PhD in ecology of invasive pests (South Africa) ~

9 de diciembre de 2015

PhD in ecology of invasive pests (South Africa)

Three PhD positions are available to study the molecular, chemical and behavioral ecology of
Sirex woodwasp – Amylostereum fungus – Deladenus nematode symbioses. These positions will
be based at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria,
South Africa as the home institution, but will involve extensive collaborative work with the
Canadian Forest Service (CFS) and the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

The projects
Invasive pests are one of the most significant threats facing plant ecosystems and production
systems globally; from agriculture to forests and forestry. The invasive European woodwaps,
Sirex noctili,o and its fungal mutualist, Amylostereum areolatum, is a developing model system
for understanding processes that affect these invasions, as well as the development and
implementation of management tools for it. One of the primary management tools for this
invasive pest is biological control using the nematode Deladenus siricidicola.

1. How and which visual and olfactory stimuli affect the behavior of Sirex noctilio, and how
can these be integrated in management programs? Potential areas of inquiry may include
elucidating kairomone, pheromone, visual and genomic stimuli that influence the behavior of S.
noctilio. The consequences of these stimuli and their potential to contribute management tools
will be actively explored.
2. What factors influence the reproductive biology of Sirex noctilio, and how does this
influence invasive populations? Potential areas of inquiry may include elucidating physiological
and behavioral traits that influence the complex and fascinating reproductive system of this
wasp. Ultimately the successful candidate will explore molecular tools to manipulate outcomes of
sexual reproduction.
3. How do invasion processes and micro-evolution affect symbioses, invasive pest adaptation
and their biological control agents? The project, termed ‘Petri-dish Australasia’ will use the Sirex
noctilio/Amylostereum areolatum/Deladenus siricidicola as a model system to study
microevolutionary processes in invasion and biological control in Australia and New Zealand.

The projects have the potential to include a combination of field, molecular and chemical
ecology and genomics. All three projects will deal with fundamental questions on the ecology of
this intricate, tripartite symbiosis, but will either include or contribute directly to applied aspects
of the management of this global invasive pest complex.

Candidates should have a Masters or equivalent degree. Candidates are not expected to possess
advanced skills in all the fields linked to the projects, but experience and an interest in at least
two of these fields will be an advantage. Thus a background in molecular genetics and ecology,
chemical ecology, behavioral ecology, entomology, microbiology, nematology or related fields
would be considered an asset. Resources and support to develop these diverse skills in
candidates will be provided. While the projects will explore novel questions at the frontiers of
understanding these particular symbioses, as well as symbioses and invasive pests in general,
they are built on strong baseline datasets, extensive resources and support, and a long history of
excellence and leading work in the field.

Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria, South Africa. FABI
is a global leader in plant biotechnology related research, with a strong focus on tree health. The
successful candidates will join a vibrant, dynamic, highly international (both in terms of students,
postdocs, staff and networks) and interdisciplinary research team, which includes strong
research groups in tree health research, mycology, entomology, tree and crop genetics, plant-
microbe-insect interactions, genomics, chemistry and more. The laboratories involved have
strong links to industry, government and international research networks making them a unique
and rewarding environment to work and launch your research career. For more information
please visit

Prof Bernard Slippers, Dr Brett Hurley, Prof Michael J Wingfield and others
Dr Jeremy Allison, Natural Resources Canada and University of Toronto, Canada
Dr Helen Nahrung, University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia
Dr Angus Carnegie, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Australia

Full scholarships are offered for all three positions in South Africa that will be sufficient to cover
accommodation, living costs, registration fees, and basic medical aid. Additional funds will
cover running costs associated with the project.

We are hoping to fill these positions as soon as possible, but no later than March 2016. The
positions will remain open until a suitable candidate has been identified.

Please provide an updated CV, a full academic record and two letters of reference, ideally from
academic mentors or supervisors that can comment on your potential as a future research

Examples of work from the research group
Slippers B, de Groot P, Wingfield MJ. (eds) 2012. The Sirex woodwasp and its fungal symbiont:
Research and management of a worldwide invasive pest. Springer.
Boissin E, Hurley B, Wingfield MJ, Vasaitis R, Stenlid J, Davis C, Groot Pd, Ahumada R, Carnegie A,
Goldarazena A. 2012. Retracing the routes of introduction of invasive species: the case of the
Sirex noctilio woodwasp. Molecular Ecology 21, 5728-5744.
Wooding AL, Wingfield MJ, Hurley BP, Garnas JR, De Groot P, Slippers B. 2013. Lack of fidelity
revealed in an insect–fungal mutualism after invasion. Biology Letters 9, 20130342.
van der Nest MA, Steenkamp ET, Wilken MP, Stenlid J, Wingfield MJ, Wingfield BD, Slippers B.
2013. Mutualism and asexual reproduction influence recognition genes in a fungal symbiont.
Fungal Biology 117, 439-450.
Yek SH, Slippers B. 2014. Biocontrol opportunities to study microevolution in invasive
populations. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 29, 429-430.
Slippers B, Hurley BP, Wingfield MJ. 2015a. Sirex Woodwasp: A Model for Evolving Management
Paradigms of Invasive Forest Pests. Annual Review of Entomology 60, 601-619.
Wingfield MJ, Brockerhoff E, Wingfield BD, Slippers B. 2015. Planted forest health: The need for a
global strategy. Science 349, 832-836.


If you are interested in any of these positions or require additional information please contact
Smeetha Singh ( with "Sirex PhD position" in the subject line.

0 comentarios :

Publicar un comentario

Find your job here