. Plant Soil Health - Identification of fungal pathogens associated with yield decline of cropping systems
    2. Biosecurity - Mitigating risk of incursion of exotic fungal pathogens; developing qPCR diagnostics
    3. Fungal Pathogen Genomics - Genome sequencing, taxonomy, identification of pathogenicity factors
    4. Biotechnology - Genetic transformation of fungal pathogens; and Genetic transformation of Brassica for cold tolerance

  • Efficacy of microbial biostimulants to control soil-borne pathogens in pyrethrum

    Microbial biostimulants have been recognised for their stimulative effects on plant growth and nutrients uptake however, the inhibitive effects against soil borne pathogens and reduced disease development on host plants have not been extensively studied. The aim of the project is to assess the efficacy of a plant bio-stimulant to reduce soilborne pathogen inoculum and/or stimulate root growth in pyrethrum.

    Potential supervisor: Professor Paul Taylor

    Affiliated research group: Plant Pathology

    The Plant Pathology group researches mostly into fungal plant pathogens of agricultural and horticultural crops in the areas of:

    1. Plant Soil Health - Identification of fungal pathogens associated with yield decline of cropping systems
    2. Biosecurity - Mitigating risk of incursion of exotic fungal pathogens; developing qPCR diagnostics
    3. Fungal Pathogen Genomics - Genome sequencing, taxonomy, identification of pathogenicity factors
    4. Biotechnology - Genetic transformation of fungal pathogens; and Genetic transformation of Brassica for cold tolerance

  • Community-led digital inclusion processes in rural and remote Australia

    Lack of digital access perpetuates systemic disadvantage in Australia’s remote and regional communities. Beyond accessibility, affordability and digital literacy, digital inclusion requires communities to articulate their specific needs and lobby for locally appropriate solutions. This project pilots a capacity building process based on applied resilience scholarship to improve understanding of the role of capacity building for community-led digital inclusion action.

    This Honours project requires you to review the relevant literatures and to conduct and analyse a small number of community interviews. Through completing your research, the subject Social Research Methods, and a human ethics application, you will develop social research and engagement skills that are important if you are considering a Master by research or PhD in the future.

    Potential supervisors: 
    Dr Jana-Axinja Paschen, Research Fellow, [Contact: jpaschen@unimelb.edu.au]

    Affiliated research group: Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG)

    The Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG) in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (FVAS) has a sustained track record of social science research and the application of trans-disciplinary research methodologies involving research with, rather than on, people in the agricultural system. The RIRG develops new knowledge about the human and social transitions required amongst individuals and organizations to take collective action to progress agricultural transformation.

  • Social dimensions of digital agriculture

    This project will involve working with the Birchip Cropping Group to contribute to the sociology of digital innovation in agriculture, particularly the role of advisors and others as mediators for on-farm innovation and adoption as well as exploring the challenges and opportunities for using digital agriculture as a decision support system.

    During your honours program you will complete a subject in social research methods and complete a human ethics application for conducting research involving human participants.  You will develop skills in social research and community and industry engagement. These skills are highly desired by industry and are important if you are considering a Masters by research or PhD in the future.

    Potential supervisors:
    Professor Ruth Nettle, [Contact: ranettle@unimelb.edu.au]
    Dr Margaret Ayre, [Contact: mayre@unimelb.edu.au]
    Ms Nikki Reichelt, [Contact: reichelt@unimelb.edu.au]

    Affiliated research group: Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG)

    The Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG) in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (FVAS) has a sustained track record of social science research and the application of trans-disciplinary research methodologies involving research with, rather than on, people in the agricultural system. The RIRG develops new knowledge about the human and social transitions required amongst individuals and organizations to take collective action to progress agricultural transformation.

  • Agricultural workforce development

    This project will advance knowledge of an aspect of   agricultural workforce development. Options include: HR practices in agriculture, the attraction and retention of new entrants, or farm work assessment and labour replacing technologies.

    During your honours program you will complete a subject in social research methods, you will complete a human ethics application for conducting research involving human participants and, through completing your research, you will develop skills in social research and community and industry engagement. These skills are highly desired by industry and social research experience is important if you are considering a Masters by research or PhD in the future.

    Potential supervisors: 
    Professor Ruth Nettle, [Contact: ranettle@unimelb.edu.au]
    Dr Michael Santhanam-Martin, [Contact: mpmartin@unimelb.edu.au]

    Affiliated research group: Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG)

    The Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG) in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (FVAS) has a sustained track record of social science research and the application of trans-disciplinary research methodologies involving research with, rather than on, people in the agricultural system. The RIRG develops new knowledge about the human and social transitions required amongst individuals and organizations to take collective action to progress agricultural transformation.

