Expected start date: Late September 2023
Bark beetles (family Scolytidae) are important components of forest ecosystems with certain species being pests that may cause significant loss to the forestry sector. Most bark beetles form mutualisms with ophiostomoid fungi. Such associations allow beetles to locate suitable host trees via detection of fungal volatiles and bark beetles often act as vectors for their fungal partners. Accordingly greater understanding of the beetle-fungi-tree relationship at various levels (molecular-behaviour-population) is key for management strategies.
This PhD program will explore how visual and olfactory cues are used by bark beetles to locate host trees, and the extent to which particular beetles associate with specific fungi, including the role of the former as vectors. Behavioural studies will focus initially on colour perception, which varies considerably across beetle species due to opsin losses and duplications. Having identified commonly co-occurring fungi in beetle galleries and on the outer surfaces of trapped migratory beetles via eDNA metabarcoding, candidate fungi will be isolated into pure culture for use in behavioural studies.
Bark beetles common in coniferous woodlands in Wales will be the primary focus of the research but there will be opportunities to also work at Alice Holt Forest Research Station, where study of a wider range of bark beetle species, including Ips typographus, an economically important species of bark beetle, will be possible.
The successful candidate will receive full training in all the requisite methodologies from a supervisory team replete with expertise in animal behaviour and fungal ecology.
How to apply:
Prospective applicants should contact Dr. Roger Santer ([Email Address Removed] or 01970-628776) in the first instance.
Suitably qualified candidate should have a BSc and ideally M-level qualification in the biological sciences. Experience of the techniques of insect behaviour and/or fungal ecology would be advantageous. Only UK citizens (others with settled status in the UK) are eligible to apply for this position.