Research Opportunities

We currently have research opportunities available in these projects:

PhD position - Population genomics of the New Zealand lamprey
PhD position - Population genomics of the New Zealand lamprey

We are currently seeking a PhD student with interests in genetics, ecology and evolution to investigate the population structure of the New Zealand lamprey using genomic approaches.

Project Description

The New Zealand lamprey is an enigmatic, but culturally important species, found in the streams of rivers of both the North and South Is. In this project we will undertake the first comprehensive population genetic analysis of the New Zealand lamprey population using the latest population genomic approaches. We will use these data to explore issues spanning taxonomy, population genetic structure, population viability and health. These data are vital to the ongoing management of this species as its distribution and numbers both appear to be in steady decline, likely due to increased use on water resources, competition and potentially pollution. A further threat is a disease, known as lamprey reddening syndrome that is observed now at high frequencies in some populations. There may be prospects to use genomic approaches to determine the underpinning causes of this emerging health issue for NZ lamprey. https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/blood-suckers/

The ideal candidate: the ideal candidate will possess experience in molecular genetics/genomics, ecology, evolutionary biology and bioinformatics. Knowledge of NGS approaches and analyses is desirable. They candidate will be motivated and organized, with a demonstrated capacity to master the broad skill set necessary for the successful completion of a research project. They will be collegial and able to work alongside a wide variety of people. In addition they will have a strong commitment to academic and research excellence. Minimum qualifications: B.Sc. (Hons) and/or M.Sc. in Genetics, Genomics, Molecular Biology or equivalent with an A average or better.

Scholarship Funding: Financial support is expected to be available for a high achieving student with an A average or better via a University of Otago or Departmental scholarship see http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/scholarships/).

Eligibility: The University of Otago and Departmental scholarships are open to all nationalities. However, overseas candidates for whom English is not a first language must satisfy the English Language Requirements of the University to be eligible for study (see). Other international eligibility criteria are here.

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       

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

This position is open until filled but it would be desirable if the successful applicant were able to start by the end of 2017.

PhD position - "Mind Controlling Parasites"
PhD position -

PhD Project Opportunity

Parasitic Puppeteers - How do They Pull the Strings?

We are currently seeking at least one, but potentially several PhD students with interests in genetics, evolution, parasitology and neuroscience to investigate the molecular mechanisms through which parasitic worms alter the behaviour of their insect hosts.

Project Description

Parasites can have profound effects on the animal hosts they invade, manipulating host biology with exquisite precision to enhance host-to-host transmission. One of the most extraordinary of these host manipulations is the water-seeking behaviour that some nematodes and hairworms induce in their hosts so that the worms might exit the host and reproduce. The process is the stuff of sciencefiction; the worm hijacks the host’s central nervous system forcing it to seek water. Once water is found the adult worm emerges, sacrificing the host, so that it might reproduce. This amazing alteration in behaviour is induced by parasitic worms spanning two phyla (Nematoda and Nematomorpha) and is observed in a variety of arthropod hosts, notably crickets, weta, earwigs, and sandhoppers, leading us to hypothesise that a common and conserved mechanism is being utilised by the parasites to induce this behaviour in their hosts. Here we propose to couple field and laboratory studies of two phylogenetically distinct hosts and their parasites, with powerful genomic and bioinformatic comparisons to elucidate the trigger and genetic cascade through which these parasitic puppeteers elicit this highly conserved, yet astonishing behavioural response. The project emerges from a new Marsden Grant headed by Professor Neil Gemmell (Anatomy) in collaboration with Professor Robert Poulin (Zoology) and will be based in the Gemmell laboratory.

Ideal candidate: The ideal candidate will possess experience in molecular genetics/genomics, evolutionary biology and bioinformatics. Knowledge of NGS approaches and analyses is desirable, while past work in comparative genomics and an interest in parasitology and neurobiology may be helpful. They candidate will be motivated and organized, with a demonstrated capacity to master the broad skill set necessary for the successful completion of a research project. They will be collegial and able to work alongside a wide variety of people. In addition they will have a strong commitment to academic and research excellence. Minimum qualifications: B.Sc. (Hons) and/or M.Sc. in Genetics, Genomics, Molecular Biology or equivalent with an A average or better.

Scholarship Funding: Financial support is expected to be available for a high achieving student with an A average or better via a University of Otago or Departmental scholarship see http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/scholarships/).

Eligibility: The University of Otago and Departmental scholarships are open to all nationalities. However, overseas candidates for whom English is not a first language must satisfy the English Language Requirements of the University to be eligible for study (see). Other international eligibility criteria are here.

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     e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The position is open until filled, but it would be desirable if the successful applicant were able to start by the end of 2017.

PhD Position - Reproductive Ecology of Clover Root Weevils to Inform New Biocontrol Strategies
PhD Position - Reproductive Ecology of Clover Root Weevils to Inform New Biocontrol Strategies

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 be 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
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

Further information: Gemmell Lab

The position is open until filled, but it would be desirable if the successful applicant is able to start by late 2017.

 

Interested?

Get in touch! Send us an This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and include:

  • A cover letter.
  • Curriculum Vitae.
  • A copy of your academic transcript.
  • A sample of your written scientific work.
  • Names of three referees

 

  • We look forward to hearing from you!