Lake Victoria research: win-win for human health, food security and economic development

Fisheries researchers from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania processing catch during the fisheries acoustics training course run in Uganda by Andrew Brierley and Roland Proud.
Photo credit: Siân Addison

Fisheries ecologists from the University of St Andrews are working with human-health and fishery partners around Lake Victoria on connected, multidisciplinary projects to sustainably manage fish stocks, and to examine the potential role for ‘biocontrol’ by fish of a debilitating human parasitic infection. Both strands of work are contributing directly to multiple United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in East Africa.

Under the fisheries strand, Prof. Andrew Brierley and Dr Roland Proud, of the School of Biology, have forged links with the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) and with fisheries scientists in each of the three riparian states around Lake Victoria – Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. They have held fisheries-acoustics training courses and data-analysis workshops in Uganda, St Andrews and Kenya, and are assisting with the application of advanced data analysis techniques to enable recovery of robust time-series of fish biomass estimates from a decade of acoustic survey data. Biomass time-series are required for development of sustainable fishery management plans to underpin regional food security and income: some 35 million people in the Lake Victoria basin depend on fishing, fish and fish products for protein-rich food and for their economic wellbeing. Funding grants supporting this project are for capacity-building in fisheries-acoustics, and for targeted research on an understudied but economically and ecologically important fish species called ‘dagaa’. The work on dagaa will also draw experts from the University of Aberdeen and the Zoological Society of London in to the collaboration network, to contribute expert statistical training and drone survey technology respectively. From a practical perspective, the St Andrews team has also arranged for a professional Scottish fishing skipper to go to Lake Victoria to provide training on the watercolumn fishing that is required to ‘ground truth’ acoustic surveys.

Health-crae providers from the Vine Trust landing at a remote, island community.
Photo credit: Benet Reid

Under the parasitic infection strand, Prof. Brierley has teamed up with the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Tanzania, the Vine Trust, an Edinburgh-based charity that operates a medical support ship on Lake Victoria, and LVFO. Together the group have won a half-million pound grant from the Royal Society’s Challenge-led scheme for multidisciplinary research towards combatting schistosomiasis. Human populations around Lake Victoria can be heavily infected with the parasitic flatworm that causes schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis – or bilharzia – is classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease because it is under-researched and does not attract the funding directed at, for example, malaria.

Andrew Brierley instructing Lake Victoria fisheries scientists in echosounder calibration.
Photo credit: Siân Addison

Schistosomiasis is second only to malaria in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of infection. It is a disease of poverty, and is prevalent in communities living in insanitary conditions close to infected waters. Schistosomiasis infects humans when the larval parasites – which emerge from intermediate-host fresh-water snails – burrow through the skin. Infection is high around Lake Victoria, where lake water is used untreated for drinking, washing, cooking and bathing. Humans later excrete parasite eggs, and if sewage returns to the lake in proximity to snails then the parasite lifecycle can be completed. It has been suggested that fishing may have reduced fish that are predators of snails and that, as a consequence, more snails have led to more infection.

In Senegal reintroductions of prawns that are predatory on snails have led to dramatic reductions in human schistosomiasis infection: we will explore the possibility for ‘biocontrol’ by fish of schistosomiasis snails in Lake Victoria. SFC Global Challenges funding has already enabled us to gather fish samples and commence DNA-based analyses of fish stomachs to look for snail presence. With the Royal Society funding, we will conduct shallow water fish surveys and snail counts adjacent to lakeside communities with differing levels of infection. We will also seek to bolster shallow-water fish abundance to reduce snail predation, perhaps by establishing areas closed to fishing. In the marine realm ‘spill over’ of fish from protected areas closed to fish in to the wider environment leads to improved fish catches outside closed areas. It is possible that in Lake Victoria closing areas to fishing could deliver the win-win result of increased fish for food AND reduced parasitic infection.

Event: Visualising War in Different Media: interplay and intervention

Registration will soon close for this workshop (Monday 8th April, 2019), looking at the power of different media to generate different responses to war; for more information, please follow this link:

The workshop will start at 1.30 with a tour of the Conflict Textiles exhibition at the Byre Theatre, led by Dr Lydia Cole: Numbers are restricted for this, so only those registered for the workshop will be able to take part in this bespoke tour.

The workshop will end with a concert in St Salvator’s Chapel, 5.30-6.30, featuring music and poetry from the First World War (The Fateful Voyage: see attached advert). This concert is open to the public.

SUII Roadshow – 21 Feb 2019

The Scottish Universities Insight Institute (SUII) promotes collaboration and engagement between researchers and wider society, and facilitates knowledge exchange activity that wouldn’t otherwise take place.

Hear about SUII calls for proposals at this informative session.

