We are seeking candidates to fill two fully funded PhD positions for a period of 3 years in the Applied Evolutionary Ecology research group lead by Henrik H. De Fine Licht at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark (https://plen.ku.dk/english/research/organismal_biology/aee/).
We are looking for committed and enthusiastic graduate students to work with insect-pathogenic fungal genetics, evolution and ecology. We specifically aim to explore how phenotypic plasticity and epigenetic modifications influence the evolution of fungal pathogen host shifts using insect-pathogenic fungi as a model. The project will explore gene transcription profiles and epigenetic modification of artificial fungal host-shift events created in the lab, coupled with phenotypic changes in growth and virulence of fungal pathogens. Further scientific background information can be found in the recent paper by De Fine Licht (PLoS Pathogens 14(5): e1006961). The successful PhD students will thus obtain competences within insect-fungus interactions, fungal genomics and transcriptomics, and applied bioinformatics. We are looking for candidates with experience in any or all of the following areas: Fungal pathogen biology, mycological techniques, molecular genetic laboratory techniques, and computational analysis of genomic sequence data. Most importantly, the successful candidates are enthusiastic, have a good grasp of evolutionary biology and are interested in host-pathogen evolution.
The project is funded by a Danish Research Council Sapere Aude Starting Grant and involves researchers at University of Copenhagen and University of Maryland (USA). The PhD students will be supervised by Associate Professor Henrik H. De Fine Licht and co-supervised by Associate Professor Nicolai V. Meyling.
To apply, please first contact Henrik H. De Fine Licht (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, include subject-line in email: “PhD student fungal host-shift genetics”). This way, Henrik H. De Fine Licht and the potential applicant can discuss the formal application and requirements (e.g. applicants with English as second language need to provide a copy of a specific English test score sheet and the documentation of academic degrees obtained (diplomas) must be in English/officially approved translation to English) before submission. The deadline for formal application is 1 April 2019, so contact Henrik H. De Fine Licht as soon as possible if you are interested.
Three papers on some cool fungi that interact with hosts and I recommend them for a good read.
One is coverage of by Ed Yong on rice blast (Magnaporthae orzyae) on paper from Nick Talbot and Gero Steinberg‘s lab on appressorium development in Science this week.
A paper from my lab on role of an expansion of copy number of a chitin-binding domain in the amphibian pathogen B. dendrobatidis.
New Scientist also provides a nice summary of tripartite symbiosis paper on Metarhizium, insects, and plants from Mike Bidochka’s lab.
A critical part of understanding and documenting the diversity is formal descriptions of species and their relatives. This can be a laborious task and is usually captured in the form of a monograph of a species where a group of species are described in careful detail along with the phylogenetic relationships of them. This has served as the basis for documentation of the the natural history and morphological descriptions of species. The information is typically presented in the form of a book that goes to a library or your shelf which can be pulled down and poured over when trying to determine traits for a group of organisms. Books are great but sharing images and the
Ryan Kepler, a PhD student at Oregon State, is writing a monograph about the ever so cool Cordyceps fungi which have intimate and quite manipulative relationship with insects. However, he’s doing it as an electronic monograph that he is publishing on the web. This is a great way to share this technical and visual information. By publishing it online he is making it searchable and so that it can be a living document that can be updated over time. He’s also willing to publish it as he goes along so the current version is a starting point, but will continue to mature as he completes his PhD thesis work and has input from other experts in the field. I really like that the is publishing it early on and truly embracing an open science approach to presenting his descriptions of the species and their relationships. This is akin to other efforts putting information about species on the web, from the Encyclopedia of Life to Mushroom observer, but I really like that this is a site dedicated to capturing the expert level information that Ryan is gathering as part of this thesis in a searchable and interactive form.
Cordyceps are an interesting group of fungi not only because of their insect association, but their variety of colors and morphologies. The ability to manipulate their insect hosts also suggests a wide variety of secondary metabolites are probably produced by these fungi to enable them to change behavior of infected individuals.
Will be great to see this resource mature and also additional monographs and species descriptions to embrace an online and freely available form. I suspect there could be a (tiny) market for better web software here for making this easier so that one doesn’t have to be or have an expert web development team to deploy these for individual projects.
Not fungal, but cool science nonetheless (plus, ants are important in some fungal symbioses). Walter R. Tschinkel uses plaster to study ant nests (particularly the Florida harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex badius) and his recent article in Bioone provides us an interesting insight into any colony morphology. Check it out.
Ants, fungi, and bacteria
I have to admit that I am fascinated by co-evolution of symbiotic and mutalistic systems. A review by Richard Robinson gives an overview. A great example is the mutalism between ants and fungi where the ants cultivate the fungi for food. There are more layers to the relationship as a fungal parasite (Escovopsis) attacks the cultivated fungi, and a bacteria. Several researchers have studied the coevolution of these studies including Ulrich Mueller and Cameron Currie. Currie and Mueller have published several great studies describing the patterns of coevolution and the nature of the cooperation.
Continue reading Tripartate symbioses with fungi