lundi 20 mars 2017

phD studentship in visual ecology of herbivorous pest insects

Application Date: 14 April 2017
The Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University, New Zealand is inviting applications for a PhD studentship to examine fundamental aspects of insect vision in several pest insects in order to develop visually more attractive trapping systems.
This is an exciting opportunity for a student to contribute to the understanding of insect vision with the aim of translating this knowledge to improve monitoring and control of several important phytophagous pest insects such as Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), Onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) and bugs in the Miridae and Pentatomidae family. The work is of national and international significance for agricultural production of pesticide free food. The PhD studentship is a collaborative project between New Zealand, the Netherlands and Sweden and the successful candidate should be willing to work for substantial time in both Europe and New Zealand.
The successful candidate will investigate the anatomical composition of the insects’ eyes and collect information on colour sensitivity of the different ommatidia to model the potential vision of the insect. The acquired information will be used to develop visual attractive objects that will be tested and adopted further for optimal attraction of the target insects in behavioural assays (lab and field). The visually attractive objects will be integrated with olfactory stimuli and optimised for attraction. The fundamental understanding of insect vision and olfactory stimuli in decision making of insects may lead to new designs of trapping systems for better monitoring and new control options such as mass-trapping and lure & kill. Background
Although visual ecology of insects has been studied from the early 1950’s, there has not been a thorough understanding of the visual decision making processes in phytophagous insects so far. There is a lack of knowledge in how insects integrate visual and chemical stimuli when trying to find suitable host plants, and the available information has not led to significant improvements of traditional trapping systems for pest insects (e.g. sticky traps, water traps, funnel traps). Phytophagous insects respond positively to colour patterns related to plants and plant parts (e.g. flowers and fruit) with the goal of identifying suitable food plants and/or places for mating and reproduction. Odours may be perceived by the insect from a distance and used as a guide to where visual information becomes available. From this point on, however, it often remains unclear if and how chemical and visual stimuli interact in leading the insect to the target source. Aspects such as flight, target approach, landing and searching on the target plant, are different processes in decision making that may be influenced by different stimuli. This project will study agriculturally important pests such as thrips, the European tarnished plant bug and the brown marmorated stink bug by integrating established knowledge on their behaviour towards olfactory stimuli with newly generated knowledge on visual orientation. Ultimately, the aim is to increase our fundamental knowledge of how phytophagous insects respond to plant stimuli to improve the efficiency of traps which may lead to new options for sustainable pest management and border biosecurity.
The research will be undertaken jointly with the Bio-Protection Research Centre, New Zealand, Plant & Food Research, New Zealand, Wageningen University and Research (WUR), the Netherlands, who have extensive experience in plant-insect interactions (chemical ecology and biocontrol), and researchers at Lund University, Sweden, who are investigating fundamental aspects of vision in animals and insects. We offer
The three-year scholarship provides a stipend of NZ$ 28,000 a year tax-free, and also covers university fees. The successful candidate will be based at Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand. Besides their own research, they will attend courses and workshops in relevant transferable skills like scientific writing and project management as well as participate in our biennial Bio-Protection Research Centre symposium, weekly seminar series and group meetings. Each PhD student receives individual supervision and mentoring and is guided in her/his research work by a PhD advisory committee. Qualifications
Applicants for this project should hold a first class or high 2A honours degree, or equivalent, in a relevant area, preferably with interest in visual and chemical ecology. Applicant’s should also hold a full driver’s licence. The position is open to applicants of any nationality, provided they fulfil Lincoln University’s English language requirements, can obtain a student visa, and are eligible for admission to the PhD programme. To apply
Applications should include:
 evidence of qualifications and research experience  a curriculum vitae and contact details of two academic referees  a cover letter that states why the candidate is interested in the position and how their qualifications would map onto the proposed research.
Please email applications to Dr Michael Rostás The closing date for applications is 14 April 2017.