PhD Student

Last application date
Aug 02, 2021 00:00
Department
LA21 - Department of Plants and Crops
Contract
Limited duration
Degree
Msc Bioscience Engineering, Biology, Biotechnology
Occupancy rate
100%
Vacancy type
Research staff

Job description

Science is increasingly global. Many research questions and “grand challenges” cannot be resolved without cross-border collaboration between scientists. Vietnam and Flanders invest in joint research projects, creating a leverage for scientific excellence.

We are looking for a PhD student for the bilateral Scientific Research Cooperation Project between FWO (Flanders) and NAFOSTED (Vietnam) entitled “Genetic improvement of native phytoseiid predators in support of integrated pest management of spider mites and thrips in Vietnam”. The research of the PhD student will be performed at Ghent University in the Department of Plants and Crops (Prof Van Leeuwen, Prof Declercq), but several visits to Vietnam are also planned. The start date is flexible, but not later than October 1st.

Thrips and spider mites are major pests in Vietnamese crops. Farmers still heavily rely on chemical pesticides for their control, negatively affecting the environment and human health. It would be more sustainable to adopt an "integrated pest management" approach in which predatory mites (Phytoseiidae) suppress the pest, with pesticides being applied as a back-up. As many pesticides can negatively affect predators as well, it is crucial that predator and pesticide are well-matched. The project will screen local pest and phytoseiid populations for pesticide susceptibility (phenotypically and genotypically). Next, we will nominate a selection of "reduced-risk" pesticides that effectively kill the pests, yet with minimal negative effect on the predatory mites, or for which variability in susceptibility (=opportunity for selection) was observed.

The main task of the PhD student at Ghent University is to create phytoseiid strains with improved resistance to the selected pesticides via (marker-assisted) selective breeding of local strains, and to, more generally, elucidate the underlying mechanism of adaptation in predatory mites by a state-of-the art genomic approach. For this we will employ a technique optimized in our group for spider mites, bulk segregant mapping (Van Leeuwen et al. 2012), and draft genome sequence a number of predator species.

We will test whether these phytoseiid strains are still effective predators of spider mites and thrips, both in laboratory and (semi-)field experiments. This project will contribute to plant health both directly and locally, via an IPM approach for thrips and spider mite control in Vietnam, as well as indirectly and globally, via increased knowledge on resistance mechanisms in phytoseiid predators and their prey.

VAN LEEUWEN T, DEMAEGHT P, OSBORNE EJ, DERMAUW W, GOHLKE S, NAUEN R, GRBIĆ M, TIRRY L, MERZENDORFER H, CLARK RM. 2012. Population bulk segregant mapping uncovers resistance mutations and the mode of action of a chitin synthesis inhibitor in arthropods. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 4407-12

Job profile

  • Candidates should have a strong interest and motivation to perform scientific research and be able to work in an international team.
  • Candidates should be fluent in spoken and written English.
  • The work with insects and mites requires flexibility in working hours, including occasional weekend work.
  • Although not strictly required, an interest in bio-informatics is appreciated.
  • Candidates preferentially hold the diploma of MSc in Bioscience Engineering or Biology/Biotechnology.

How to apply

Candidates should send their CV and motivation letter to Leen Dierick (Leen.Dierick@UGent.be) before August 1st.