AITHM James Cook University


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01 December 2020

PhD opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches to emerging infectious diseases

Expressions of interest invited

Emerging infectious diseases are of global concern, as highlighted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. More than 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin (transmitted from animals to humans), and their incidence has tripled over the past 30 years. The increase of outbreaks been driven by a variety of factors including human encroachment into wildlife habitats, increasing urbanisation and climate change; Asia in particular is a global hotspot for zoonotic infectious disease emergence. 

CSIRO and JCU have partnered to build a research programme on emerging infectious diseases, focussing in Northern Australia and the IndoPacific region. This research programme is interdisciplinary, encompassing all aspects of emerging infectious diseases:

  • innovative surveillance techniques (Internet of Things, sensing, other existing data, citizen science and Indigenous knowledge), 
  • development of new diagnostics and treatments, 
  • understanding the host-pathogen response (e.g. through cell culture/animal model, Next gen seq, in-silico or molecular analysis),
  • identifying and developing possible responses (including vaccine or drug development where needed), 
  • understanding sociocultural aspects (community engagement, change management, wellbeing aspects of One Health, behaviour change and communication), 
  • identifying human and animal health systems ideal roles and gaps,
  • developing decision support systems for decision makers.

 We are currently recruiting HDR students for the programme, with specific project areas including:

  • A citizen science approach to surveillance and communication
  • Identifying and understanding the barriers and enablers to One Health approaches for biosecurity in Northern Australia; including uptake of novel technologies, Indigenous-led monitoring and integrated solutions.
  • What are the diverse cultural perspectives across environmental and health modelling and management?
  • What are the enablers and barriers for bringing Indigenous-led monitoring and knowledge systems into One Health surveillance?
  • How should we model different variables in environmental and health management? Taking into account sociocultural aspects.
  • What is the most appropriate digital platform to build for citizen science based surveillance? What do locals, land managers, and decision makers need in their toolbox? What metrics are most trusted, or most reliable?
  • Develop a platform to inform the public, policy makers and scientists regarding now-casting and forecasting of emerging infectious diseases in Northern Australia & the IndoPacific region.
  • Establishing a baseline of pathogens in Northern Australia & the IndoPacific region (wildlife, production animals, environmental)
  • What are the most significant vector borne diseases in the IndoPacific region, and how can we best detect and control them? e.g. Mosquito borne diseases, such as Japanese encephalitis, dengue, malaria, etc.
  • Understanding Buruli Ulcer to hotspots and transmission dynamics in possums, and how that might relate to human diseases.

If you would like to be involved in this programme, please submit your CV and a brief letter describing your interest and experience in this field to A/Prof Roslyn Hickson ( The selected candidates will be primarily based in Cairns, Townsville, or Geelong as appropriate for the specific project and supervisory team.

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