Dynamics of the Queensland Fruit Fly Microbiome (PhD) - Macquarie University and NSW Department of Primary Industries
A PhD opportunity is available on a project investigating the microbiome of the Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni; Tephritidae) (‘Q-fly’). Investigations will focus on the composition of the gut microbiome and how this changes when a fly transitions from its native environment to the laboratory environment. This will cover both comparisons of life stages and tracking changes through the multiple generations of various domestication processes.
This project is part of a $20.5 million multi-institution ‘SIT Plus’ collaboration that aims to develop a detailed understanding of Q-fly biology to improve the quality of fruit flies for Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) applications. In SIT, millions of sterile male flies are released to disrupt reproduction of wild populations as an environmentally benign approach to managing this major pest. A substantial component of this overall program entails detailed investigations of the many changes to physiology, behaviour and microbiome that occur in concert through the domestication process, and how deleterious changes might be ameliorated. Hence, this PhD project is part of a much larger program and team, and a high level of interaction with diverse disciplines is anticipated. This is an opportunity for robust fundamental research into the interplay between hosts and microbiome through rapid environmental changes in, but not exclusive to, host nutrition, reproductive schedules, immunity, and environment, and is also an opportunity for involvement in a large, diverse and capable research community that is working toward a paradigm-changing initiative in Australian sustainable pest management.
Although part of a larger project there is freedom within this PhD candidature for scientific exploration in conjunction with the core objectives. The PhD project will include genomics (next-generation sequencing), microscopy, molecular microbiology, bioinformatics and insect ecology to investigate several research questions to investigate the key objectives:
1) Is the Q-fly microbiome plastic, and is it dependent on life stage?
2) Is there a base gut microbiome and does it change with different environmental conditions?
3) What influences can the microbiome have on Q-fly physiology and behaviour?
The project will be carried out under the supervision of Drs Toni Chapman and Ania Deutscher of NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and Drs Fleur Ponton and Darrell Kemp of Macquarie University.
NSW DPI has considerable experience with Q-fly, bacteria and gut microbiota, with a large network of contacts. The Macquarie group includes a large research community working on diverse aspects of Q-fly behaviour, physiology, and genetics. In addition, we will be working closely with collaborators from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) who have experience in genetics/genomics and have in-house facilities required for high throughput sequencing and bioinformatics.