Vacancies
Vacancies

Molecular Biologist/Plant Pathologist

Fixed Term Appointment to 31/03/2024

Location: Alice Holt Research Station, Farnham, Surrey GU10 4LH

Background Information

Forest Research (FR) is the research agency of the Forestry Commission, world leaders in applied forest science and trusted providers of expertise, data, products and services for governments and tree/wood/forest and natural resource sectors. We have two main research stations: Alice Holt Lodge (AH) in south east England and Northern Research Station (NRS) near Edinburgh, and a smaller research presence in Wales (Aberystwyth). The remit of FR is across Great Britain.

The Tree Health research group’s role is to sustain the forestry and tree sector in Britain through:

  • Provision of rapid diagnosis of tree health problems and response to invasive pest and disease outbreaks.
  • Undertaking research of pests and pathogens threatening British trees to inform government policy, management and future proofing trees for resilience in changing climates.

The Oak Decline Research Group is world leading in Acute Oak Decline (AOD), which is a complex Decline disease of oak characterised by bacterial stem bleeding and beetle associations. The research is carried out by a dynamic multidisciplinary team covering bacteriology, pathology and molecular ecology, plant chemistry, entomology, biogeochemistry and social science. The teams’ skills span culturomics, genomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics, transcriptomics, beetle microbiome/pathobiome interactions, biocontrol and chemical ecology, monitoring and spatial epidemiological modelling, soil science as well as citizen and social science aspects. Our holistic approach offers an exciting, unique opportunity to use a systems approach to investigate tree disease diagnosis and management.

We are seeking to appoint a Molecular Biologist/Plant Pathologist based at Alice Holt on a Fixed Term Appointment for 27 months. The project the successful candidate will take on is beetle transmission and vectoring of bacteria in AOD. It requires excellent bacteriological and bioinformatic skills as well as the ability to work with live beetles. The project is part of WP1 in our BAC-STOP project in the Bacterial Plant Diseases Programme: https://bacterialplantdiseases.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/BBSRC-BAC-STOP_-General_Summary_FINAL_17-09-20.pdf.

We are looking for a biological scientist with excellent bacteriological, molecular and bioinformatic skills who is able to work on live beetles and can build on existing data through: experiment planning and execution, bacterial isolation and identification, beetle rearing and dissection, data collection and analysis, scientific publication/report writing and presentation. The successful candidate will be able to demonstrate the above as well as laboratory and management skills, quality assurance, strong, integrated teamwork and the ability to help colleagues with bioinformatic analyses.

The key responsibilities for the role will include:

Essential Criteria

  • Degree in plant/forest pathology or bacteriology/microbiology with strong molecular and bioinformatic skills and the ability to work with live beetles.
  • Skilled in good laboratory practice with demonstrated pathology laboratory experience using traditional (culturomics) as well as molecular techniques such as nucleic acid extraction and quantification (DNA and RNA), conventional and real-time PCR.
  • Evidence of strong bioinformatic experience and current usage of key software packages for microbiome/transcriptome analyses.
  • Demonstrate good track record of scientific publications.
  • Evidence of management of research projects.
  • Good standard of verbal and written communication.
  • Evidence of participation in knowledge exchange events and communication to non-scientific audiences.
  • Competent IT user with experience of MS Office packages.

Desirable Criteria

  • Entomological experience including insect rearing and dissection.
  • Demonstration of up-to-date knowledge and experience of phylogenetic and transcriptomic analyses and software packages.
  • Experience with statistical packages such as R.

For more information and to apply, please visit: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/about-us/careers/jobs/

Tel: 0300 067 5652
Email: hr.services@forestresearch.gov.uk

Please quote ref 179852. Closing date: 6 February 2022

We are committed to providing equal opportunities for all sectors of our diverse community.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Department of Plant Pathology

University of Stellenbosch

Project Title: Development of a risk-based system for management of Citrus Black Spot

Scope of Research

Citrus black spot, caused by Phyllosticta citricarpa, has a negative impact on the South African and Brazilian citrus industries. The disease causes superficial and cosmetic lesions on mature citrus fruit but leaf lesions seldom occur. Fruit lesions reduce the visual quality of fruit produced for fresh fruit markets.

Infection of tissues depends on availability of inoculum and climatic conditions during the fruit susceptibility period as well as the age of the fruit at the time of infection. Fruit are susceptible to infection from fruit set and remain susceptible for 4 to 5 months after fruit set. Following infection, the pathogen remains in a quiescent state and most often becomes visible after fruit colour break. Leaves are susceptible to infection for up to 10 months.