  • Climate change policy and politics for agriculture

    This project will advance knowledge of an aspect of   climate change policy and politics for Australian agriculture. Options include: farmer knowledge, attitudes and practices; development and extension for climate change adaptation; strategy, policy and advocacy.

    During your honours program you will complete a subject in social research methods, you will complete a human ethics application for conducting research involving human participants and, through completing your research, you will develop skills in social research and community and industry engagement. These skills are highly desired by industry and social research experience is important if you are considering a Masters by research or PhD in the future.

    Potential supervisors: 
    Dr Michael Santhanam-Martin, [Contact: mpmartin@unimelb.edu.au]
    Corey Watts, Farmers for Climate Action Policy Advisor, [Contact: corey.watts@unimelb.edu.au]

    Affiliated research group: Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG)

    The Rural Innovation Research Group (RIRG) in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences (FVAS) has a sustained track record of social science research and the application of trans-disciplinary research methodologies involving research with, rather than on, people in the agricultural system. The RIRG develops new knowledge about the human and social transitions required amongst individuals and organizations to take collective action to progress agricultural transformation.

  • Modulating immunity by herpesvirus infection

    Herpesviruses survive a lifetime with their hosts because they have evolved many varied mechanisms to avoid immune-mediated destruction. Horses can be infected with more than 5 different types of herpesviruses that can cause a range of clinical disease signs. This project aims to compare infection by two different equine gammaherpesviruses in horses and will investigate how infection can alter the population of immune cells resident in respiratory sites. The student will gain a range of skills including cell and virus culture, PCR and molecular biology, and FACS analysis.

    Potential supervisors: Associate Professor Carol Hartley, Dr Charlie El-Hage, Professor James Gilkerson

    Affiliated research group: Centre for Equine Infectious Disease

    The Centre for Equine Infectious Disease is a major national resource for the study of equine diseases in Australia.  We conduct research into the major viral and bacterial pathogens infecting horses. Our research has led to the development of diagnostic tests, the development of vaccines and our staff are engaged in providing advice to various level of government. We provide diagnostic testing for serious endemic pathogens of horses including strangles and equine herpesviruses.  We are actively involved in providing advice to industry on the management of infectious disease outbreaks.

  • Long term urinary shedding of equine rhinitis A virus in racehorses

    Equine rhinitis A virus (ERAV) is virus that is most closely related to foot-and mouth disease virus and can cause respiratory disease in horses.  ERAV is maintained in the population through long term shedding of the virus in the urine, but exactly how it gets there and stays there for long periods is not known.  Urinary shedding of viruses is relatively uncommon and the mechanism by which this virus escapes immune destruction is not known. This project aims to apply molecular tools to study samples collected from racehorses to identify the location of the sites of virus persistence in the urinary tract.

    Potential supervisors: Associate Professor Carol Hartley, Dr Charlie El-Hage, Professor James Gilkerson

    Affiliated research group: Centre for Equine Infectious Disease

    The Centre for Equine Infectious Disease is a major national resource for the study of equine diseases in Australia.  We conduct research into the major viral and bacterial pathogens infecting horses. Our research has led to the development of diagnostic tests, the development of vaccines and our staff are engaged in providing advice to various level of government. We provide diagnostic testing for serious endemic pathogens of horses including strangles and equine herpesviruses.  We are actively involved in providing advice to industry on the management of infectious disease outbreaks.

  • Three dimensional tracking of herpesvirus infection

    This project aims to develop methods to image the infection and spread of herpesvirus infections in a natural host model using three-dimensional imaging and fluorescence microscopy. Our model system is infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV), which is a significant pathogen of poultry worldwide. Light sheet fluorescence microscopy will be used to track ILTV strains that have been engineered to produce fluorescent proteins during infection.

    Potential supervisors: Associate Professor Carol Hartley, Dr Mauricio Coppo, Dr Paola Vaz

    Affiliated research group: Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health

    The Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health (APCAH) is an internationally focused research and research training centre that aims to optimise animal production and product quality through improved control of infectious agents.  The Centre conducts multidisciplinary research to develop fundamental understanding of the epidemiology and pathogenesis of infectious diseases of animals and applies this to enhancing control of disease through improved strategies for vaccination, diagnosis and management. Our expertise extends across the full range of production animal species (cattle, sheep, poultry and pigs), as well as companion animal species (dogs, cats and horses) and wildlife.

  • Arbovirus vector study

    Arbovirus diseases such as African horse sickness pose a serious threat to the international movement of horses. This project will monitor insect vector populations at the Werribee quarantine centre to determine whether possible vectors of arbovirus diseases can be found. insect traps will be set and the insects collected will be identified. Genomic sequencing techniques will be used to determine if these insects are infected with arboviruses, and to determine what animal species they have been biting.

