Untangling environmental effects on bee health

Join us to conduct high-quality research within the School of Natural Sciences based at the Wallumattagal Campus, Macquarie University, in Sydney, Australia.

This project investigates the drivers of bee health and evolution in honeybees and bumblebees by applying multi-omics techniques at landscape scales. The project will boost capacity to manage threats to pollination services.

Key details

Reference number


For course


Key dates

Applications close 3 March 2024 (international), 30 April 2024 (domestic)

Student type

Domestic, International

Area of study


Stipend value
(Direct payment)

$35,000 p.a.

This PhD scholarship is part of an Australian Research Council funded project (ARC Future Fellowship, FT23) that will generate critical knowledge and resources to address timely and critical issues for pollination services, with benefits for mitigating the impacts of infectious disease on bees.

Viruses carried by the globally invasive Varroa destructor mite cause catastrophic colony losses in honeybees worldwide and are readily transmitted between honeybees and other native or invasive pollinators. Bee pathogens can trigger nutritional, immunological and evolutionary changes that disrupt critical pollination services.

This project will help to determine how pollinator-pathogen dynamics shift and evolve across environments in two globally distributed bee species (honeybees and bumblebees) exposed to different Varroa impacts.

The project implements genomic approaches spanning invasive bees in Australia (AU) and New Zealand (NZ), and native bees in the United Kingdom (UK). Bumblebees were introduced to NZ from the UK in the 1880’s and then to the island of Tasmania (AU) in 1992 but have not yet invaded mainland AU. European honeybees are native to the UK and were introduced to AU and NZ in the early 1800s. This island system offers an unmatched opportunity to raise the international evaluation of virus threats to bees.

This project will identify key biotic and abiotic determinants of viral and microbial dynamics, and their effects on pollinator-pathogen evolution, in both native and invasive bees.

While NZ and UK have been exposed to Varroa mite for a long time, Tasmania offers a time sensitive, pre-Varroa snapshot of bee health. The project therefore will help to safeguard Australia against current threats to food security.

About the scholarship

The PhD project would suit candidates with background in some or all of:

  • evolution
  • genetics
  • landscape ecology
  • viruses
  • microbiomes
  • metabarcoding.

In this project we will:

  • determine how Varroa mites alter the viral communities of both bumblebees and honeybees
  • establish how bee viral communities are affected by the bee gut microbiome and nutrition across different environments
  • establish how virus evolution and diversity is affected by the bee anti-viral immune response and bee invasion histories into novel environments.

There will be considerable flexibility in the design of the project, and candidates may decide to focus on a particular area or develop related questions.


The scholarship is available to candidates eligible to undertake a direct entry three-year PhD program.


The scholarship comprises:

  • a tuition fee offset
  • a living allowance stipend.

The value of the stipend scholarship is $35,000 per annum (full-time, fixed rate) for up to three years.