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Novel behavioural manipulation of insects for pest control

Project Description

A Ph.D. studentship (42 months) is available from October 2020 in the School of Life Sciences under the joint supervision of Prof William Hughes in Evolution Behaviour and Environment and Prof John Spencer, in Chemistry.

With over one billion undernourished people in the world, the need to develop novel crop protection strategies cannot be under-estimated. The sustainable production of food and other natural resources is one of the greatest challenges facing society in the twenty-first century, and insect pests are a significant impediment to this. In the face of a growing population, shrinking resources and pesticide resistance, there is a mounting need for the development of better targeted and more environmentally friendly strategies for the integrated management of insect pests.

Pheromones and other semiochemicals are potentially valuable tools to achieve this. By disrupting or manipulating insect behaviour they can enable better targeted and more environmentally friendly control. However, their success has been restricted by the practical difficulties of applying these highly volatile compounds in the field. This studentship is part of an exciting Leverhulme Trust-funded collaboration with chemists in Sussex (Prof John Spencer) and the University of Bath (led by Prof Andy Burrows) to improve the effectiveness of semiochemicals for pest control through the use of novel metal-organic frameworks. The student will investigate the behavioural activity of novel semiochemical-based products and their application for integrated pest management strategies, using a combination of laboratory experiments and field trials, and working with leaf-cutting ants and several other pest insect species.

The project will provide the student with an exciting range of pure and applied training in animal behaviour, chemical ecology and applied entomology, as well as potentially chemical analysis and synthesis depending on the student’s interests, leaving the student well-placed for a career in either academia or industry.

Funding Notes

This is open to UK or EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for the 3 years prior to taking up the scholarship. The stipend is at standard Research Council rates.

Candidates should have a degree in Biology, Zoology or a related subject, and a background in animal behaviour, chemical ecology or entomology. Any background or interest in chemistry is advantageous but not a requirement.

Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section.


How to apply:
Please submit a formal application using our online application system at including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest and names of two academic referees. On the application system use Programme of Study – PhD Biology.

For enquiries about the project contact Profs William Hughes and John Spencer; [email protected]; [email protected]

Background information can be found at:

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Sussex in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.61

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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