PhD studentship: behavioural ecology of plant-insect-parasitoid interactions

PhD studentship available

 Understanding and harnessing the ecosystem service of natural pest control for food, forestry and biofuels

The University of Hull has recently advertised 20 full-time UK/EU PhD studentships for candidates applying within the he University’s research themes, including the ‘Energy and Environment’ theme: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AHS320/phd-studentships/ (closing date: 3 February 2014)

We are seeking motivated candidates to apply for a project within the area of understanding plant-insect-parasitoid interactions within agricultural systems.

Increasing the environmental sustainability of modern agricultural practice is a research priority in the EU and necessitates understanding of less harmful methods for crop pest control, such as encouraging natural enemies. A thorough knowledge of the interactions between crop plants, the insects that attack them, and the parasitoid wasps that attack the pest insects is a pre-requisite to understanding and predicting both pest outbreaks and the success of biocontrol on food and biofuel crops.

Decades of past research have focused on how interacting selection pressures govern the decision of an animal to attack one resource patch over another, with a focus on both herbivorous insect pests seeking plant resources, and parasitoids seeking hosts. This project will investigate the behavioural and physiological traits of foraging/host-seeking organisms that affect their responses to changing resource densities, and thus develop key areas of our understanding of the vulnerability of resource patches to natural enemies. The project will focus on three key areas: 1) the vulnerability of commercially important wheat crops to attack by herbivorous insects 2) the vulnerability of insect pests of crop to hymenopteran parasitoids, and 3) farmers’ developing knowledge and practical engagement with using natural enemies in crop pest control. The project will contribute to understanding both current issues in agricultural science and fundamental biological concepts. An example of some of the University of Hull led research in this area can be found at http://tinyurl.com/CCFESHull

Applying concepts from behavioural ecology to crop science is a new and exciting area of research with the potential to create novel forms of precision agriculture.

Supervisors:

Dr Lesley Morrell (School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences)

Dr Darren Evans (School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences)

Dr Lewis Holloway (Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences)

In the first instance (and preferably by 20 January 2014), please contact Lesley Morrell (l.morrell@hull.ac.uk) with a copy of your CV and a personal statement outlining your motivation for PhD study.

The project is competition funded, in that an invitation from us to apply to the University for the project is not a guarantee of funding. Candidates will be shortlisted and interviewed by a cross-faculty panel representing the interests of the Energy and Environment theme, and the best candidates will be awarded the projects they applied for. Deadline for submission of the full proposal is 3 February 2014, but candidates are advised to get in contact in advance of this date.

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