Thursday 21st February

14:00 – 15:30

Boardroom, Gateway

Here’s the booking link:

Docs@The Byre: Celebrating the Cinematic Documentary

Documentaries don’t just inform us about the world. They inspire, delight, and immerse us in the world.  They engage and exhilarate with their stories, characters, images, and sounds. They take us places we haven’t even imagined of going. And yet, documentary gets a bad rap. People treat it like the broccoli of the film kingdom: good for you but not necessarily pleasurable— more talking heads for the telly than a spectacle at the cinema. By showing compelling documentaries on the big screen and holding conversations with documentary professionals and scholars, Docs@TheByre sets the record straight.  After all, documentaries may have something to teach us but there’s also a lot we can learn about documentary— and should learn in this age of ‘post-truth’.

Location: Byre Studio

Free but ticketed – see the full list of events below


Wednesday, 6 February, 5pm: Donkeyote (Chico Pereira/ 2017/Germany-UK-Spain / 86min)

Manolo has a simple life in Southern Spain and two loves: his animals, in particular his donkey Gorrión (“Sparrow”), and wandering through nature. Against the advice of his doctor, he decides to plan one last walk in the US, the brutal 2200 mile Trail of Tears. But not without his donkey. Overcoming the small obstacle of shipping a donkey, Manolo’s chronic arthritis, a history of heart attacks, and Gorrión’s fear of water are just a few matters to take care of. As their adventure continues, Manolo’s wondrous friendship with his animals finds a beautiful equilibrium. Will they find the American West? More importantly, will they be able to see life as it is, and not as it should be?

WINNER: Best Documentary – Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017

NOMINATED: Best Feature – BAFTA Scotland 2017

Q&A with Flore Cosquer (Scottish Documentary Institute)


Wednesday, 27 March, 5pm: Time Trial (Finlay Pretsell/ 2018/UK/82min)

Time Trial gives us an exhilarating and terrifying place in the race, providing an immersive experience as close to actually competing as you will ever see on film. David Millar, shrouded in darkness, declares an intention to rise again. A sensory ride through the thrill and hardship of professional cycling. We are hurtled off a hillside, details blurring like watercolours. The euphoria and the fatigue, the highs and the lows. It’s as if it were ourselves struggling through the bumpy roads of France. David bluntly and fearlessly narrates his last season in the saddle, intimate and immediate, along with the intricate relationships of cyclist, road crew, fellow competitors, manic fans, and the media circus surrounding it all.

WINNER: Best Editing-Documentary – RiverRun International Film Festival 2018

NOMINATED: Best Documentary – Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018

Q&A with Finlay Pretsell (Director)


Wednesday, 24 April, 5pm: Piano to Zanskar (Michal Sulima/ 2018/UK/86min)

Retired piano tuner Desmond O’Keeffe embarks on a quest to bring an upright piano to a primary school in the isolated village of Lingshed, located in the Himalayas, 14,000 feet about sea level. If successful, it will be the highest piano delivery in history. Join Desmond, his companions, plus some yaks and ponies on this delightful, beautiful, and occasionally harrowing journey.

NOMINATED: Audience Award – Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018

Q&A with Michal Sulima (Director) and Jarek Kotomski (Producer)


Wednesday, 22 May, 5pm: Syrian Stories: Female Voice (Various/2017/UK-Syria/62 min)

Women in Syria have not only borne the brunt of the country’s lengthy civil war, they have been marginalised and rendered invisible, despite their huge contribution to the struggle. Yet, few of the stories are told by them. In this collection of short films presented by the Scottish Documentary Institute in collaboration with the British Council and Bidayyat, female Syrian filmmakers share their experience and perspective being a refugee in neighbouring countries: Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Q&A with Programme Mentor, Noe Mendelle (Scottish Documentary Institute)

What Difference Does It Make? Philosophy’s Impact Beyond Philosophy

2nd CEPPA Graduate Conference in Moral and Political Philosophy  

8-10 February 2019 in St Andrews, Edgecliffe 104

The second CEPPA Graduate Conference provides a platform for early-career moral and political philosophers to discuss their work in a constructive and friendly environment.

The conference is open to all, and we especially encourage you to attend if you are not studying philosophy at university but are interested in moral and political philosophy nonetheless.

This year, the theme of our conference focuses on the question what impact philosophy can and should have beyond academia. We are asking our speakers to explain how society might benefit from better understanding their topic, and how their research can make a difference.

We are especially delighted to have Carrie Jenkins (University of British Columbia) delivering a talk on how to be a public philosopher. Everyone interested in making an impact with philosophy is very welcome to attend.

For more information, please see the full schedule.

The Carnegie Trust’s New Research Workshop Funding scheme

The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland is piloting a new scheme during academic year 2018-19: Carnegie Research Workshop. The Trust expects to fund up to three workshops during this initial phase.

This scheme aims to support the advancement of new research ideas and the exchange of skills and expertise by funding the organisation and delivery of research workshop programmes addressing issues at the forefront of current scientific, technological, environmental, intellectual, cultural or societal developments. Proposed workshops should focus on a topic of key relevance both to Scotland and globally with the aim of enabling the Scottish academic community to develop and strengthen its international leadership position.

By instigating sustained and focused discussion between researchers, the Carnegie Research Workshops will facilitate the exploration of topics that have both substantial importance and clear common ground for further collaborative work with new national and international partners.

Download the workshop brief and regulations.

