Vector and Waterborne Pathogens Group

Meet the team

Team Leaders

Professor Una Ryan

Professor Una Ryan

Professor Una Ryan is a Professor in Biochemistry and has been researching infectious agents particularly Cryptosporidium for over 24 years. Professor Ryan is an internationally-recognised scientist working on the transmission dynamics and taxonomy of Cryptosporidium and other infectious agents. She was the first person to identify that human cryptosporidiosis was primarily caused by 2 morphologically identical but clinically and genetically different species of Cryptosporidium; C. parvum and C. hominis and her research has been cited over 4,000 times. Her main international collaborators for Cryptosporidium have been Dr. Xiao from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, USA and Dr. Fayer from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Her contribution to this field was recognised in 2001 when she was awarded the national Minister’s Prize for Achievement in Life Sciences. She is a member of the editorial board for Experimental Parasitology and has recently been a Guest Editor for a 2010 Special Issue of Experimental Parasitology on Cryptosporidiosis. In recognition of her contribution to the field of Cryptosporidium taxonomy, she has had a species of Cryptosporidium named after her; Cryptosporidium ryanae. Fayer, R. et al. 2008. Cryptosporidium ryanae n. sp. (Apicomplexa: Cryptosporidiidae) in cattle (Bos taurus). Vet Parasitol. 156:191-8.

Professor Ryan is the current Australian Socitey for Parasitology President, 2017-2019.

Prof. Ryan's publications

Contact details:

Phone: 61-8-9360 2482
Fax: 61-8-9310 4144

Peter J Irwin

Professor Peter Irwin

Prof. is an Professor in Small Animal Medicine. Dr Irwin is a founding director of the International Society for Companion Animal Infectious Diseases (ISCAID). He has advised Animal Biosecurity, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (formerly AQIS) regarding the importation of infectious diseases in companion animals and other matters pertaining to Australian quarantine regulations and protocol, and has also advised Biosecurity New Zealand (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry) regarding important of dogs with babesiosis.

Academic Interests: Prof. Irwin's current research interests include investigation into the clinical effects and diagnosis of various vector-borne diseases (Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Bartonella infections) of companion animals in Australia and SE Asia. His most recent research is focused on potentially zoonotic tick-borne diseases in Australia (see Vector-Borne Diseases below). One research project has been evaluating the role of dogs as sentinels for certain diseases, particularly borreliosis in Australia. Other research projects have involved native marsupials and other wildlife have focused on Theileria spp. infections of the Gilbert's Potoroo and the Brush-tailed Bettong (Woylie), and Babesia/Theileria infections in the Kiwi and various sea birds in New Zealand. A/Prof. Irwin teaches clinical parasitology and internal medicine to undergraduate veterinary students and is Academic Chair of the Postgraduate Coursework Programs in Small Animal Practice.

Prof. Irwin's publications

Contact details:

Phone: 61-8-9360 2590
Fax: 61-8-9310 4144

Dr. Charlotte Oskam

Dr. Charlotte Oskam

Senior Lecturer

In early 2013, Charlotte graduated with a PhD in Biological Sciences and Biotechnology from Murdoch University (MU). Charlotte’s PhD research and expertise focused on DNA isolation, amplification and sequencing of highly degraded specimens (paleontological and archaeological eggshell and bone), some of great antiquity (up to 20,000 years old).
Since completing her PhD, Charlotte has actively collaborated with Professors Una Ryan and Peter Irwin, co-directors of the Vector and Water-borne Pathogen Research group. Her experience with highly degraded specimens and low copy number DNA, combined with next generation sequencing, has been used for the detection of putative pathogens from minute specimens.
As an Early Career researcher, she has focused her research to develop a molecular toolkit using next generation sequencing technology to profile the bacterial communities within ticks to investigate tick-borne disease. More recently, Charlotte’s research involves the utilisation of archived museum specimens to investigate the presence, emergence and evolutionary history of native and introduced tick-borne diseases in Australia.
Charlotte was awarded the 2015 MU Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Research Award for Early Career Development and Achievement in Science.

