Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Honours

Honours is a research-based add-on or integrate course that is built around a project. The nature of each project varies both in subject area and approach. Some of you will be engaged in laboratory-based research, others will work in the field and others will centre their activities on a computer. Each of you will have a supervisor and another academic to assist, and possibly other input. Some of you will work on campus and some remotely. The experience will include planning, conducting and reporting on your work. Most importantly, this will provide opportunities to work with an individual in an area of interest, and develop advanced knowledge in this area. In the process students will develop written, verbal and research skills in a specialised field essential for further research. This experience will equip you for a range of employment options.

Please contact the School Honours Coordinator, Raf Freire, for further details.

Dr Raf Freire
rfreire@csu.edu.au
Room 191, Building 268
School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences
Charles Sturt University
Locked Bag 588
Wagga Wagga NSW 2678 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6933 4451
Fax: +61 2 6933 2991

Projects

Association of a novel MC4R genetic variant with Obesity and Metabolic phenotypes in a porcine resource population developed specifically to model human obesity

Supervisors

Dr. Sameer D. Pant (Charles Sturt University, Australia)

Professor Merete Fredholm (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Summary

MC4R (Melanocortin 4 receptor) encodes a G-coupled receptor that is found mainly in the hypothalamus and is responsible for controlling appetite and satiety. High energy levels within the body are translated by these receptors into satiety signals that warn the body of being full.  Mutations in this gene can result in dysregulated appetite, and human studies have demonstrated that MC4R mutations are one of the leading genetic causes of obesity.

The goal of this project is to evaluate the association of a novel MC4R mutation with a broad range of obesity and obesity related phenotypes collected in the largest porcine F2 resource population developed specifically to model human obesity.

This project will involve working with an internationally renowned research group leading research into obesity and has a good chance of yielding a category 1 journal publication. Supervision will be provided to students to ensure that they learn about experimental design, bioinformatics, and advanced data analysis in this project.

OBpig: A pig model for studies of gene-diet interaction in development of obesity and its metabolic complications

Supervisors

Dr. Sameer D. Pant (Charles Sturt University)

Professor Merete Fredholm (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Summary

In this project we will use a novel and highly innovative approach to identify gene-diet interactions in development of obesity and its metabolic complications using the pig as a model.

We will use a pig model specifically designed for obesity studies to: (i) establish novel functional information on genes and genomic components involved in the regulation of obesity, and (ii) establish detailed knowledge on gene–diet interaction in well-controlled studies.

Focus will be on effects of high protein diet – a diet that has been suggested to increase body fat loss and attenuate reduction in fat-free mass. We will elucidate if obesity development is driven by reduction in energy expenditure or increased accumulation of energy as fat in adipose tissue and identify the genes regulating these processes. The study will pave the way for the translation of progress from molecular genetics into new interventions and treatment improving the general welfare in the population at large.

This project will involve working with an internationally renowned research group leading the largest animal model based research project investigating obesity and metabolic syndrome. The project has very good chances of yielding a high impact publication. Supervision will be provided to students to ensure that they learn about experimental design, bioinformatics, and advanced data analysis in this project.

Orientation behaviour in domestic chickens and/or other birds

Supervisors

Dr Raf Freire (Charles Sturt University)

Dr Melanie Massaro (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

It is known that domestic chickens are able to use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation over small (walking!) distances and can be trained to associate variations in magnetic field strength with hidden food. Chickens on free-range farms that use mobile sheds also return to the previous location of the sheds to roost at dusk after the sheds have been moved, suggesting that they are using magnetic cues to identify where to roost, rather than the very obvious sight of the mobile shed.

There is an opportunity to study some aspect of magnetic orientation in chickens. Depending on the student’s interests, this may involve carefully controlled laboratory experiments, behavioural scoring on free-range farms or a comparative study involving wild birds. The project is likely to encompass some or all areas of animal behaviour, ecology, welfare and evolutionary biology. By all means contact Raf if you’d like to know more.