Application method

Interested researchers should first submit an Expression of Interest through the Trust’s online application portal, available from 1st November 2018. There is no set deadline to submit an Expression of Interest but we invite potential applicants to contact the Trust before applying to discuss their workshop idea with the Trust.

The Ethics of Engagement: Research, Knowledge Exchange and the Military Sector

11am-1.30 pm, 11th December, 2018 in The Byre Studio

Organised by Alice König on behalf of the Visualising War Research Group.

The aim: This short workshop will bring together interested academics to debate the opportunities, challenges, goals and ethical issues involved in building collaborative relationships between researchers and military personnel/organisations/campaign groups. We will also discuss knowledge-exchange and research-outreach on military matters more generally (e.g. the glorification of war, the promotion of peace). Participants will have the opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas, without any pressure to find consensus. The discussion will open with short presentations by three academic staff (Dr Kenneth Mavor, Dr Laura Mills, and Dr Roddy Brett) with recent experience of knowledge-exchange/research-outreach in military contexts or on military topics. One aim of the workshop is to support researchers conducting/negotiating knowledge-exchange partnerships at present; another is to help researchers to think creatively and ethically about impact opportunities in the future.

This workshop is open to PGR and PGT students as well as academic staff. A light lunch will be provided.

To book, please sign up here.

To register dietary requirements, please contact

The deadline for registration is 5pm, Monday 3rd December.

SFC Official Development Assistance GCRF 2018-20 internal call

This call is open for applications for projects spanning 1-3 years.

St Andrews SFC ODA GCRF Guidance & Application Form 2018-19

Please send completed application forms to by Thursday 8th November 2018.

The University has recently secured funding through the Scottish Funding Council for FY 2018-19 as part of a 3-year strategy for longer-term projects to support cutting-edge research that promotes the economic development and well-being of countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list.

The OECD DAC list is available on:
The University is committed to supporting projects that are intended to make a real difference to the lives of people in ODA countries, particularly in countries on the Least Developed, Low Income and Lower Middle Income DAC list[1].

The aim is to develop strong and enduring partnerships between the University and developing-country researchers to enhance the research and innovation capacity of both and to deliver substantial impact on improved social welfare, economic development, and environmental sustainability.

The funding will support projects spanning 1-3 years. Projects must have incremental milestones with associated budgets, which must include yearly milestones for projects over 12 months, as funding will be distributed on a yearly basis. This funding will be open to new and existing applicants to SFC GCRF funding from all disciplines; interdisciplinary applications and proposals led by post-doctoral researchers seeking to establish St-Andrews and Scotland-wide collaborations will be particularly welcome. Projects are expected to be in the region of £5-60k for 2018-19, but we anticipate that the majority of awards will be at the lower end of the range.

Applications are welcome from researchers who may not previously have considered the applicability of their work to development issues.

 Priority umbrella themes are:

  • Energy and innovation
  • Global health and inequality
  • Sustainability and environmental change

Sustainable livelihoods, promoting justice and humanitarian action, and secure and sustainable food systems are relevant to each theme and, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) priorities, cross-cutting issues of gender equity and rapid urbanization should also be considered.

Acceptable use of funds includes supporting:

  • Capacity and capability building in the UK and developing countries (including strengthening partnership with DAC countries across Scotland).
  • Visiting fellowships for colleagues from DAC listed countries (including those from academic, third sector, commercial and policy-focused institutions)
  • Challenge-led interdisciplinary and collaborative research activity
  • Pump-priming activities to under-pin GCRF bids to other funders, including relationship building
  • Generating impact from research both within and beyond the sector
  • Rapid response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need
  • PhD studentships supporting scholars from countries on the DAC list can be outlined in the longer-term proposals but will not be made available until 2019 at the earliest.

Activities should align with the GCRF Strategy and BEIS ODA Statement of Intent which were published at the end of June 2017:

The UK Aid Strategy recognised that research and innovation has a critical role to play in tackling global challenges which most significantly impact upon developing countries. The report identifies the following major drivers of today’s development challenges:

  • The youth bulge
  • Urbanisation
  • Global health security
  • Fragility and conflict
  • Climate change

Funding will prioritise those areas that have the strongest pathways to impact and where there is the strongest demonstrable expertise to deliver maximum benefits to the global poor. Applications should therefore include anticipated outcomes and project aims and explain how these are directly and primarily relevant to addressing the problems of developing countries.

We encourage applicants, especially those applying for the first time to GRCRF funding, to seek advice from members of the St Andrews Global Challenge Forum by contacting in the first instance.

The deadlines for applications is Thursday 8th November 2018 although rapid response applications can be made at a later date provided the spend date of 30th June 2019 can be met. Please email applications to

All spend on the grant must be completed by 30th June 2019.

The fund is not intended to support the following costs:

  • Buy-out of time or salary costs for permanent academic staff
  • Estates and indirect costs or other overheads
  • Short falls from FEC funded research
  • PhD student fees
  • Publisher costs associated with Open Access

[1] DAC_List_ODA_Recipients2018to2020_flows_En