Dr Oskam is the current Australian Socitey for Parasitology Executive Secretary, 2017-2019.

Dr Oskam's publications

Contact details:
Phone: 61-8-9360 6349

Twitter: @DrCharOskam; @Cryptick_lab



Dr. Jill Austen


Thesis Title: Characterisation of novel trypanosome sp. in native Western Australian marsupials.

Jill completed her PhD in September 2016. She is currently employed as a part-time Post-doc in our lab.

Dr Austen's publications

Contact details:

Amanda Duarte Barbosa

Dr. Amanda Duarte Barbosa


Thesis Title: Diversity, clinical impacts and zoonotic potential of blood-borne and enteric protozoan parasites in Australian native mammals.

Amanda completed her PhD in 2018. She is currently employed as a part-time Post-doc in our lab.

Dr. Barbosa's publications                                             

Contact details:

Our Students

Khalid Ab Habsi

Khalid Ab Habsi

PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: Molecular characterization of selected enteric pathogens in Rangeland goats in Western Australia.

Khalid’s PhD research aims to determine the prevalence, molecular and morphological characterisation of selected enteric pathogens including protozoa and bacteria in rangeland goats in Western Australia. By joining the group, he aims to broaden his intellectual base by learning new molecular aspects so that there will be no limitations as to the pinnacle of knowledge that he can build upon it. In addition, data generated from this study will be important for the Australian goat meat industry as scouring and ill-thrift is an issue in these goats and little-known about the epidemiology.

Khalid's publications

Khalid commenced his PhD in September in 2013 and has recently submitted his thesis for examination.

Alireza Zahedi

Alireza Zahedi

PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: Innovative approaches to understanding and limiting the public health risks of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in animals in Australian catchments.

Alireza’s research focuses on comprehensive quantitative analysis of Cryptosporidium and Giardia species in animal (mainly marsupials, sheep, cattle and rabbits) and human sewage in catchments (STP) across three states (WA, NSW and QLD), over a three-year period to gain a more thorough understanding of the zoonotic risk these parasites pose to humans. In addition to cataloguing the genotypes present, this project aims to enumerate the numbers of Cryptosporidium and Giardia (oo)cysts present in samples, determine the viability, conduct modelling and quantitative microbial risk assessments (QMRA) for the various catchments based on the data generated and develop targeted control strategies on the basis of the information obtained for improving catchment management. In particular, the project will result in the development of more targeted, cost-effective measures to minimise exposures to infections, accurate risk assessment, and scientific catchment management.

Ali's publications

Alireza commenced his PhD in November 2013 and has recently submitted his thesis for examination.

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Sylvia Afriyie Squire

PhD Candidate
Thesis Title: Molecular epidemiology of gastrointestinal parasites in farmers and their ruminant livestock in Ghana.

Sylvia’s research focuses on the prevalence and molecular characterisation of intestinal parasites (zoonotic and non-zoonotic) in farmers and their ruminant in Ghana.  Her study also aims to determine the clinical impact of these parasites in livestock and to identify the risk factors that expose both farmers and their livestock to infections. Data generated from this study will be relevant for recommendations towards more effective prevention and control of intestinal parasites of veterinary and public health importance in Ghana.

Sylvia's publications

Sylvia commenced her PhD in January 2014.

Telleasha Greay

Telleasha Greay

PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: A microbial survey of ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) associated with companion animals in Australia.

Telleasha completed Honours in Biomedical Science in 2014 with the Vector and Water-borne Pathogen Research Group; thesis entitled: “An investigation of Coxiella burnetii and Coxiella-like bacteria in the brown dog tick.” Her PhD research involves identifying tick species associated with companion animals (dogs, cats and horses) across Australia and investigating the bacterial and protozoan communities within these tick species using next-generation sequencing and other molecular techniques.

Telleasha's publications

Telleasha commenced her PhD in February 2015.

