2013 Research Opportunities - wildlife
Investigation into the pharmacokinetics and efficacy of antibiotics in koalas
Synopsis: Our groundbreaking and innovative research shows that many therapeutic drugs administered to koalas do not reach therapeutic plasma concentrations. This project investigates whether this is also the case with many ‘first-line’ antibiotics. This project will work out the best dose rates for antibiotics for koalas
Koalas are frequently medicated with antibiotics to treat trauma (as a result of burns, feral animal attacks, car accidents) and infectious disease. The koala’s diet has a high proportion of plant secondary metabolites (PSMs), consequently the koala is presumed to have physiological adaptations to minimise oral absorption and maximize elimination of these PSMs and a side effect is that they absorb some medicines poorly and eliminate them quickly. We suspect this is probably the case with the first-line antibacterial drugs. We will select two or three commonly used antibacterial drugs used in koalas and will work up the liquid chromatography assays for each of these drugs to detect their concentration in biological fluids. Then, we will test these agents with in vitro models to ascertain the extent of oral absorption (an everted sac model) and extent of metabolism (by the microsome assay which is a model of phase 1 hepatic metabolism). Finally we will investigate the in vivo pharmacokinetics of these agents in koalas to formulate a more effective dose rate of these drugs in this species.
Supervisor: A/Prof Merran Govendir
We are looking for an enthusiastic veterinarian or an animal/biological science graduate with interests in wildlife health and pharmacology with a first class honours (Hons I) or equivalent. Graduates with Hons I degree are eligible for Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA), which currently pays a tax exempt stipend of approximately $24,000 pa for 3.5 years. For a candidate to be successful for an APA for semester 2, 2013, applications for an APA must be submitted to The University of Sydney Research Office by June 11, 2013; or for semester 1, 2014 by October 31st 2013. Candidates will have their travel and accommodation expenses covered to attend koala facilities to obtain and collect samples at the Koala Preservation Society at Port Macquarie NSW and Australia Zoo, Beerwah QLD.
Behavioural and physiological characteristics of reproduction in the Tasmanian devil
Numbers of wild Tasmanian devils are declining as a result of the fatal, transmissible devil facial tumour disease. A captive insurance population program has been initiated but current captive breeding rates are sub-optimal, therefore the central goal of this project is to increase our understanding of reproduction of the devil and elucidate potential causes of failed male–female pairings. We can maximise the reproductive success of the ex-situ Tasmanian devil population by ensuring that pairings are made chiefly between compatible animals that are highly motivated to mate.
This project is designed to:
- develop an ethogram for devils with a focus on behaviour during courtship and mating
- explore the role of male and female devil behaviour in response to sexual stimuli
- explore the role of male and female age, weight, and prior pairing and socialisation experience on courtship and mating
- characterise endocrine profiles of successful and unsuccessful pairings using urinary hormone analysis
- examine the relationship of urinary endocrine profiles with existing faecal endocrine profiles.
This project will be conducted in association with the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, and leads on from a successful series of studies that have identified the ideal timings of male-female pairings. Analysis has shown that the timing of mating differs between successful and unsuccessful female devils. Monitoring faecal progestagen metabolite concentrations was a useful tool to determine the timing of pairings in relation to ovulation. However, the timing of ovulation and the extent of sperm storage would be better defined by detecting urinary markers, which have not yet been quantified in devils. To take this project to the next level, we plan to compliment faecal data with urinary endocrine profiles and behavioural data. This work will permit consolidation of a strategic approach to the natural reproduction of devils in the ex-situ population and will provide information necessary for continued developed of assisted reproductive technology.
Supervisor: Professor Paul McGreevy
We are looking for a veterinarian or an animal/biological science graduate with a first class honours (Hons I) or equivalent. Graduates with Hons I degrees are eligible for Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA), which currently pay a tax exempt stipend of approximately $23,000 pa for 3.5 years. For a candidate to be successful for an APA for semester 1, 2012, applications for an APA must be submitted to the University Research Office by October 31, 2011.
Liquid and frozen storage of Asian elephant spermatozoa
Modern reproductive management of captive wildlife populations involves the use of assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination (AI) to produce offspring. AI is conducted to maximise genetic diversity in the captive population without the need to transport males between institutions. A prerequisite for this method of artificial breeding is the ability to collect and successfully store semen (in liquid or frozen form) from males in order to allow for the time necessary to transport semen across state and even international borders. To date there has been relatively little success in the storage of Asian elephant semen, limiting the use and benefits of AI in this species.
An opportunity exists for a three year student PhD project (commencing March 2013) to develop methods for the successful liquid and frozen storage of Asian elephant semen. This project would be conducted in association with Taronga Conservation Society and other Australian zoological parks with Asian elephants in their collection. As such, it will involve extensive travel within Australia and require a highly committed and motivated student.
Eligibility: The successful candidate must have completed an undergraduate degree in agriculture, animal, veterinary or biological science, have research experience (Honours or Master’s degree) and excellent communication skills, and be willing to undertake field studies. Applicants should have a particular interest in sperm physiology and applied andrology. Experience in semen processing and assessment is highly desirable, but not essential. Applicants must be Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents. The successful candidate will hold an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) or equivalent stipend.
Application Guide: Further information can be obtained from Supervisor: Dr Simon de Graaf, E-mail: . Applications should be sent direct to Dr de Graaf at the above address and should include a curriculum vitae, a copy of an academic transcript, and the names and contact details of at least two referees.