    Potential supervisors: Professor James Gilkerson, Associate Professor Carol Hartley, Dr Charlie El-Hage

    Affiliated research group: Centre for Equine Infectious Disease

    The Centre for Equine Infectious Disease is a major national resource for the study of equine diseases in Australia.  We conduct research into the major viral and bacterial pathogens infecting horses. Our research has led to the development of diagnostic tests, the development of vaccines and our staff are engaged in providing advice to various level of government. We provide diagnostic testing for serious endemic pathogens of horses including strangles and equine herpesviruses.  We are actively involved in providing advice to industry on the management of infectious disease outbreaks.

  • Infectious respiratory disease of foals

    Strangles is an important bacterial disease of horses. This project will complement an existing PhD project investigating the epidemiology of Streptococcus equi infection on a Victorian stud farm. Serial blood samples will be collected from foals after weaning to determine whether outbreaks of respiratory disease are associated with infection with common respiratory bacteria and viruses.

    Potential supervisors: Professor James Gilkerson, Associate Professor Carol Hartley, Dr Charlie El-Hage

    Affiliated research group: Centre for Equine Infectious Disease

    The Centre for Equine Infectious Disease is a major national resource for the study of equine diseases in Australia.  We conduct research into the major viral and bacterial pathogens infecting horses. Our research has led to the development of diagnostic tests, the development of vaccines and our staff are engaged in providing advice to various level of government. We provide diagnostic testing for serious endemic pathogens of horses including strangles and equine herpesviruses.  We are actively involved in providing advice to industry on the management of infectious disease outbreaks.

  • Microbial diversity and ecology in sourdough bread

    Sourdough bread is made with a mixture of yeast and bacteria in a starter. The identity, diversity and interactions of the microbes dramatically affect the composition and health benefits of bread. This project will use a range of emerging and traditional microbiological and genomic techniques, together with small molecule analysis to understand the extent and degree of interactions. Understanding the metabolic capabilities of the novel yeasts and bacteria and their interactions during an extended dough fermentation will lead to bread with enhanced health and functional properties.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Kate Howell

    Affiliated research group: The Howell Lab

    The food and nutritional sciences research group at the Parkville campus is an extensive and interdisciplinary group which works closely with industry to achieve real impact.

  • Mining of resistance genes in the wild relatives of cultivated barley

    Diseases generally result from an intimate interaction between host and pathogen. The constant conflict between plant and pathogen has shaped both organisms' genetic diversity and is referred to as co-evolution. The specificity between a host and pathogen results from the interplay of genes that have evolved in both organisms. Cultivation of modern varieties of low genetic diversity has led to increased pathogen inoculum, followed by genetic vulnerabilities. One of the primary resources of disease-resistant genes is crop wild relatives. Previously, we have discovered a rust resistance gene in cultivated barley that has been overcome by pathogen evolution. In this honours project, you will build on these discoveries to look for different resistant alleles in wild relatives. This analysis will result in mining genetic diversity to answer how many potential resistance alleles evolved to protect barley from the pathogen at a specific locus. Mining genetic diversity will identify several functional alleles with different specificities that enable us to engineer the resistance. Skills focus: Plant genomics, molecular biology, DNA sequencing and assembly, and bioinformatics.

    Supervisor: Dr Mohammad Pourkheirandish [Contact: mohammad.p@unimelb.edu.au]

    Affiliated research group: Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

    Dr Mohammad Pourkheirandish has moved to the University of Melbourne in 2018, where he joined the School of Agriculture and Food, the laboratory of Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. Mohammad is one of the world leaders in the research area of cereal evolution. Discovery of multiple resistant alleles from crop wild relatives will be an exceptional resource for diversifying the portfolio of cultivated crops and contributing to crop improvement and food security.

  • Agricultural big data for environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation

    The big data era has arrived for the agriculture sector. In the agriculture community, big data is often regarded as a combination of technologies and analytics that collect and collate data, generate and analyse data patterns to assist decision-making in a useful and timely way. We see the potential of using data-analytics approaches to tackle agricultural and environmental issues, in particular those revolving around nitrogen use.

