mercredi 28 mars 2012

PhD in Molecular Ecology

PhD in Molecular Ecology: Plant secondary metabolite detoxification by a root herbivore and consequences for tritrophic interactions, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Allemagne

Research background and questions

Specialized root-feeding insects have a strong impact in ecosystem dynamics, plant fitness and crop yield. One major reason why certain root herbivores have become so abundant may be the strong adaptation to their host plants, including a high capacity to overcome root defenses. Yet, the exact strategies that root herbivores employ to become so successful are largely unknown.

One of the best characterized root feeders is Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, a major crop pest in the USA, which has recently been introduced in Europe. The remarkable ecological success of the root herbivore has puzzled scientists until today. One of the reasons why D. virgifera larvae colonizes maize plants so easily is its capacity to tolerate and hijack benzoxazinoid derivatives, a major class of key resistance factors of grasses against insects.

The aim of this PhD will be to investigate the interactions between the root herbivore and the plant from single genes to ecological interactions. The main questions that will be tackled are:

I. What are the typical BXD profiles that D. virgifera encounters in the roots?
II. How does D. virgifera tolerate BXDs?
III. What is the impact of BXDs on natural enemies of D. virgifera?

Selected publications
Robert et al (2012). A Specialist Root Herbivore Hijacks Defensive Metabolites to Locate Nutritious Tissues. Ecology Letters 15(1): 55-64.
Lundgren et al (2009). A multifaceted hemolymph defense against predation in Diabrotica virgifera virgifera larvae. Biocontrol Science and Technology 19(7-8):871-880.

The Institute
The mission of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology of Jena (Germany) (MPI-CE, http://www/ext/institute.html) is to examine the role of chemical signals that mediate the interactions between plants, animals and their environment. The five departments of the MPI-CE cover a broad range of complementary working areas in chemical ecology, including Bioorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular Ecology, Evolutionary Neuroethology, and Entomology. Two independent research groups support the scientists with outstanding and state-of-the-art analytical skills and equipment. Due to its unique combination of disciplines, the MPI-CE is world renowned and has contributed numerous important breakthroughs in plant-insect interactions over the last years.

Research group
The research will be conducted in Root-Herbivore Interactions group, lead by Dr. Matthias Erb in the Department of Biochemistry of Prof. Jonathan Gershenzon. The Biochemistry Department has considerable expertise in the biochemistry and molecular biology of herbivore detoxification processes. The department produced more than 200 publications until now, including a series of important papers on the detoxification of plant secondary metabolites by insects. Within the department of Biochemistry, the Root-Herbivore Interactions group focuses on factors mediating root-herbivore interactions. The group is dynamic and offers an outstanding environment to develop research skills and scientific networks.

The working language at the MPI-CE is English. German courses can also be provided for interested workers. Furthermore, as people working at the MPI come from all around the world, it is not rare to hear French, Spanish, Russian and even Chinese and Japanese around.

Applicants should have a master degree in a relevant discipline (ie. Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Ecology or Ethology), a strong interest in interdisciplinary work and be fluent in English.

Please send your CV, a cover letter as well as a short proposal describing how the candidate would tackle the 3 main questions of the PhD to Dr. Christelle A.M. Robert (address below). It is also possible to add some questions that might be of interest in that context.

Dr. Christelle A.M. Robert,
Dept. of Biochemistry,
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology,
Hans-Knoell Str. 8
07745 Jena
Tel. +49 3641 57 1334