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Seasonal variation of the beneficial tannin content and structure in field maple (Acer campestre)

Evaluate composition and structure of condensed tannins in leaves and stems of field maple (Acer campestre) throughout the grazing season

Department: Animal Dairy & Food Chain Sciences

Supervised by: Dr Sokratis Stergiadis

The Placement Project

Growing world population and wealth increases demand for animal products, but there are increasing concerns around the sustainability, resilience and environmental footprint of intensive livestock and feed production. Livestock industry has therefore increased its interest on alternative/sustainable feeds, which are rich in bioactive compounds, such as condensed tannins (CT), which may improve animal health, energy/nutrient use efficiency, and product nutritional quality. Field maple, a tannin-rich tree fodder, shows great potential in UK agroforestry systems, because of its suitability to UK climate and a high annual biomass production. The desirable effects of dietary CT depend on their concentration and structure, but there are no available data on their seasonal variation in field maple, thus impeding optimum utilisation in UK animal diets. This study will investigate the seasonal variation of CT concentration and structure in the leaves and twigs of field maple and provide guidelines for optimum harvest time to achieve a nutritionally desirable CT composition of field maple. Leaf and stem samples from five field maple trees (Acer campestre), collected monthly in Organic Research Centre (Newbury, UK) between June and October 2017, will be made available before the start of the placement. Samples will be lyophilised and milled. During the placement, quantitative/qualitative analyses of CT by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry in these samples, and subsequent statistical analysis, will be performed to evaluate seasonal differences in the CT content and structure of stems and leaves.

Tasks

The student will work under the supervision of academics and researchers of the School of Agriculture Policy and Development (APD), research division of Animal, Dairy and Food Chain Sciences (ADFCS), in order to investigate the seasonal variation of CT concentration and structure in the leaves and twigs of field maple. The placement will be performed in three steps: (i) literature review on the importance of condensed tannins in ruminant nutrition by using selected publications and other electronic resources provided by the University of Reading library (week 1) (ii) condensed tannin analysis of field maple samples by new, improved HCl-butanol-acetone and thiolysis methods, which includes a UV-Vis spectrophotometer, and a liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry instrument, in APD/ADFCS (week 2-5), and (iii) data organisation and statistical analysis (week 6). Sample collection and analytical methodologies required in the current project will be planned and developed, and will be made available to the student prior to the 6-week placement.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The student should have: an interest in ruminant nutrition and animal feed nutritional quality; good analytical skills and attention to detail; very good knowledge of MS Excel and MS Word; very good time-management and organisation skills; ability to work independently and as part of a team; reasonable knowledge of statistics.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

In undertaking this work, the student will develop a broad range of strong research skills, such as reviewing scientific literature, performing feed analysis using spectrophotometry and liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry, dataset preparation and statistical analysis. As a result of working as part of the team alongside scientists of several disciplines, who have excellent knowledge of ruminant nutrition, animal feed quality, analytical chemistry and statistical analysis, as well as long term experience in supervising research projects, a set of multi-disciplinary employment skills will be gained. These include research, team-working, independent learning and working, time-management, report writing and oral presentation, organisational, problem solving, communication, analytical (laboratory-based) and statistical competencies. Work experience and undertaking responsibilities within highly advanced research teams and analytical environments, as well as co-authorship of future publications will boost employability of the student, both in an academic and industry career path, and will allow a deep understanding of what research careers are like. The student will receive appropriate training in laboratory analysis of condensed tannin composition and structure in animal feed and statistical analysis, to ensure the success of the placement; this will also allow for the development of transferable skills for enhanced performance in future academic research requirements (i.e. final dissertation). To ensure the success of the placement the student will be encouraged to develop and plan a day-to-day task completion schedule.

Place of Work

University of Reading, Whiteknights campus, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (Agriculture Building and TOB1 Building).

Hours of Work

Monday to Friday 9 am-5 pm with an hour for lunch

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 24 June 2019 - Friday 02 August 2019

How to Apply

Students should submit their CV and Cover Letter directly to project supervisor (Dr Sokratis Stergiadis; s.stergiadis@reading.ac.uk). Successful applicants will be invited to an interview after the closing date. During the interview, the candidates will be asked to lead a 5 minute presentation discussing: “Role of condensed tannins in ruminant nutrition”.


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