Siew May Loh (Kim)

Siew May Loh (Kim)

PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: Identification and characterisation of potential tick-borne pathogens in wildlife ticks.

Kimberly is investigating microbial communities of native ticks that parasitise a range of Australian wildlife species, such as echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus), bandicoots (Isoodon spp.) and kangaroos (Macropus spp.). After identifying a novel Borrelia sp. in echidna ticks (Bothriocroton concolor), she is aiming to further characterise the genes of this bacterium.

Kim's publications

Kimberly commenced her PhD in February 2015.

Alex Gofton

Alex Gofton

PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: Investigating the molecular systematics and epidemiology of novel tick-borne Anaplasmataceae bacteria in Australia.

Alex completed his undergraduate degree in genetics and ecology at the University of Queensland in 2010, and Honours in the McGraw Vector Biology/Eliminate Dengue Research Lab at Monash University in 2012. After completing two years as a Research Assistant for the Vector and Water-borne Pathogen Research Group, Alex is now undergoing his PhD with the group. Alex’s recent research has focused on investigating the bacterial microbiome of native Australian ticks that bite people, predominantly the Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) and the ornate kangaroo tick (Amblyomma triguttatum), using next-generation metabarcoding and bioinformatics techniques. Recent highlights as part of his work were discovering a variety of novel Australian tick-borne bacteria, including Borrelia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Neoehrlichia. Alex’s PhD research is focused on using molecular tools such as NGS, to understand the systematics and epidemiology of endemic Australian tick-borne bacteria Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Neoehrlichia. In addition, Alex will be investigating the microbial communities that are transmitted from ticks to their hosts during tick-bites in situ, and exploring links this microbial ecology may have to tick-borne disease.

Alex's publications

Alex commenced his PhD in January 2016.

Cindy Palermo

Cindy Palermo

PhD Student

Thesis Title: Cryptosporidium in fish: morphological and molecular characterisation of a new species.

Cindy’s research aims to determine the prevalence, molecular and morphological characterisation of Cryptosporidium in captured and wild fish with the implication of possible zoonoses. Her project aims at looking at fish as possible reservoirs for Cryptosporidium and includes transmission studies, looking at both known and novel species. The microbiodata, in fish, before and after Cryptosporidiosis infections will be observed. The research also looks at Environmental DNA and the role of additional sources of infection. The data generated from this study will highlight both veterinary and public health concerns of Cryptosporidum. The study will highlight the need to reduce the health burden of the pathogen and control the spread of infection.

Cindy's publications

Cindy completed Honours with first class in 2016 and commenced PhD in January 2017.



Kimberly Evasco

PhD Candidate

Thesis Title: Understanding the transmission dynamics of tick-borne disease in Australia

Kimberly is investigating disease transmission dynamics from the biting tick to the host. She is focusing on the dosage and timing of microbial expulsion and how different tick removal methods impact on tick-borne microorganism transmission. Kimberly hopes to develop a cost effective, ethical way to simulate tick-borne disease transmission in-vitro, specifically designed for Australian tick species.

Kimberly commenced her PhD in March 2017.


Kamil Braima

PhD Student

Thesis Title: Risk management of waterborne pathogens in public swimming pools and splash parks.

Kamil’s research focuses on the waterborne parasite: Cryptosporidium and the extent to which it contributes to outbreaks of gastroenteritis cases associated with public swimming pools in Australia using molecular tools. Kamil hopes to determine if the implementation of improved management guidelines will reduce the transmission of this important parasite as Cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine and hence is the most important pathogen causing outbreaks of diarrhoea associated with swimming pools.

Kamil's publications

Kamil commenced his PhD in February 2017.


Siobhon Egan

PhD Student

Thesis Title: Australian tick-borne diseases – a one health approach.

Siobhon's project aims to understand the ecology of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Australia. Recent discoveries from the Cryptick lab have identified a number of novel microbes present in Australian ticks. Using a multidisciplinary approach she hopes to investigate the epidemiology of these microbes in vertebrate hosts, providing insight into the in situ dynamics between host and tick. Siobhon's PhD research hopes to intersect areas such as ecology, parasitology, molecular biology and bioinformatics to provide insight into ticks and zoonotic tick-borne diseases in Australia.

