AFBI PhD students help launch DAERA's 2019 Postgraduate Research Competition

Date published: 05 March 2019

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) recently launched the annual Postgraduate Studentship competition for 2019.

New PhD student, Kerry McIlwaine and former PhD student, Jonathan Blair, joined Permanent Secretary, Dr Denis McMahon, at the launch, which was attended by a number of local news outlets. DAERA currently fund 36 Ph.D students over 3 years and will fund 12 new studentships in 2019.

Kerry, from Larne, graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 2018 with a BSc in Biological Sciences with Professional Studies. She is currently carrying out her PhD in Virology Branch under the supervision of Dr Victoria Smyth & Dr Ken Lemon at Stormont and at Queen’s University. She is investigating the vertical transmission from hens to eggs of a strain of chicken astrovirus that causes runting and high levels of mortality in embryos. The emerging hatchery disease is called “White Chicks” since affected hatched chicks are distinctly pale. The disease leaves chicks weak and sickly and they usually succumb within a few hours of hatching. The cause of the disease was discovered in 2011 by now-retired AFBI scientist, Dr Danny Todd, MBE.

Kerry was joined by Jonathan Blair whose PhD provided key evidence to policy on the ability of hedgerows to sequester carbon.  Jonathans PhD was under the supervision of Dr Rodrigo Olave and is contributing to the evidence base, strategy and calculations to achieve carbon neutrality in agriculture.

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