Parasite transmission patterns in Murray Darling Basin

Supervisors

Dr Shokoofeh Shamsi (Charles Sturt University)

A colleague from DPI NSW (will be decided after more specific details of the project has been discussed with the candidate)

Summary

During previous studies some rare parasites have been found in some of the wildlife, aquatic or aquatic associated animals collected from Murray darling Basin. Two honours students are required to investigate the role of various hosts into the transmission patterns of some of these parasites that can cause diseases in their animal hosts as well as in humans. The outcomes of this study is important for a health and sustainable management of Murray Darling Basin.

Knowledge of food-borne parasitic diseases among Australian medical practitioners

Supervisors

Dr Shokoofeh Shamsi (Charles Sturt University)

Assoc Prof Harding

Summary

This is a survey based research project with external collaborators aiming at assessing the extent of the knowledge gap about if zoonotic parasites among medical practitioners and its possible impact on diagnosis of certain parasitic diseases.

Supervisors

Dr David Jenkins (Charles Sturt University)

Dr Shokoofeh Shamsi (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

Linguatula serrata is a parasite whose definitive host stage frequents the nasal cavities of wildlife and domestic canids and the intermediate host the nymphal stage is found in the lymph nodes and possibly the liver of a range of wildlife and domestic herbivores. Preliminary studies along the Great Dividing Range have recovered adult parasites from wild dogs and foxes in SE NSW, the ACT and northern Victoria. Currently we have no data on prevalence and range of intermediate host species of this parasite, except cattle. The proposed study will investigate the role of rabbits, wallabies, feral pig, feral goats and deer and also sheep in the life cycle of this parasite.

Morphological and genetic characterisation of selected nematode parasites

Supervisors

Dr Shokoofeh Shamsi (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

This is a laboratory based project suitable for two candidates who like to gain skills in conventional and electron microscopy, and DNA based molecular techniques.

Investigation of avian paramyxovirus-1 (PPMV1) in pigeons

Supervisors

Dr Ali Ghorashi (Charles Sturt University)

Professor Shane Raidal (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

Pigeons had a significant role in history such as world war II, however today the most common uses for pigeons are racing, showing and food. The PPMV1 in pigeons is endemic in many countries but disease was first detected in 2011 in Melbourne. Since then it has been reported from NSW (2012-2014) and Tasmania (2013). Although PPMV1 is specific to pigeons but other avian species can be infected. In this study a molecular diagnostic test will be optimised and previously collected pigeon samples will be tested. This is an opportunity for those who are interested to improve their molecular biology and laboratory diagnostic skills. Please see the video in the following link for further information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pt21bU4ku8

Assessment of captive and /or wild parrot populations in Wagga Wagga for three viral infections; psittacine beak and feather disease virus (BFDV), avian polyomavirus (APV) and psittacine adenovirus (PsAdV)

Supervisors

Dr Ali Ghorashi (Charles Sturt University)

Professor Shane Raidal (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

In this study the prevalence of BFDV, APV and PsAdV will be investigated in captive parrot populations in Wagga Wagga. Samples will be collected from aviaries and will be used for molecular diagnosis of viral infections. Large numbers of samples from wild parrots are also available in VDL. The project consists field and laboratory work including sample collection, DNA extraction, PCR and data analysis. The project also aims to improve molecular biology skills of interested students.

Respiratory disease in foals or adult horses

Supervisors

Professor Shane Raidal (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

Depending on student availability for data collection (timing), this project will evaluate continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) delivered by an ‘off the shelf’ sleep apnoea machine as a potentially cost-effective and readily implemented method to provide respiratory support to foals. Part of the project will include spirometric assessment of lung function. For student/s preferring a project running through the middle of 2017 [ie. after the foals are too big to help!] we have a number of projects looking at lung function in adult horses and/or at the administration of asthma ‘puffers’ to adult horses with inflammatory airway disease. Collectively, this work could support two (or even three) interested students, with scope to negotiate research outcomes based around your own areas of interest and vocational aspirations.