Honours project: Profiling the bacterial microbiome of ticks that parasitise Australian bandicoots.

Siobhon completed her Honours (first class) in 2017 and will commence her PhD studies with the group in March 2018.

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Samuel Bolland

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Describing New Species of Cryptosporidium in Fish

Sam’s project is supervised by Professor Una Ryan and Dr Charlotte Oskam.

Sam commenced his honours in February 2018.


Jake Day

Honours Student

Thesis Title: An Audit of Molecular Assays to Screen Piroplasms in Australian Ticks

Jake’s project will investigate DNA-based techniques that are used to detect blood-borne parasites harboured in ticks. Molecular assays will be compared for their effectiveness at targeting specific parasites of the Piroplasmida order. In addition, Jake’s project will be employing Next-Generation Sequencing to determine if it can be used in conjunction with the assays and show evidence of co-infections of piroplasms in ticks. Jake’s project is supervised by Dr Charlotte Oskam, Professor Peter Irwin and Dr Amanda Barbosa.

Jake commenced his honours in February 2018.

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Megan Evans

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Molecular barcoding of Australian ticks

Megan’s project focuses on DNA barcoding of Australian native ticks, to overcome the current limitations in identifying subadult ticks by species. It incorporates molecular techniques and phylogenetic analyses in order to assess which ubiquitous genes are the most informative for distinguishing between the hard ticks of Australia. In particular, she is concentrating on tick species known to bite domestic animals and humans. Megan’s project is supervised by Dr Charlotte Oskam and Professor Peter Irwin.

Megan commenced her honours in February 2018.


Scott Green

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Molecular characterisation of a recent Theileria outbreak in Australia’s South West

Scott’s project is supervised by Dr Charlotte Oskam, Dr Dieter Palmer, and Ms Telleasha Greay.

Scott commenced his honours in February 2018.


Sarah Munns

Honours Student

Thesis Title: The Prevalence and Diversity of Blood-borne Parasites and Ticks from Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii).

Sarah’s project is working in close collaboration with Manual Ruiz a PhD candidate in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania. She is looking to document and characterise the incidence and diversity of blood-borne parasites within ticks and the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) hosts from which these ticks were collected off. Further to this, comparisons will be conducted to determine if there are any differences in infection rates between Tasmanian devils infected with Devil Facial Tumour Disease and those non-diseased individuals. This project aims to allow a greater insight into blood-borne parasite infections within ticks, and Tasmanian devils that they feed upon. Sarah’s project is supervised by Professor Una Ryan, Dr Charlotte Oskam and Dr Amanda Barbosa.

Sarah commenced her honours in February 2018.


Victoria Rawlings

Honours Student

Thesis Title: Veterinary and zoonotic infection risk associated with dam water on WA farms.

This project will determine the prevalence and diversity of protozoan parasites (Cryptosporidium and Giardia) in livestock dams on WA farms and establish whether there is evidence that dam water represents an important source of transmission for protozoan infections for extensively managed sheep. Molecular techniques such as next generation sequencing will be used to establish whether the same pathogen genotypes are present in both the sheep and their drinking water, thus determining whether transmission between sheep and farm dams is likely. Victoria's project is supervised by Dr Caroline Jacobson, Prof Una Ryan, Dr Serina Hancock and Mr Alireza Zahedi.

Victoria commenced her honours in February 2018.

Former students

Elvina Lee

Elvina Lee

Thesis Title: Molecular Systematics of Cyanobacteria.

Elvina's publications

Elvina completed her PhD in Feburary 2017.

Anna-Sheree Krige

Anna-Sheree Krige

Thesis Title: Unlocking archived ticks to investigate novel putative pathogens

Anna-Sheree completed her Honours (first class) in June 2017.


Jadyn Owens

Jadyn completed two Independent Study Contracts (ISC) during 2016-7.