We are currently seeking at least one PhD student with interests in genetics, evolution, and behavioural ecology to conduct research into the reproductive ecologyof clover root weevil and its implications for an exciting new pest management method called the Trojan female technique.
Project Description: Maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA can accumulate mutations deleterious to males so long as the mutations are neutral for females - a phenomenon dubbed "Mother's curse". Often these mutations reduce male fertility. Recently it was recognised that this male-fertility-reducing curse could, in theory, be cast upon invasive pests through an approach known as the "Trojan female technique" (TFT). The TFT involves finding male-fertility-reducing mitochondrial mutations, breeding up populations of the female carriers in captivity, then releasing them into the field where their infertile male progeny reduce reproduction of the wild population. The TFT concept has recently been proven in laboratory trials and we are now working towards the world-first field implementation against a New Zealand pasture pest called clover root weevil.
The efficacy of the TFT will be partly dependent on the reproductive ecology of clover root weevil: How often does a female mate, and with how many males? How long does she store the sperm for? Which male's sperm does she use to fertilise her eggs? Can she choose? Is sperm from males that carry one or more deleterious mitochondrial mutations equally competitive with sperm of wild-type males? Answers to these and related questions are critical for optimally implementing the TFT against clover root weevil and other similar pests.
The project emerges from a new MBIE Smart Ideas grant headed by Dr Craig Philips
(AgResearch., Lincoln) in collaboration with Prof Neil Gemmell (Otago), Dr Damian Dowling
(Monash University, Australia) and Dr Dan Tomkins
(Landcare Research, Dunedin). The PhD position will be based predominantly at AgResearch Lincoln with a requirement to also spend time in the Gemmell laboratory at the University of Otago.
The ideal candidate: the ideal candidate will possess experience in molecular genetics, genomics and evolutionary genetics, likely with direct application in addressing questions relating to mating systems and mate choice. Knowledge of entomology, microscopy and molecular genetic approaches and analyses will be a distinct advantage. The sucessful candidate will be motivated and organised, with a demonstrated capacity to master the broad skill set necessary for the successful completion of a research project. They will be a competent laboratory worker, experienced in all routine molecular genetic techniques, and computer literate with familiarity with database management and statistical analyses.
Minimum qualifications: B.Sc. (Hons) and/ or M.Sc. in genetics, genomics, molecular biology, behavioural ecology or equivalent with an A average or better.
Scholarship funding: Financial support is available for a high achieving student with an A average or better via an AgReasearch stipend, and the candidate may also be eligible for University of Otago scholarships.
Eligibility: The AgReserach and University of Otago scholarships are open to all nacionalities. However, overseas candidates for whom English is not a first language must satisfy the English Language Requirements of the University to eligible for study.
How to apply: Interested applicants are encouraged to make informal enquiries to professor Neil Gemmell. Please send your Curriculum Vitae, a copy of your academic transcript, a sample of your written scientific work and the names of three referees with a covering letter to:
Professor Neil J. Gemmell
Further information: Gemmell Lab
Applications close on the 28th May and it would be desirable if the successful applicant is able to start by mid 2017.