Foal side tests for recognition of enteric pathogens in foals

Supervisors

Allan Gunn (Charles Sturt University)

Professor Shane Raidal (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

Foal diarrhoea is an important cause of wastage (death, disease) in foals. Disease may be due to a number of potentially zoonotic pathogens, including Salmonella and Clostridium spp. The potential role of protozoal pathogens (such as Cryptosporidium spp), has received little attention in Australian farms. This project will evaluate the suitability of foal side or field tests for diagnosis of diarrhoea in foals by comparing results from a number of commercial kits with results of conventional testing. Samples will be obtained from hospitalised foals and, potentially, from diarrhoeic foals on local breeding enterprises. The project could be extended to include PCR techniques and will generate information on the incidence and causes of diarrhoea in foals, as well as providing preliminary data on the suitability of existing human and calf tests for the diagnosis of foal disease.

Supplementation of lambs grazing lucerne to improve lamb growth rates

Supervisors

Shawn McGrath (Charles Sturt University)

Jeff McCormick (Charles Sturt University)

Bruce Allworth (Charles Sturt University)

Michael Friend (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

The aim of this project is to identify supplementation to improve growth rates of lambs grazing lucerne. Lambs will be supplemented with salt and/or barley grain in a replicated experiment to identify if these practices can increase the growth rates of lambs.

The role of milk sialylated glycolconjugate in brain and cognition in piglets

Supervisors

Professor Bing Wang (Charles Sturt University)

Co-investigators

Dr. Sameer D. Pant (Charles Sturt University, Australia)

Summary

The role of nutrients on brain organogenesis has received renewed attention. Potentially, deficits in any essential nutrients could condition abnormal organ development, if severe enough. Cell replication is dependent on a sufficient supply of all essential nutrients. One promising new candidate is sialic acid (also known as N-acetylneuraminic acid), a nine-carbon sugar that is a component of brain gangliosides and correlates with the amounts of DHA and total long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the ceramide tail of brain gangliosides.

The objective of research is to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms whereby Sia-glycans can improve structural neurodevelopment and cognitive function in piglets.

The research project will involve in the following aspect: Molecular biology approaches for the mechanism discovery to understand does Sia-glycans intervention play a significant role in altering the hippocampal microstructure, white matter maturation, neurogenesis or synaptogenesis. You will learn molecular biology skills (DNA, RNA extraction and analysis RT-PCR, ELISA and western blot for target protein expression, using RNASeq based high throughput approaches to investigate differentially regulated genes and gene networks in the treatment and control groups etc). By all means contact Bing if you’d like to know more.

How variation in sialylated glycolconjugates in milk supply to newborn will impact on the HPA-axis and the relationships with markers of immune function and metabolism

Supervisors

Professor Bing Wang (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

The objective of research is to determine how variation in sialylated glycolconjugates in milk supply to newborn will impact on the HPA-axis and the relationships with markers of immune function and metabolism.

What does this research involve? Three groups of piglets will be randomised to 2 treatments and one control groups. After 20 days of feeding, the piglets will undergo learning and behaviour tests including open field & novel objective test, 8 arm redial maze test, working memory test. After 32 days of feeding, the piglets will be undertaken brain MRI & MRS scan to quantify the in vivo structural and metabolic assessments of the brain and then euthanized. The brain and other organs will be analysed to define the role of key Sia-glycans in early neurodevelopment and behaviour.

This research component forms an Honours project integrated within the overall program and sets platform for future PhD research.

What animal science skills will you learn? You will learn behaviour data analysis, HPLC for brain carbohydrate analysis, Protein, lipid and carbohydrate extraction, isolation and purification from tissue, and isolation of RBC membranes, Molecular biology skills, ELISA and western blot for target protein expression. By all means contact Bing if you’d like to know more.

Using behavioural collars to detect the incidence of bloat in steers grazing lucerne and lucerne/phalaris pasture

Supervisors

Shawn McGrath (Charles Sturt University)

Ken Ang

Jeff McCormick (Charles Sturt University)

Bruce Allworth (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

The aim of this project is to identify changes in activity and rumination in steers grazing lucerne and lucerne/phalaris pasture that may indicate the occurrence of bloat. Steers grazing replicated pastures will be wearing commercial collars that remotely transmit data on the level of activity and rumination. The steers will be observed daily and given a bloat score with the aim to identify any changes detected by the monitoring collars that are associated with both the occurrence and severity of bloat.

