PhD Scholarships: MSc/PhD Project Opportunity Available to Model Biocontrol Strategies for Vertebrate Pests

We are seeking an MSc/PhD student with interests in ecological modelling and applied ecology to conduct research into the potential effectiveness of an in-development form of novel biocontrol (the Trojan Female Technique).

Project Description: Biological control is widely used in the control and eradication of plant and animal species. Among the most common forms of biological control are a group of approaches that aim to control or eradicate population/species by reducing their fertility and reproductive capacity. To date the most successful of these approaches has been the Sterile Male Technique (SMT), also known as the Sterile Insect Technique, where large quantities of sterile males are released into a population each generation. If released in sufficient numbers these males monopolise matings with females, but because they are sterile no progeny are produced resulting in a reduction in the population size. Repeated cycles of release ultimately result in population numbers being heavily reduced or even eradicated.

The Trojan Female Technique (TFT) is a novel twist on the SMT using mitochondrial DNA mutations that affect male but not female fertility. Since mitochondria are maternally inherited, this approach has the predicted advantage of lack of selection against individuals carrying the mutant mtDNA, offering the potential for continuous, self-sustaining biological control. Thus, unlike the SMT where large yearly releases are generally required, cost savings associated with the TFT being persistent make it potentially applicable to a wider range of invertebrate, and even vertebrate, pests. Building on preliminary work in which a generic model exploring TFT potential was developed (see Gemmell et al. 2013. Proc Roy Soc B 280: 20132549), we are seeking to explore the utility of the TFT approach in the control of a key vertebrate pest species impacting indigenous biodiversity in New Zealand, such as the ship rat or brushtail possum.

This work will be aligned to a new MBIE project ‘The Trojan Female Technique: A novel non-lethal approach for pest population control’ headed by Dr Dan Tompkins (Landcare Research) in collaboration with Prof Neil Gemmell (Otago). The MSc position will be based at the University of Otago and Landcare Research (Dunedin).

The Ideal Candidate: The ideal candidate will possess experience in ecology, statistics and modelling. In addition they will be motivated and organised, with a demonstrated capacity to master the broad skill set necessary for the successful completion of a research project.

Minimum qualifications: B.Sc. (Hons) or PgDipSci in Ecology, Statistics, or equivalent with an A- average or better.

Scholarship Funding: An MSc Research scholarship ($13,000 for one year) and associated fees is available for the successful candidate through the Chisholm Family Trust. There is also opportunity for exceptional BSc (Hons) or MSc candidates (A average or better) to apply for a University of Otago PhD scholarship http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/scholarships/ with a high probability of success.

Eligibility: This opportunity is open to all nationalities. However, overseas candidates for whom English is not a first language must satisfy the English Language Requirements of the University to be eligible for study (see). Other international eligibility criteria are here.

How to Apply: Interested applicants are encouraged to make informal enquiries to Professor Neil Gemmell. Please send your Curriculum Vitae, a copy of your academic transcript, a sample of your written scientific work and the names of three referees with a covering letter to:

Professor Neil J. Gemmell            

Further information
Gemmell lab
Landcare Research

Applications close on the 2nd February 2014. It would be desirable if the successful applicant were able to start in early/mid 2014.

History of Eugenics in New Zealand, University of Otago

Supervisors: Associate Professor John Stenhouse (History & Art History) & Professor Hamish Spencer (Zoology)

We are looking for a suitably qualified student to research and write a PhD thesis on the history of eugenics in New Zealand. The successful applicant will have a BA Hons or MA in history, preferably with First Class Honours. Some training in the history of science is desirable but not essential. This project aims to illuminate what, if anything, was distinctive about the New Zealand eugenics movement by placing it in comparative international context. The successful applicant must be willing to investigate the interconnections between eugenics and science, class, race, gender, nation-state and religion. This three-year project is funded by the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution and includes a $25,000 NZD per year scholarship, $5,000 per year for tuition fees, and funding for international travel.

How to Apply: To apply for this position please contact John Stenhouse at the following email address or phone number. Potential candidates should submit a CV, academic record, two academic references, a writing sample, and a short statement of research interests to:

John Stenhouse
Phone: +64-3-479-8609

Further information
For more information and host institutions and supervisors’ research interests see the following links:
Associate Professor John Stenhouse
Professor Hamish Spencer

Postdoctoral Opportunity: The molecular basis of sex reversal in sequentially hermaphroditic fish

We are currently seeking an outstanding postdoctoral researcher with interests in genetics, evolution, physiology and behavioural ecology to conduct research into the genetic basis of sex reversal in sequentially hermaphroditic fish.

Project Description: Most plants and animals irreversibly differentiate becoming either males or females. However, in some groups, notably fishes, individuals begin life as one sex and reverse sex sometime later in response to social cues (sequential hermaphrodism). Sex reversal in sequential hermaphrodites is complete, entailing radical restructuring of the gonad, alterations in morphology, and modifications to behaviour. The molecular basis of this stunning transformation is unknown, but is of intense interest, not only as a means to enhance our understanding of sex determination and differentiation, cellular commitment and tissue re-engineering, but also as a spectacular example of phenotypic plasticity in response to environment. Using the ubiquitous NZ spotty, together with two distant tropical relatives, the bluehead and three-spotted wrasse, both leading models for sex reversal, we will undertake a series of experiments to determine the genetic pathway underlying this stunning transformation. We will couple in the field ecological manipulations to produce a time series of samples taken during the process of sex reversal, with state-of-the- art gene expression analyses and comparative genomic approaches, to identify both the primary trigger and subsequent genetic cascade that results in female-male sex reversal in fishes.

The project emerges from a new Marsden Grant headed by Professor Neil Gemmell and will be based in the Gemmell laboratory at the University of Otago.

The Ideal Candidate: Applications are invited from postdoctoral candidates who have experience in molecular biology, evolutionary and population genetics/genomics, and bioinformatics. The successful candidate will likely be skilled in molecular genetic techniques and in the analysis of genetic data and associated statistics. They will be highly self-motivated and be able to work alongside a wide variety of people. In addition they will have a strong commitment to research excellence with a track record of high research productivity based on international, peer-reviewed publications commensurate for their career stage.

How to Apply: Interested applicants are encouraged to make informal enquiries to Professor Neil Gemmell. Please send your Curriculum Vitae, a sample of your written scientific work and the names of three referees with a covering letter to:

Professor Neil J. Gemmell

Formal Applications must be made at: https://otago.taleo.net/careersection/2/jobdetail.ftl?lang=en&job=1400626
Salary Level and Range: Postdoctoral Fellow ($72,046)

Reference Number: 1400626
Closing Date: Thursday, 17 April 2014