From pests to paradise: control and conservation of molluscan biodiversity
Lab rotation project description
During the lab rotation the student will receive training in several of the techniques that are a necessary component of the larger PhD project. Depending upon the existing skills of the student, these are likely to include a range of molecular biology techniques (e.g. DNA extraction, PCR, RNA methods), analysis (e.g. mapping genes to chromosomes), simple (e.g BLAST searching) and more advanced bioinformatics (e.g. phylogenetics, introduction to biolinux). Depending upon the precise time of year (snails hibernate in winter), it may also be possible to conduct some field work – e.g. identifying possible field sites for later in depth study.
Linked PhD Project Outline
Snails and slugs are a major crop pest, with a few introduced species causing massive worldwide problems. Yet, they are difficult to identify and we have little idea of how this biodiversity has come about, hindering appropriate control and conservation efforts.
This project will use next generation sequencing methods to investigate the evolution, speciation and diversification of snails, especially with respect to characters under natural and artificial selection (e.g. shell colour and banding or molluscide resistance), and including methods that may help identify cryptic species, or species of conservation concern. For example, building upon the work of a recent student who investigated the diversity within colour polymorphic Cepaea, the next step may be to investigate the degree of parallelism and convergence between this and other species. Ultimately, the precise project will be determined by the interests of the student, but the overall aim is that he/she will begin to determine if the same modes of speciation and evolution are involved in widely divergent species, with the project having implications for both control and conservation of molluscan biodiversity. Although much of the work will be lab-based, with a concomitant bioinformatics element, field collection will be a necessary component, including probable foreign field work in East Asia or the Caribbean region.