Master of Science in Biology position – University of British Columbia Okanagan

Investigating the roles of ecology, phenology, and insect genotype in predicting host-range of candidate biocontrol agents for an invasive fruit-feeding fly

We are seeking an MSc student to investigate the ecology of endemic vinegar flies (Diptera: Drosophilidae) present in southwestern British Columbia. This project will focus particularly on their susceptibility to attack by two foreign parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera: Figitidae) being considered as candidate classical biological control agents for the invasive Spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii, SWD). SWD is a serious pest of soft fruit (i.e. cherries) and berries, first detected in BC in 2009 and now widespread in Coastal and Interior fruit growing areas of B.C. Effective control currently requires the use of insecticides. A successful biological control program would improve the sustainability of production of soft fruits and berries by reducing insecticide use. A necessary first step is to evaluate potential risks and benefits of the proposed introduction of these two parasitoids by determining the susceptibility of native Drosophilids to attack.

The successful candidate will carry out basic and applied research on the distribution, phenology and ecology of native non-target Drosophilids in the Okanagan Valley, establish laboratory lines of select species, and evaluate the roles of ecology, phenology, and fly genotype on likelihood of attack by the two parasitoid wasps. Research will be conducted in field, laboratory and quarantine facilities. The successful candidate will join a team of researchers studying invasion ecology in agro-ecosystems and gain expertise in field sampling and ecology, insect identification, insect rearing, statistical analysis and molecular biology.

Starting Date: January 1st, 2020. Applications will be accepted until a suitable candidate is found but those received by June 15th 2019 will be given priority.

Locations: The student will be enrolled at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan Campus (Kelowna, BC) under the primary academic supervision of Dr. Bob Lalonde. Experimental work will be carried out under the supervision of Dr. Chandra Moffat and Dr. Paul Abram with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, at the Summerland Research and Development Centre located in Summerland, British Columbia.

Qualifications: Candidates should have a BSc in biology, entomology, plant science, ecology, or a related discipline. Candidates may need to re-locate between Kelowna and Summerland during the course of the project depending on selected coursework. Applicants must meet the admission requirements of UBC Okanagan (https://biol.ok.ubc.ca/graduate/biology.html), be Canadian Citizens, and have a valid drivers licence.

Stipend: Guarantee of $17,500 per year for 2 years if academic requirements are met; applicants are encouraged to apply for other scholarships (e.g. NSERC).

To apply: Interested applicants should send a cover letter outlining their research interests, a current CV, unofficial transcripts, and contact information for 2 academic references to Dr. Bob Lalonde, robert.lalonde@ubc.ca, cc Dr. Chandra Moffat, chandra.moffat@canada.ca

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