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Visual processing in mosquito larvae

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  • Full or part time
    Dr O Riabinina
    Dr V Nityananda
    Dr N Hempel de Ibarra
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that affects half of the world population, and increasingly presents risk to Europe, due to climate change. The fight against malaria has currently stalled, and new methods are needed to make further progress.

Larval control methods have proved efficient in the past, but were abandoned due to their low specificity. More precise targeting of larvae requires new knowledge about larval behavior and responses to sensory stimuli, such as visual and olfactory cues. The knowledge about larval visual and olfactory processing is very limited, but when acquired, could lead to the development of new, highly-specialised traps and repellents. In addition, important insights about evolution and function of insect sensory systems will be gained by exploring this new model organism.

This project will study anatomy of the visual system and behavioural responses to visual stimuli in larvae of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. The larvae, uniquely, possess both the larval and the developing adult eyes that are likely both functional, and respond to different wavelengths of light. This project will explore how the signals from the two systems are integrated and lead to behavioural responses. The project will also investigate possible modulation of visual responses by concurrently presented olfactory stimuli. Techniques, employed in this project, include behavioural assays, regulation of gene expression by RNAi, in vivo imaging on a light-sheet microscope, immunohistochemistry and confocal imaging, with corresponding image analysis.
We look for a highly-motivated candidate preferably with a background in Neuroscience and interest in Animal behaviour, Molecular biology, Genetics and Bioimaging. Strong quantitative analysis skills are essential for this project. Programming experience is desirable but training will be provided for designing visual stimuli in Matlab and data analysis in DeepLabCut.

This project is a joint initiative between Durham, Newcastle and Exeter Universities. The student will be based in Dr Olena Riabinina’s laboratory at the Department of Biosciences in Durham, and will spend time in Dr Vivek Nityananda’s laboratory in Newcastle and Prof Natalie Hempel de Ibarra’s laboratory in Exeter. In addition, the student will spend 3 months at another institution or company of their choice during a PIPS placement to widen their professional experiences and networks.

The project involves an extensive training and networking component via attendance of DTP3-specific events, neuroscience and bioimaging courses and summer schools, and relevant conferences. The student will also have an opportunity to visit laboratories of the supervisors’ collaborators in the UK and abroad.

HOW TO APPLY

Applications should be made by emailing [Email Address Removed] with a CV (including contact details of at least two academic (or other relevant) referees), and a covering letter – including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected.

In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Additional Details Form (Word document) to [Email Address Removed]. A blank copy of this form can be found at: https://www.nld-dtp.org.uk/how-apply.

Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed].

Please note that the closing date for applications is Monday 18th May at 12noon.

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 for 2019-20). The PhD will start in October 2020. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. Please note, there are 2 stages to the application process.

References

1. Second-order cues to figure motion enable object detection during prey capture by praying mantises. (In Press) PNAS

2. Commonly used insect repellents hide human odors from Anopheles mosquitoes. (2019) Current Biology, 29, 1-12

3. A novel form of stereo vision in the praying mantis. (2018) Current Biology, 28, 588-593

4. A comparative analysis of colour preferences in temperate and tropical social bees. (2018) Naturwissenschaften, 105, 8-8.

5. The diversity of floral temperature patterns, and their use by pollinators. (2107) eLife, 6

6. Organization of olfactory centers in the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae.(2016) Nature Communications, 7, 13010

7. Improved and expanded Q-system reagents for genetic manipulations. (2015) Nature Methods, 12, 219-222

8. Head movements and the optic flow generated during the learning flights of bumblebees. (2014) Journal of Experimental Biology, 217, 2633-42

9. Mechanisms, functions and ecology of colour vision in the honeybee. (2014) Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 200, 411-433.

10. Characterisation of the RNA interference response against the long-wavelength receptor of the honeybee. (2013) Insect Biochem Mol Biol, 43(10), 959-969.



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