Project properties

Title Integrating avian life history, physiology and immune function: autoimmunity and immunosenescence in a cohort of aging birds.
Group Wildlife Ecology and Conservation group
Project type thesis
Credits 18-36
Supervisor(s) Kevin Matson
Henk Parmentier
Examiner(s) F. van Langevelde
Contact info
Begin date 2015/04/01
End date 2022/12/31
Description The age of individual animals and the age structure of populations can influence host physiology, immune function, and the spread of infectious disease. Since 2007, 20 pigeons (hatched ca. December 2005) have been sampled least quarterly around the beginning of each astronomical season (i.e., around every solstice/equinox). At present (1 January 2015) the sampling protocols continue, and 12 of the original 20 birds (ca. 9 years old in December 2014) are still alive. While many questions can be asked using the already-collected data and samples, questions related to auto-immunity and its correlates and costs represent a particularly fertile area for further investigation. Natural auto-antibodies, N(A)Ab, are antibodies that are self-relative towards the individuals that produced them. N(A)Ab profiles have been shown to differ among individuals and strains of birds, but relationships with age, survival, and ecologically relevant indices of immune function remain poorly studied. We seek students who are interested in bridging the fields of ecology and animal science. Assaying already-collected plasma samples to determine their N(A)Ab profiles represents a central element of a project with a laboratory component; desk-top study alone could suffice for a short MSC topic. These projects/theses can be carried out during any period(s).

[bird] [animal] [birds] [animals] [pigeon] [pigeons] [disease ecology] [immunology] [ecoimmunology] [physiology] [ecophysiology] [autoimmunity] [senescence] [life history] [antibodies] [western blot] [desktop study] [miscellaneous] [The Netherlands]
Used skills Basic lab techniques (pipetting), more advanced lab techniques (can be learned during project, e.g., running western blots), desk-top study, analysing data using R, Canoco, etc.
Requirements Basic and/or advanced statistics (e.g., minimum Ecological Methods 1); familiarity with and interest in laboratory techniques, possible travel to University of Groningen for some lab work.