£6,000 FindAPhD Scholarship | APPLICATIONS CLOSING SOON! £6,000 FindAPhD Scholarship | APPLICATIONS CLOSING SOON!

ElmAsh: Investigating rapid multiplication techniques and microbiome of Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and genetic conservation of Wych elm (Ulmus glabra) to breed disease-resistant genotypes

   Crops Research Centre

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  Dr Dheeraj Rathore, Prof Oliver Gailing  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is one of our most important native tree species comprising ~3.8% of the forest cover in Ireland while Wych elms (Ulmus glabra) were once dominant in the mixed broadleaf forest and urban silviculture. However, fungal pathogens like Hymenosyphus fraxineus and Ophiostoma spp. continue to threaten the existence of Ash and Elms by causing Ash Dieback (ADB) and Dutch Elm Disease (DED), respectively. Therefore, it necessitates research to select and breed disease-resistant trees to replace diseased trees and conserve the germplasm for the future. The ElmAsh project will study:

i. rapid multiplication techniques such as speed breeding to shorten the breeding cycle – induce early flowering and seed formation by manipulating environmental conditions under which plant genotypes are grown, optimizing the seed stratification process to induce early germination, and

ii. the endophytic microbiome of Ash genotypes, selected from two gene banks in Teagasc and identify potential biocontrol agents that could control ADB. The main aim of this work is to breed Ash genotypes that are disease tolerant to ADB and future-ready. The development of rapid multiplication techniques/methods will help achieve the next generation of trees in a short period for in-vitro and in-field disease screening.

A few Wych elm trees have survived the Dutch elm disease outbreak and others are now rejuvenating after decades of disappearance from the Irish landscapes. The ElmAsh project also aims to:

iii. collect and propagate tolerant/resistant germplasm for genetic conservation of Wych elms and screening for DED, in a first step towards the restoration of Wych elms in Ireland.

Taken together, ElmAsh will strengthen ongoing breeding efforts to develop improved genotypes of native broadleaved tree species.



Applicants should have a First or Upper Second Class M.Sc. in an appropriate discipline such as Plant Biology, Genetics, Molecular biology or Forestry. Experience in tissue culture, microbiome analysis, microbiology, plant-microbe interaction and/or tree improvement is desirable.

Applicants whose native language is not English must show adequate English language skills. Adequate knowledge of English must be demonstrated with standardised or accredited certificates at minimum B2 level or higher in accordance with the Common European

Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The following shall serve as proof:

a) UNIcert®: min. certificate UNIcert® II;

b) NULTE certificates: min. level B2;

c) Cambridge English Scale: min. 160 points;

d) “International English Language Testing System” (IELTS Academic): min. band 6.0;

e) “Test of English as a Foreign Language, internet-based test” (TOEFL iBT): min. 81 points;

f) Global Scale of English (Pearson Academic): min. 59 points.

These tests (a-f) must have been successfully completed within two years prior to receipt of the application for admission. Proof of adequate English language proficiency also includes at least two years of residence in an English-speaking country for the purpose of relevant study or work within the last three years prior to the application for admission or the successful completion of an English-language degree programme. Please visit here for further information on eligibility criteria.

A valid driving license would be desirable for this position.


The scholarship funding is €24,000 per annum and includes University fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum and is tenable for 4 years. There are additional funds for travel and project costs.

We offer an inspiring and friendly environment of researchers working in forest tree genetics and breeding. The project is a strong collaboration between Teagasc (Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland), University of Gottingen (Germany), University College Dublin (Ireland), and AFBI (NI, UK). Apart from lead supervisors in Teagasc and University of Gottingen, there is a team of experts including Dr. Stephen Byrne (Teagasc), Dr. Akshit Puri (UCD), and Dr. Anna Tiley (AFBI), who will co-supervise and support the PhD candidate.

The student will be registered at the University of Gottingen in Germany, however, will be based in Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland full-time for the duration of the project. They will have the opportunity to travel to the University of Gottingen to attend courses and work in the group of Forest genetics and forest tree breeding. A travel budget is available to present their work at national and international conferences.


Further Information/Applications


For any further information please contact:

Dr. Dheeraj Rathore, Teagasc, [Email Address Removed]

Professor Oliver Gailing, University of Gottingen, [Email Address Removed]

Dr. Markus Mueller, University of Gottingen, [Email Address Removed]

Dr. Katharina Birgit Budde, University of Gottingen, [Email Address Removed]

Application Procedure

Submit an electronic copy of Curriculum Vitae and a Letter of Interest (as a single PDF file) to [Email Address Removed] quoting the reference number in the subject field.

Incomplete applications (only CV or cover letter) will be deemed ineligible.

Closing date

All applications must reach the inbox by 5:00 PM (Irish time) 30.06.2022. Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

Funding Notes

The scholarship funding is €24,000 per annum and includes University fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum and is tenable for 4 years. There are additional funds for travel and consumable costs.


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Martín, J.A., Sobrino-Plata, J., Rodríguez-Calcerrada, J. et al., 2019. Breeding and scientific advances in the fight against Dutch elm disease: Will they allow the use of elms in forest restoration? New Forests 50, p.183–215. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11056-018-9640-x
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