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CLOSED: AvecNet PhD Studentship: ecological and genetic determinants of malaria vector behaviours

June 9, 2011 - 19:54 -- Ingeborg van Schayk

Ecological determinants of African malaria vector behaviour and their implications for control

Organisation: Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania and the University of Glasgow, UK
Location of PhD: Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania and UG, UK. Registered for PhD at UG
Duration: 3 years, commencing October 2011
Closing date for applications: 1st July 2011

AvecNet Project

A new multi-partner, interdisciplinary consortium, AvecNet, has recently been established with funding from the European Commission ( The overreaching objective of AvecNet is to develop new tools for malaria vector control in Africa. The mandate includes a commitment to develop research capacity in this field through the provision of PhD studentships to outstanding young African scientists who wish to pursue a career in malaria vector control in their countries.  

Through this scheme an exciting Ph.D. opportunity is now available for cutting-edge investigation of the ecological and genetic determinants of malaria vector behaviours. This position arises from a collaboration between the Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania and the University of Glasgow, UK, and will be primarily based at the IHI’s main malaria vector research campus in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania.  In addition to academic record and experience, a crucial requirement for this position will be commitment to enhancing research capacity in vector control at the IHI through longer-term career development.   


The exposure of African malaria vectors to current front-line control methods are highly dependent on their behaviours. In particular, the success of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and Indoor Residual Spraying rely upon the tendency of vectors to bite people indoors and at night, and rest inside houses (exophily).  However, recent evidence suggests that vectors may be changing their behaviours in areas where where ITN and/or IRS coverage is high.  Such behavioural variation could significantly impact malaria exposure and the sustainability of vector control. However, there is little understanding of the ecological and mosquito genetic factors that determine these mosquito behaviours. Through the development of novel trapping methods to characterize mosquito behaviours, and application of cutting-edge ecological analyses and genetic association mapping studies, we are investigating the relative contribution of environmental and mosquito genetic factors to their feeding and resting behaviours.   Ultimately these data will be used to develop models for prediction of the behavioural response of vector communities to environmental change and control measures, and its associated impact on malaria epidemiology. 
The student will have opportunity to develop a project that will help achieve these objectives through assisting in the development of novel mosquito trapping methods in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. They will have opportunity to implement these and existing trapping methods to characterise the association between environmental factors and malaria vector behaviours, and develop statistical and mathematical models to predict the likely effect of increases in ITN-coverage and environmental change on malaria transmission. Depending on their particular interest, they may also have opportunity to participate in the analyses of genetic association mapping studies in our collaborating laboratory at the University of California, Davis.


  1. To assist in the development and evaluation of new trapping methods to assess behavioural variation with malaria vectors in the Kilombero Valley of Tanzania.
  2. To develop and implement protocols for investigation of the association between environmental variation and mosquito genetic factors on the feeding and resting behaviours of malaria vectors.
  3. To use statistical and mathematical modelling approaches to develop predictive models of the influence of mosquito behavioural variation on malaria epidemiology.
  4. To contribute to the development of research capacity in malaria vector ecology and genetics at the Ifakara Health Institute.


This PhD will combine cutting edge ecological modelling and population genetics with a diverse range of field entomological and malaria surveillance skills. During study periods in Glasgow, the student will learn how to develop and apply statistical and mathematical models for analysis of mosquito populations and malaria transmission. Additional study periods in UC Davis for training in bioinformatics and the analyses of genetic association studies may also be possible.

  • Commitment to a career in malaria vector control in Africa
  • Previous experience working with malaria vectors in the field BSc/MSc in biological sciences.
  • Competence with basic statistics and enthusiasm for developing quantitative skills
  • Scientifically inquisitive with a commitment to learning and applying complex field studies and statistical techniques.
  • Willingness to spend part of PhD in UK/USA  as necessary (*a < 4 months/year)
  • English language IELTS score of 6.5 (with no subtest less than 6)

This PhD opportunity is now open to applications

To apply please send a CV and cover letter explaining your reasons for applying to:  

Closing date for applications is: 1st July 2011

Don't forget to mention MalariaWorld when applying for this job