    The potential project is mainly desktop-based and may involve laboratory/field experiment. Students will choose from a range of topics surrounding agricultural nutrient management and climate change, and perform a meta-analysis (a procedure of combining data from multiple studies to generate a more precise summary). Using national and international datasets on soil-plant carbon and nitrogen dynamics in agricultural systems, we have previously performed meta-analyses to assess how future CO2 climates would affect the yield and grain quality of crops and pastures, what strategies are effective for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, whether soil carbon sequestration in cropping systems is feasible. Students will also be given opportunties to draft, revise and submit a manuscript to international journals.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam, Professor Deli Chen, Dr Xia Liang

    Affiliated research group: The Soils and Environment Research Group

    The Soils and Environment research group seeks to understand the impacts of agricultural management on soil processes and develop technology to improve agricultural sustainability. We carry out a range of fundamental and applied research with the aim to help farmers, policy makers and industry partners make evidence-based decisions. Current research strengths and activities include:  Nutrient cycling in agro-ecosystems; Measuring, modelling and mitigating air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture; Novel fertiliser technologies; Agro-ecosystem modelling and decisions support tools for efficient fertilisers use; Reuse and recycling of agricultural and urban wastes; Big data (data mining): Green index, nitrogen footprint; Soil and environmental microbiomes; Transmission of antibiotic resistance genes in agro-ecosystems; Soil microbial evolution and biogeography.

  • Precision agriculture and soil nitrogen management

    Nitrogen is essential for crop production, yet its mismanagement has caused a cascade of environmental problems. Precision nitrogen management is an important area of precision agriculture for solving problems in food and environmental security for sustainable agricultural and social development. Rapidly advancing sensor systems on ground, air and space-borne platforms delivering hyperspectral and thermal remote sensing imagery at high spatio-temporal resolutions provide massive volumes of data to be analysed in novel ways to unveil detailed insights into crop performance and their variability across large areas. Students will have the opportunity to conduct research on proximal and remote sensing, crop growth modelling, spatial statistics, agronomy, and greenhouse gas emission mitigation.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Alexis Pang, Dr Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam

    We work within a multidisciplinary group of researchers with backgrounds in Soil and Crop sciences, Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Engineering and computer-based modelling. Working in collaboration with various local and international research institutions and industry partners, we develop new scientific insights as well as industry-relevant solutions in an agricultural production environment that is technology and data rich. We don’t just ask “why”; we also ask “why not?”

  • Assessing sustainability of meat and meat analogue products

    There is an increasing consumer interest in reducing meat consumption due to concerns of its environmental impacts. While extensive scientific literature has focused on meat production, little is known about consumer perception and sustainability of retail-ready products, some of which require extensive processing. This project aims to compare greenhouse gas emission and water scarcity of several meat and meat analogue products. The project will be closely linked to another project examining nutritional values of these products. Results from these projects will inform consumers, manufacturers and policy makers nutritional and sustainability issues in replacing meat with alternative proteins.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Natalie Doran-Browne, Dr Anita Lawrence, Dr Minh Ha, Dr Brad Ridoutt (CSIRO), Professor Robyn Warner

    This is an interdisciplinary project leveraging expertise of multiple research groups at The University of Melbourne and the CSIRO. Our expertise include food, human nutrition and environmental sciences.

  • Pasture intake and grazing pattern of dairy cows selected for ‘Feed Saved’ Australian breeding value

    A major challenge in selecting more efficient grazing cows is the difficulty in measuring an individual’s feed intake, especially of pasture. ‘Feed saved’ is a new Australian breeding value (ABV) released recently in Australia that is an indicator for predicting feed intake, which may provide an idea about how efficient a cow is in converting feed (pasture) into milk. However, this ABV requires validation in the grazing system. The project aims to evaluate the differences of pasture intake, grazing behaviour, rumination time and production parameters between cows selected for feed saved ABV.

    The project activities are Parkville based, however, for field experimentation student may need to travel to Dookie Dairy.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Saranika Talukder, Dr Brendan Cullen, Dr Ellen Jongman, Dr Long Cheng

  • How could animals ‘communicate through data?

    Dairy cows are complex biological systems that need to maintain long- (homeorhesis) and short- (homeostasis) metabolic balances in order to produce the highest possible quality milk in relation to their genetic potential. They are subject to a range of metabolic and infectious diseases, as well as herd dynamics that impinge on wellbeing and productivity. Recent technological advances in remote sensing and wireless systems, combined with new methods of data management and processing, provide new and exciting opportunities to explore and exploit the potential for significant animal health gains whilst improving productivity. Compared with traditional livestock management (eg, gathering auditory, olfactory and visual information from animals to evaluate health, welfare and productivity), technologies and sensors can monitor, manage, and control many aspects of livestock production, both simultaneously and automatically with the added benefit of being ‘real-time’. The project will validate the automated captured behavioural data of Dookie dairy in a more meaningful way.

    The project activities are Parkville based, occasionally the student needs to travel to Dookie Dairy.

    Potential supervisors: Dr Saranika Talukder, Dr Brendan Cullen