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Study opportunity: Master of Research

An exciting opportunity is now open for a one-year Master of Research (MRes) project to investigate the origin of invasive arthropods through the use of stable isotopes and biometal compositions.

Australian horticulture is under constant threat from exotic arthropods. NSW has recently experienced major incursions of Fall armyworm, Khapra beetle, and Serpentine leaf miner. Such invasive insects are usually first detected as adults in traps without any knowledge of their port of entry or country of origin and without knowing which hosts are being attacked in Australia. Gaining such information would be very useful in designing rapid responses to incursions. This study will investigate the potential of stable isotope and biometal signatures to ascertain (1) the region of origin of detected arthropods and (2) the hosts that those insects have developed in since arriving in Australia. Target species could include fruit flies, beetles, moths and other arthropods of biosecurity concern, including mites and other non-insect pests. This study has potential to build synergies with other projects dealing with molecular identification and diagnostics for a more comprehensive understanding of ports of entry, origin and local hosts of major arthropod biosecurity threats.

Dr Bishwo Mainali at Macquarie University will supervise this project, which is part of a collaboration with Dr Polychronis Rempoulakis at the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Dr Fanis Missirlis at the Center of Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav) in Mexico. Their expertise and research capacity in applied entomology and biosecurity guarantee that this project will be well supported in terms of supervision, collaborative opportunities, facilities and operational funds.

Scholarship support is available for a suitably qualified candidate ($28,597, tax free). To be eligible for a scholarship, applicants are expected to have a record of excellent academic performance and preferably relevant research experience. Opportunities exist at Macquarie University for continuation to PhD, including scholarship support, for students who perform to a high level in MRes research.

To apply email a letter of interest, academic transcripts, and curriculum vitae to Dr Bishwo Mainali (bishwo.mainali@mq.edu.au). Informal enquiries are welcome and encouraged.

Closing Date: midnight on 21 March 2021 (AEST).