Measuring growth rates and incidence of bloat in steers grazing lucerne and lucerne/phalaris pastures

Supervisors

Shawn McGrath (Charles Sturt University)

Jeff McCormick (Charles Sturt University)

Bruce Allworth (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

The weight gain of steers and the incidence of bloat will be measured in steers grazing lucerne pasture or lucerne and phalaris sown at different proportions. Replicated pastures for this experiment are being established in 2016 for grazing in 2017. Steers grazing these pastures will be weighed weekly and observed daily for the occurrence of bloat.

Investigation of enteric bacterial pathogens (Campylobacter & Salmonella)of the dog

Supervisors

Joanne Connolly (Charles Sturt University)

Dr Ali Ghorashi (Charles Sturt University)

Dr Randi Rotne (Charles Sturt University)

Dr Geoff Dutton (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

The aim of this study is to determine the faecal prevalence or carriage of important bacteria causing intestinal disease in the dogs from the Wagga Wagga region. We aim to investigate the effects of variables such as age, sex, pet/working dog/stray, housing conditions, diet and diarrhoea status, on the carriage rates of Campylobacter and Salmonella. This will involve bacterial culture and the development of a molecular technique (PCR-HRM) to enable a more rapid detection and differentiation of these bacteria. This is an opportunity for those who are interested to improve their molecular biology and laboratory diagnostic skills.

Investigation of the genetic variation in Mucor amphibiorum from the platypus and the amphibian

Supervisors

Joanne Connolly (Charles Sturt University)

Dr Ali Ghorashi (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

A fungus, Mucor amphibiorum, is the only agent known to cause serious illness and mortalities in platypus populations. Mucor amphibiorum infection has only been isolated from Tasmanian platypuses and from frogs and toads from mainland. This study into the genetic diversity of the Mucor amphibiorum fungus will use a historical collection of 30 isolates from Tasmanian platypuses and mainland amphibians with a novel molecular technique (PCR-HRM) to investigate genetic variation between the isolates from various sources. This is an opportunity for those who are interested to improve their molecular biology and laboratory diagnostic skills, while working on disease affecting an iconic animal.

Investigation into the Holstein Beef value chain

Supervisors

Michael Campbell (Charles Sturt University)

Rod Polkinghorne

Summary

A present the majority Holstein bull calves are being euthanized at birth or grown to veal calves. The majority cost to raise a Holstein calf is in the first 12weeks, approx $300.  It is know from feedlot close out data in the USA and Japan that a Holstein steer can have a high quality carcass with high marbling. There has been a reluctance to feed Holstein steers because of their lower yields and perception of having higher morbidity in feedlot situations.

The project can look at any aspect of Holstein steer production, starting at quantifying the carcass quality and then working back to look at the most economical feeding systems (eg: grass fed and then into the feedlot for 100days at 12mths, 15mths, 18mths).

Rod Polkinghorne is working with Teys to secure funding and to get them to purchase animals.

Supplementation of grassfed cattle to increase carcass compliance

Supervisors

Michael Campbell (Charles Sturt University)

Summary

There is an increasing demand for grassfed beef accredited under PastureFed Cattle Assurance Scheme (PCAS).  An issue with the PCAS scheme is getting a consistent supply of cattle during the year, due to seasonal pasture conditions.  Along with the supply issue cattle on pasture also tend to have a higher incidence of dark cutting beef.  The idea to address the supply and quality issues is to provide supplement to cattle during the summer and autumn when pasture quality and quantity is low. Cattle in the scheme can only be fed supplements from the accredited supplement list which includes canola meal, palm kernel expeller and whole cotton seed. Canola meal is widely available in the Wagga region and so might provide an opportunity to be used as a supplement.

The project will investigate the effect of supplements on the carcass quality of grassfed cattle and can be designed to suit the specific interest of the student.