P. citricarpa inoculum in orchards builds up over time, and the CBS epidemic is described as polyetic. Disease pressure in younger orchards is generally very low, with CBS symptoms on fruit becoming more evident in older orchards. The condition of the orchard or trees is also important, as symptoms are more prominent on older trees than on young trees and symptom development in mature fruits is accelerated by stress factors, such as drought and low tree vigour.

Control of CBS in South Africa and Brazil is largely based on fungicide protection during the fruit susceptibility period. Citrus fruit was shown to develop ontogenic resistance to P. citricarpa. In South Africa and Australia, fruit protection is required only for the 4- to 5-month period after petal fall. In Sao Paulo, a longer protection period was required given the high inoculum pressure and disease conducive conditions.

Effective CBS control will undoubtedly be compromised by the imminent loss of chemical control actives. Generally regarded as safe (GRAS) chemicals, lower-risk chemicals and biological control options were evaluated in South Africa and Brazil, and found to be significantly less effective than the fungicide standards, and is unlikely to provide CBS control at the zero tolerance level required for fresh fruit exports.

Accordingly, the objective of this research project is to develop a risk- based and integrated system for CBS management, which includes the following components: (1) development of tools to measure inoculum potential in orchards, (2) management practices to limit inoculum build-up, (3) development of a risk matrix for assessing the CBS-risk in orchards, and (4) development and evaluation of orchard-specific chemical control programmes based on CBS risk (i.e. softer programme for low-risk orchards and harsher programmes for high-risk orchards).

Objectives

1. Development of tools to measure CBS inoculum potential in orchards
2. Management practices to limit CBS inoculum build-up in orchards
3. Development of a risk matrix for assessing the CBS-risk in orchards
4. Development and evaluation of orchard-specific chemical control programmes based on CBS risk

Host: The research will be done within the Citrus Research program under the leadership of Prof. Paul Fourie within the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. The project will be part of an existing contractual agreement between Citrus Research International and the University of Stellenbosch. Funding is provided by the citrus industry through Citrus Research International and also carries a full grant-holder bursary for the successful applicant.

Requirement: PhD (obtained in the last 5 years)
• Advanced knowledge of the Phyllosticta citricarpa and citrus pathosystem.
• Advanced molecular skills relating to conventional and quantitative PCR
• Extensive experience in classical plant pathology research techniques and methodology.
• Computing literacy, with emphasis on Microsoft Office suite.

Please note that postdoctoral fellows are not appointed as employees and their fellowships are awarded tax free. They are therefore not eligible for employee benefits.

Commencement of duties: 1 April 2022

Closing date: 21 February 2022

Enquiries: Send a letter of application, accompanied by a comprehensive curriculum vitae, including list of publications and the names and contact details of at least two referees, to Prof Paul Fourie at E-mail: phfourie@cri.co.za

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Department of Plant Pathology

University of Stellenbosch

Project Title: Investigation of citrus soilborne pathogens and optimization of soilborne pathogen biocontrol

Scope of Research: In a recent study in South Africa, Phytophthora nicotianae, P. citrophthora, Pythium spp. and Neocosmospora/Fusarium spp. were all identified as being soilborne pathogens of citrus in South Africa. These organisms build up in the orchard soil over time and colonise newly planted trees. These pathogens often occur together in the soil where they interact. Previously, these pathogens were managed by MeBr fumigation. However, after being phased out, it was replaced by other soil fumigants. However, these have been shown to not provide the long-term control effect of soilborne diseases and nematodes. Concerns about resistance development by over-use of other fungicides such as metalaxyl (mefenoxam), have furthermore led to a reluctance to use these chemicals in management of soilborne pathogens. This has led to studies into the use of biocontrol agents for the management of these soilborne pathogens. These BCA’s are furthermore attractive due to their different modes of action, including direct parasitism and competition while plant growth promoting characteristics are an added benefit. This makes them highly suitable to include in an integrated management system for soilborne pathogens, even if they need to be applied more than once.

