We are seeking a highly motivated student to develop research skills in insect microbial symbiosis, molecular and microbial ecology. The student will be trained in the use of high throughput sequencing platforms, metagenomic and microbiome analyses and the intricacies of the sterile insect technique and plant biosecurity. This capacity is highly relevant and broad-ranging ensuring that the candidate will be highly employable and contribute significantly to Australia’s biosecurity capacity.
The main objective of this project is to identify the gut symbionts associated with Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni) and related species and to exploit these microorganisms to improve the performance and quality of sterile male flies, while minimise rearing costs. Furthermore the study will contribute to the exciting research field of insect microbial ecology and physiology.
Recent studies on insects have revealed seminal contributions of microorganisms to the nutrition, health and reproductive success of their insect hosts. The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a key approach to manage Australia’s most significant horticultural pest, Queensland fruit fly (Qfly), in some of Australia’s most valuable horticultural production areas. However, there is evidence that during the mass-rearing and
irradiation processes, the native microbiome of fruit flies is disrupted and thus host fitness diminished.
Male sterile flies must be sexually competitive with their wild counterparts. Fitter sterile males could lead to a reduced sterile to wild ratio required to control a population, leading to increased efficiency and effectiveness of a control program and overall reduced costs. Incorporation of suitable probiotics within the larval diet could also reduce the need for expensive chemicals and yeast, two of the largest costs in mass-rearing fruit flies.
The PhD student will be enrolled at University of Western Sydney (UWS) and will work closely with Dr Olivia Reynolds and Dr Toni Chapman at the Centre of Excellence for Plant and Animal Health, Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI), NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Dr Markus Riegler at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (UWS). A tax-free stipend of $30,000 pa and a generous operating allowance will apply. The duration of the scholarship is three and a half years
(maximum). In addition there will be regular opportunities for professional development, travel, and interaction with other scientists and students within the Plant Biosecurity CRC.
It is essential that applicants have an interest in plant pests threatening Australian plant biosecurity and a strong academic background in entomology, microbiology, molecular biology, ecology or agricultural science including pest management. Research experience in one or several of these areas will be desirable.
Further information about this position and about the application process can be obtained from Dr Markus Riegler (firstname.lastname@example.org; 02-4570 1229), and further information about our research on: http://www.uws.edu.au/hie/markusriegler
More info about this position is also available at:
Dr Markus Riegler
Senior Lecturer; Higher Degree Research Director
Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment
University of Western Sydney
Locked Bag 1797, Penrith NSW 2751, Australia
phone: +61-2-4570 1229