Jessica Stokes

Room 113 Main Building Leahurst Campus University of Liverpool Chester High Road Neston CH64 7TE


Professor Matthew Baylis, Professor Julian Hiscox and Dr Jenny Duncan  

I graduated with a First Class honours degree in Biology from Swansea University in 2012 before moving to Bristol University to complete a Masters by Research in Veterinary Parasitology.

My interests lie in the ecology and spread of diseases, particularly those that are vector borne.

As an undergraduate I discovered and explored my interest in diseases and their spread through literature reviews and my dissertation topic: a meta-analysis of Toxoplasmosis. However, it was through volunteering that I further cultivated this passion which started during a placement at FERA. This is where I first discovered the volume of work behind curbing disease spread and my subsequent respect and enthusiasm for research. Whilst volunteering at both the Gower Bird Hospital and later at the Wetlands Trust, I was able to see the implications of the spread of common diseases of wildlife and domestic species, not least in terms of conservation and the measures taken to avoid such cases. This again reaffirmed my interest in disease spread, encouraging me to undertake my Masters by Research in the risk and potential spread of Echinococcus multilocularis to the UK.

Project title: Epidemiology of Schmallenberg virus in UK farms

Schmallenberg virus was identified in 2011 in Germany. The disease quickly spread through Europe, reaching the UK in early 2012. Schmallenberg virus is transmitted by Culicoides biting midges and causes birth defects in ruminants, leading to abortions, foetal abnormalities and still births in sheep and cattle. Alongside the obvious animal health and welfare impacts, the disease has caused significant economic losses to UK farmers.

My PhD project involves surveying for Schmallenberg virus. This surveillance particularly focuses on the Culicoides vector, involving the catching and identification of midges. The prevalence of Schmallenberg virus within these midges and sheep will be investigated to create both within-farm and between-farm models of the spread of Schmallenberg virus.


Dog movement and parasite spread: Echinococcus multilocularis risk in the UK (Masters by Research Thesis)


Where did I get my PIPs

PIPS Internship Organisation Name 

1. Penta Flowers & Real IPM 2. Innovation Designs (trades as Scarcer limited)


1. Thika, Kenya 

2. Liverpool, UK

When deciding on your internship, what did you want to experience and what did you hope to gain from that experience? 

1. I hoped to experience fieldwork abroad.  I really wanted to learn about the challenges and organisation involved/necessary to undertake research in a remote region, without access to the usual resources.  I also wanted to learn more about the potential role of international trade in vector movement and entomology in a commercial setting.

2. For this placement I wanted to experience the day-to-day operation of a small enterprise and develop my transferrable skills.  I particularly wanted to learn more about online marketing and how market research can be applied to increase revenue.

Did you get the experience you were expecting and did you achieve the personal development you had hoped to make? 

1. I learnt a lot whilst on this placement.  I feel more prepared for any future fieldwork abroad I may undertake and certainly would not underestimate the challenges associated with working remotely having now undertaken this type of work myself.  I have a greater knowledge of international trade, particularly the trade of flowers, which has sparked my interest in this area as a potential channel for vector movement.  I hope to be able to undertake more work in this area in the future.  I have also benefitted from learning a bit more about commercial entomology and would be interested in working closely within this field in the future.

2. It was really interesting to see how a small enterprise is managed and the logistics in the day-to-day running of the company. I found many of my research skills were transferrable, which gave me confidence when undertaking market research.  I also learned new skills in online advertisement and marketing, including the use of Google Ads.

Did you discover anything about yourself or make any achievements that you were not expecting?   

1. Completing a study abroad without access to the usual resources was actually far more difficult than I had initially expected (although I had in no way entered into this expecting it to be straightforward).  The political elements and to an extent, the commercial expectations, surprised me.  I discovered that I could be very resourceful in the field, fixing and creating equipment to fit my needs.  I feel that completing the study was an achievement in itself.

2. I found that my logistical skills were very useful, which are skills that I had previously taken for granted.  It also highlighted the transferable nature of my research skills and how much I have developed these skills over the 2 years of my PhD I was with the company.  Through tracking and changing media adverts (based on user metrics and targeting demographics) product revenue increased by 30% throughout my placement.

Has the internship made you feel differently about potential career options and has it helped to put the skills from research into a broader context?

My first placement has interested me in a new avenue of research that previously I knew very little about.  It also exposed me to some of the commercial work that exists within my field.  My part time placement has helped me to realise how transferrable many of my general research skills are.

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