Tuesday, 8 November 2016

#PlantPath PhDs Aplenty!

What's the collective noun for Plant Pathology PhD projects? Plethora? Pestilence?

Anyway, there have been lots of projects advertised on twitter recently so I thought I'd do a brief roundup for the UK:

James Hutton Institute, Dundee

The Consequences of Tree Diseases and Mitigation Options on Connectivity for Biodiversity

Deadline: 06.01.17

John Innes Centre, Norwich

There Is No Free Lunch: Trade-Offs in Plant Disease

Deadline: 28.11.16

Rothamsted Research, Hertfordshire

In planta RNAi for medium-to-high throughput identification of fungal (Fusarium spp.) genes essential for plant infection+

Deadline: 05.12.16

How to apply:

University of Bristol

RiPPing through wheat 
(Less mysterious but longer title - investigating the role of RiPP proteins in the virulence of the wheat pathogenic fungus Zymoseptoria tritici)

Deadline: 05.12.16

University of Cambridge

BBSRC DTP: Fatal attraction? Epidemiological consequences of vector preference for plant disease*

Deadline: 01.12.16

How to apply:

NERC DTP: Slowing the spread of well-established plant disease epidemics

Deadline: 04.01.17

NERC DTP: Modelling the epidemiology, ecology and evolutionary consequences of pollinator-transmitted plant disease 

Deadline: 04.01.17

University of Leeds

Functional characterisation of a novel effector gene family from a plant pathogen (parasitic nematodes)

Deadline: 05.01.17

Did I miss one? Let me know @nellyplants on twitter.

*Slightly appalled by the £50 application fee for Cambridge BBSRC DTPs. I certainly didn't have fifty quid to spare when applying for PhDs.

+ This project is jointly supervised by the Rothamsted Wheat Pathogenomics lab, where I did my PhD, and the Bristol Plant Pathology group, who've assimilated me for a postdoc. I can therefore say without any bias whatsoever that this is an awesome project.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Aliens land in Tetbury, and it's bad news for bees!

It sounds like the plot of a Simon Pegg movie; a sleepy Cotswold town suddenly finds itself facing an invasion of deadly aliens. They're winged, aggressive, breed rapidly and can be hard to tell apart from the natives, and they've got a thing for bees. It's not little green men or pod people though, it's Vespa veluntina, the asian hornet.

While posing no major threat to the human inhabitants of the UK, these guys are bad news for bees. They prey at hive entrances; snatching, gruesomely beheading and devouring bees or flying off with them and chopping them up to feed to their young. Nesting asian hornet queens can raise a 6,000 strong colony in 3 months, with each worker munching down 50 bees per day. Needless to say their establishment in the UK could be really bad news for our already struggling honeybees.

What Tetbury's invaders were lacking, however, was the element of surprise. They were first identified in France in 2004, and from there have spread rapidly across Europe. The UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has therefore been waiting for them, with detailed protocols in place for if and when they showed up. As soon as the alert was sounded DEFRA launched into action, complete with surveillance zones, infrared cameras and nest disposal experts. It's like something out of Torchwood, and as with any well-written alien invasion story, the key is killing the queen.

If this were a horror film, it would be fitting for Joe Public, rather than government officials, to find the nest, kill the queen and save the day. However,  hornet slaying is probably best left to the experts. Not only could disturbing a nest be very dangerous, but there's also a risk of killing the wrong guy. We already have a native hornet in the UK; the European hornet, and we wouldn't want to risk a mix up. However, monitoring is very much encouraged. You can report any sightings of a suspected alien invasion using this web form, or by emailing . There are ID sheets here to help you with your quest. Happy hornet hunting!

Key Asian Hornet ID features: from BeeBase ID sheet