Fully Funded PhD Studentship Position in the Novel Use of Remote and Molecular Monitoring Tools to Study Plant-Pollinator Interactions in Fruit Crops at the University of Aberdeen

Fully Funded PhD Studentship Position in the Novel Use of Remote and Molecular Monitoring Tools to Study Plant-Pollinator Interactions in Fruit Crops at the University of Aberdeen

A fully funded Phd studentship position in the Novel use of remote and molecular monitoring tools to study plant-pollinator interactions in fruit crops is currently open at the University of Aberdeen.

Applications are invited for a fully funded, 42 month PhD studentship commencing in October 2022 at the University of Aberdeen, as part of The newly established Anthony & Margaret Johnston Centre for Doctoral Training in Plant Sciences enabled by a generous legacy gift.

About the Fully Funded PhD Studentship Project

This exciting PhD project, offered by the University of Aberdeen and James Hutton Institute, focuses on understanding key aspects of the pollination of fruit crops in Scotland. Plant pollination is a complex biological process that is fundamental for the reproduction of many plant species. Fruit crops that are grown commercially in Scotland (e.g., strawberries, raspberries and, more recently, cherries) rely on insect pollination by many species of solitary and social bees, both wild and commercially produced (e.g., the buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris). Despite the existing large body of research to characterise the complex network of interactions between plants and their pollinators, the key biotic and abiotic factors regulating effective pollination and fruit set remain to be resolved for these high value fruit crops.

This PhD studentship aims to address a significant knowledge gap regarding the role of specific abiotic and biotic factors in determining effective pollination and fruit set in fruit crops. Using innovative methods for remote monitoring of pollinators and molecular tools to document pollination events, combined with more traditional analyses of pollinator behaviour and pollen transfer, the project will quantify the relative effects of pollinator enhancement measures and abiotic conditions on fruit set and yield. The project will test the hypotheses that successful pollination and fruit set are i) promoted by agronomic measures to enhance the abundance of appropriate pollinator species, and ii) vary with the prevailing abiotic conditions (e.g., temperature), and iii) with crop variety. To test these hypotheses, the student will conduct field experiments, lab analyses and data processing to monitor pollinator behaviour and pollination success with the following three objectives:

Obj. 1. Test the effectiveness of remote monitoring methods (visual, acoustic) to monitor pollinator flower visits and fruit set (with observational ground truthing).

Obj. 2. Record pollinator-flower interactions and validate effective pollen transfer by molecular analysis of pollen grains (DNA metabarcoding) found on pollinators.

Obj. 3. Identify the best suited molecular signals of pollination success for the crops of interest, by screening candidate genes (e.g., auxin and gibberellin families) known to be associated with fruit set in other plants that are better characterized (e.g., tomatoes and zucchini).

Obj. 4. Apply remote monitoring and molecular tools, combined with environmental monitoring (temperature, humidity), to test the hypothesis that pollinator abundance and pollen transfer is promoted by pollinator enhancement measures (e.g., floral sowings, supplemental pollinator release).

Obj. 5. Combine environmental monitoring data with statistical analysis to determine the key abiotic factors affecting the success of pollinator enhancement measures and fruit set.

The project will provide opportunities for the student for training in a wide range of techniques covering the objectives above, and will benefit from access to lab space at the University of Aberdeen and field sites at the James Hutton Institute. The skill set and expertise displayed by the supervisory team will be complemented with interactions with grower group Berry Gardens and local fruit growers for the translation of findings from research trials to on-farm monitoring.

Informal enquiries would be welcomed for a discussion. Please contact Dr Fabio Manfredini () for more information.

Essential background of student:

Applicants are expected to hold (or be about to achieve) at least a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or Equivalent) in a relevant subject (e.g. Biology, Plant Sciences, Ecology). Applicants with a 2:2 Honours degree (or Equivalent) may be considered providing they have a Distinction or Commendation at Master’s level.

Experience or demonstrable interest in insect-plant interactions research is desirable. Prior experience with experimental work as well as statistical analysis of ecological data is preferable.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE FOR THE FULLY FUNDED PHD STUDENTSHIP POSITION:

  • Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php
  • You should apply for Biological Sciences (PhD) to ensure your application is passed to the correct team.
  • Please clearly note the name of the supervisor and project title on the application form. If you do not mention the project title and the supervisor on your application, it will not be considered for the studentship.
  • Please include: a cover letter specific to the project you are applying for, an up-to-date copy of your academic CV, and relevant educational certificates and transcripts.
  • Please note: you DO NOT need to provide a research proposal with this application.
  • General application enquiries can be made to

Funding Notes for the Fully Funded PhD Studentship Position

This 42 Month PhD project is part of the Anthony & Margaret Johnston Centre for Doctoral Training in Plant Sciences at the University of Aberdeen.
This opportunity is open to UK and International students and includes full funding to cover tuition fees and a stipend at the UKRI rate (£16,062 For the 22/23 academic year).
Funding for international students does not cover visa costs (either for yourself or for accompanying family members), immigration health surcharge or any other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
The expected start date is October 2022.

References

• Bakshi, Naveen, Manju Devi, and Harish Kumar Sharma. “Studies on pollination efficiency of hive bees and Episyrphus balteatus on sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.).” J. Entomol. Zool. Stud. 6, no. 4 (2018): 1539-1543.
• Clare, Elizabeth L., Florian P. Schiestl, Andrew R. Leitch, and Lars Chittka. “The promise of genomics in the study of plant-pollinator interactions.” Genome biology 14, no. 6 (2013): 1-11.
• GILPIN, AMY‐MARIE, Andrew J. Denham, and David J. Ayre. “The use of digital video recorders in pollination biology.” Ecological Entomology 42, no. 4 (2017): 383-388.
• Holzschuh, Andrea, Jan-Hendrik Dudenhöffer, and Teja Tscharntke. “Landscapes with wild bee habitats enhance pollination, fruit set and yield of sweet cherry.” Biological Conservation 153 (2012): 101-107.
• Krauss, Siegfried L., David G. Roberts, Ryan D. Phillips, and Caroline Edwards. “Effectiveness of camera traps for quantifying daytime and nighttime visitation by vertebrate pollinators.” Ecology and Evolution 8, no. 18 (2018): 9304-9314.
• Pomares-Viciana, Teresa, Del Río-Celestino, Belén Román, Jose Die, Belén Pico, and Pedro Gómez. “First RNA-seq approach to study fruit set and parthenocarpy in zucchini (Cucurbita pepo L.).” BMC plant biology 19, no. 1 (2019): 1-20.

Application Deadline: 13 June 2022.

Send email for enquires

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