Another recent study therefore focussed on finding potential BCA’s from citrus tree roots. This led to two Trichoderma harzianum, one Bacillus subtilis and one Pseudomonas flourescens isolate that showed potential in vitro to inhibit the different soilborne pathogens associated with citrus in South Africa. However, it was seen that the different BCA’s varied in their efficacy against the different pathogens and even against different isolates of the pathogens. However, in planta evaluation of these identified BCA’s indicated that, although they colonised the citrus seedling roots, they were not successful in reducing the levels of pathogen infection in the roots. In these evaluations the BCA’s were applied multiple times. It was subsequently challenged by pathogen inoculations one week after the BCA applications. The short period between the last application and pathogen challenge might have been too short a time to allow the BCA’s to colonise the seedling roots to such an extent as to optimally protect the seedlings against pathogen infestation. These results therefore pointed to some more questions that needs to be answered regarding the use of biological control agents, which this project aims to address. These were:
1. What is the tempo of colonization of citrus roots by the different biocontrol agents?
2. What mode of action do they employ against the soilborne pathogens?
3. The effect of the BCA’s in activating defence responses within citrus against pathogen infestation.

Objectives
Optimisation of Trichoderma, Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas fluorescens biocontrol applications against citrus replant disease pathogens in planta under controlled conditions.
This objective will be addressed by studying the colonization of citrus roots by abovementioned BCA’s along with the effect of BCA application on the expression of plant defense genes.

Host: The research will be done within the Citrus Research program under the leadership of Dr Jan van Niekerk within the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. The project will be part of an existing contractual agreement between Citrus Research International and the University of Stellenbosch. Funding is provided by the citrus industry through Citrus Research International and also carries a full grant-holder bursary for the successful applicant.

Requirement: PhD (obtained in the last 5 years)
• Advanced molecular skills relating to conventional PCR, qPCR and next generation sequencing (NGS)
• Experience in the study of plant pathogen related gene expression in planta
• Root microbiome studies
• Extensive experience in classical plant pathology research techniques and methodology.
• Computing literacy, with emphasis on Microsoft Office suite.

Please note that postdoctoral fellows are not appointed as employees and their fellowships are awarded tax free. They are therefore not eligible for employee benefits.

Commencement of duties: 1 April 2022

Closing date: 21 February 2022

Enquiries: Send a letter of application, accompanied by a comprehensive curriculum vitae, including list of publications and the names and contact details of at least two referees, to Dr Jan van Niekerk at E-mail: janvn@cri.co.za

PLANT PATHOLOGY VACANCY Full-time permanent position Lanseria / South Africa

Context

Sakata Vegenetics RSA (Pty) Ltd. a subsidiary of Sakata Seed Corporation (Japan) is responsible for the development and expansion of the activities across the EMEA area. With our wide array of vegetable seeds, we want to create a confidence-based relationship with our customers though our motto of Quality, Reliability and Service.

Missions

Under the management of the Head of research laboratories EMEA the position holder will work in a multidisciplinary and multicultural environment and will be assisting with screening vegetable varieties in the breeding programs for disease resistances and to support the company in all plant pathology related activities.
The main responsibilities will include:

  • Plan and perform disease resistance screening by greenhouse or field inoculation of vegetable plants with pathogens using validated protocols.
  • Perform diagnostic work to identify plant pathogens using plant pathology and serological techniques.
  • Use plant pathology and serological techniques to detect pathogens on seed for seed health tests.
  • Perform field inspection on site to identify and eliminate risks associated with pests and plant pathogens.
  • Maintain culture collection, healthy insect colonies and nematodes to be used for pathology trials.
  • Interact with local farmers and stakeholders to support commercial and product development activities.
  • Maintain hygiene standards in the laboratory, pathology greenhouses and phytotrons.
  • Ensure that there is a sufficient quantity and quality of laboratory consumables available for routine tasks.
  • Perform back-up tasks and duties as well as the adherence to QMS, H&S processes and procedures as stipulated in the Quality Management System.

Profile

We are searching South African citizen with a B.Sc. Hons. major in Plant Pathology, Microbiology or B.Sc. Agric. Plant Breeding. Work experience will be beneficial. The position requires strong organizational and analytical skills as well and a strong ability to deal with an international environment. The incumbent need to be autonomous, reliable with a good sense of service and being able to deal with deadlines are essential. To succeed in this position, it is essential to know how to communicate in a multicultural context and have a very good level of English, both written and spoken.

Application

If you would like to apply for this vacancy, please send your CV to monique.harris@sakata.eu. Closing date for applications is 30 January 2022. Should you not have heard from us within 2 weeks of the closing date, please consider your application unsuccessful.

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