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Teagasc PhD Walsh Scholarship Opportunity in Entomology - AIDE: mAnaging aphIDs in cEreal

Agriculture & Environment

Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Salary:  As per advert
Post Type:  Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed Term - 36 Months
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Tuesday 31 May 2022
Reference:  RD-PHD-60JR-R1

Applications are invited for a full-time Teagasc funded PhD scholarship in collaboration with Harper Adams University (UK).


The PhD Scholarship is a joint research project between the Teagasc (Ireland) and Harper Adams University (UK). The student will be based at the Teagasc Crop Science Department in Carlow and will be registered at Harper Adams University, working under the supervision of Dr Louise McNamara (Teagasc), Dr Tom Pope (Harper Adams University) and Dr Joe Roberts. The Scholarship will start Autumn 2022 and funding is €24,000 per annum and includes University fees of up to a maximum of €6,000 per annum and is tenable for 4 years.


Aphids are economically important cereal pests that reduce grain quality and crop yield through direct feeding and vectoring diseases such as Barley/Cereal Yellow Dwarf Virus (B/CYDV). Controlling aphids, and therefore managing B/CYDV is increasingly difficult due to insecticide resistant aphid populations, climate change and fewer insecticide options. This situation has been further exacerbated by the recent ban on neonicotinoid seed treatments. Current B/CYDV management is achieved through pyrethroid insecticide applications, however these decisions are not made using pest thresholds as they do not exist. Insecticide application decisions are typically based on aphids being identified in a crop during routine crop walking, a process that is time consuming and dependent on specialist expertise/tools to accurately identify aphids or diagnose disease. This project will tackle existing disease diagnosis limitations using parallel approaches: (1) validate different aphid monitoring methods, utilising the new suction tower network and (2) advanced diagnostics (digital droplet PCR) to establish the risk posed by migratory and in-field aphid populations as well as the viral loads needed to pose risk of yield loss, (3) determine best use of tolerant/resistance cereal varieties for control of B/CYDV. Together these approaches can be used to develop decision support systems that determine whether control is required and to optimise insecticide applications.

The main activities of this PhD research will be to develop a dynamic IPM system for B/CYDV management by; validate use of different aphid monitoring methods in the field, supported by molecular diagnostics, as a DST for B/CYDV control. Conduct field trials to determine best use of tolerant/resistant B/CYDV cereal lines in IPM program and validate a new DSS for use in Ireland. The PhD candidate will design and carry out field trials and monitoring as well as glasshouse and molecular experiments, analyse and interpret results, and publish findings in peer-reviewed international journals. There will also be opportunities for travel to attend national and international conferences. The successful candidate will join a team of scientists with a strong track record in this area, and have access to research infrastructure (molecular laboratories) and support (PhD training and professional development).


All applicants must normally have a minimum of an upper second-class UK honours degree, or equivalent, in an appropriate biological discipline (biology, zoology, environmental science, entomology, etc.). Further research experience or a postgraduate degree in an appropriate biological discipline is preferable. Experience in insect molecular biology and bioinformatics would be desirable, but full training will be provided. The successful candidate should be highly self-motivated and can expect extended periods of both laboratory and field work, for which a full EU driving licence is required.

A minimum level of competency in English is required. Where necessary, applicants need to be classed as an overall IELTS grade 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component. Please see the following with regard to English Language requirements

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Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects.  Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

Applied research is at the heart of the university’s activity, with the work of a thriving academic community underpinning both teaching and work with the industries allied to Harper. The 2014 Government Research Excellence Framework rated all of the university’s research as “of international quality”, and more than half was deemed “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.



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