PhD research student


Project: A catchment-based approach to determine environmental controls of Cryptosporidium transfer from land to water

Agricultural operations manipulate the interface between humans and livestock and their environment, which can in turn cause changes in environmental reservoirs of diseases such as Cryptosporidium.  Understanding the response of environmental pathogen reservoirs to such change is vital in order to inform reliable quantitative microbial risk assessment and evaluate future risks to biosecurity, the water industry and human health.

Cryptosporidium spp. are environmentally ubiquitous protozoan parasites, some species of which are zoonotic and can cause gastro-intestinal disease in neonatal livestock and susceptible humans. Livestock, particularly neonatal calves, are currently considered to be the main reservoirs of Cryptosporidium oocysts; however, wildlife have also been reported to contribute to oocyst loading in surface waters. Water is considered an important facilitator in the transmission of Cryptosporidium to humans, and legislation demands that the water industry carries out risk assessments for Cryptosporidium contamination for every public water supply. To strengthen the accuracy of these risk assessments, the water industry is interested in the development of transferable risk-based frameworks but they currently lack information in terms of Cryptosporidium transfer from land to water.

Project goals:

  • To explore how environmental reservoirs of Cryptosporidium vary in space and time across contrasting catchment systems
  • To determine the importance of soil-hydrological pathways in enabling connectivity of Cryptosporidium stores with receiving waters, and to examine how they vary over time
  • To develop a transferable risk-based framework to improve decision-making processes in drinking water catchment areas

Funding acknowledgement: This project is jointly funded by the University of Stirling (host institution) and SRUC, with contributions from Scottish Water and the Moredun Research Institute.

More about me

I am a current PhD research student with the ESHH research group. I graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2015 with an MSci in Veterinary Biosciences, a degree which sparked my interest in a variety of subjects. My MSc year was spent studying the human autoimmune neuropathy Guillain-Barré syndrome, whilst my honours project focused on the companion animal disease Canine Degenerative Myelopathy. Throughout my studies I developed a broad range of academic interests which were increasingly related to animal welfare, epidemiology and public health. In 2016 I was given the opportunity to further expand my exploration of these fields by combining my veterinary background with the study of environmental science and catchment management in the undertaking of my PhD project.

Blog posts

Following research from tails to taps – the hunt for zoonotic parasites in drinking water


Twitter: @Claire_Paton_92