I may take on up to two Masters students starting in 2022. Take a look at the projects I am suggesting below. If you are interested please contact me. I will arrange for you to talk to me about project details and meet the folks in my lab. I am also willing to consider other related projects - particularly those associated with insect genetics.
CR1: Gene Drives for Insect Control
Gene drives are being actively studied as a means to control pest insect populations. However there is much to learn about their effectiveness and hazards. This project will investigate some design features of gene drives, mechanisms by which resistance could arise, in experimental populations of Drosophila melanogaster. A potential target for gene drives is Drosophila suzukii a major pest to horticulture that has not arrived in Australia yet. The foundations of a couple of projects are set and we are looking for students to experimentally examine inheritance bias and gene drive potential of several gene drive strategies.
CR2: Do Ecdysone-kinase like enzymes help white flies prevent the activation of cyanogenic glucosides?
Many plants produce cyanogenic glucosides to deter insect attack. These can be considered pro-toxins that are activated when insects feed upon them. Cassava, a major crop of Africa, produces a cyanogenic glucoside called linamarin. However, some white flies (Bemisia tabaci) are major pests of cassava (partly because they vector plant viruses) as they are able to survive despite the linamarin and other plant defense compounds. Recently it has been reported that these white flies produce linamarin-derivatives that are phosphorylated. It is speculated that the phosphorylation prevents the degradation of the protoxin and thereby allow the whiteflies to avoid the plant defense. We think we know which gene family encodes the enzymes that phosphorylate linamarin and want to test this hypothesis.
CR3: Can we revert phosphine-resistant beetles to their ancestral susceptible state?
Australian grain growers have excellent access to markets around the world because they have a zero beetle tolerance policy in their exports. Yet there are many species of beetles that thrive in stored grain. For decades the application of phosphine gas to silos and other grain storage chambers have kept the stored grain free of beetle infestations. However, phosphine resistance has arisen, repeatedly, in different beetle species, at the same two loci. The Specifly lab, is embarking on a program to develop transgenic tools for the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum. We are seeking masters students interested in advancing this program.
Please email Charlie if you are interested in hearing more.
For more information about the Masters program click here: