We are seeking a full-time research Masters student to oversee a recent grant award entitled:

Development of marker assays for identification of virulent entomopathogenic fungal control agents of the widespread rice pest, Nilaparvata lugens (Stål) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae)

 

The work will focus on lab experiments evaluating fungus-insect-rice plant relationships conducted on field caught insects and fungi. The object of the project is to develop molecular markers to identify strains of fungus that are effective in controlling this rice pest species. While the project primarily focuses on agricultural objectives, my lab is also focused on developing an evolutionary and ecological understanding of species (e.g., plant-insect, insect-fungus) interactions.

The main technical elements of the project will involve molecular biology (including population genetics and functional genomics based on next-generation sequencing techniques), lab experiments, data analyses and bioinformatics. Training/supervision will be given. The student will be paid a stipend in return for their involvement.

Ideally the applicant should display a keen interest in the research program. Desirable experience includes molecular biology lab work and statistical data analyses. It would also be an advantage if the candidate has experience in computer programming in any language although R, Python or Bash would be most useful.

 

Project outline

As rice is one of the world’s most important staple food crops it is important to understand how ongoing environmental change is likely to affect future crop yields. Of major concern is how climate change will impact crop resilience through global warming and subsequent modifications in rainfall patterns. However, these abiotic stressors will also modify the impact of biotic pest organisms. One of the most serious arthropod pests is the brown plant hopper (BPH), Nilaparvata lugens (Stål) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae). N. lugens is primarily controlled with chemical pesticides that have several detrimental consequences including increased insect resistance, and negative human health and environmental hazards. Thus, there is a need to develop alternative biocontrol protocols that offer effective environmentally friendly solutions. A promising candidate solution is the use of entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) as eco-friendly control agents of arthropod pests. EPF can penetrate insect cuticle and kill its hosts whilst spreading though the population. However, very little is known about the status, efficacy and diversity of EPF in Thailand. This project will investigate diversity of both the EPF Metarhizium and the rice pest N. lugens, evaluate virulence efficacy of various Metarhizium strains on BPH and conduct genomic analyses to identify the genomic regions associated with high virulence.

Deadline for application is 5 March 2021 

Contact  

Dr.Clive Darwell or Dr.Siwarat Arikit
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