PhD: Interactions between migration and disease in an invasive crop pest
I completed my undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of Birmingham where I focused on ecology and microbiology. My undergraduate dissertation used molecular biology techniques to investigate how fungal parasites (Cryptococcus spp.) can manipulate the immune system to avoid detection. Following this, I completed an MRes at the University of Leeds in biodiversity and conservation. My first MRes dissertation investigated the effects of environmental variation on host-parasite interactions, focusing on a parasitoid (Venturia canescens) used for the biological control of two pest moth species (Ephestia kuehniella and Plodia interpunctella). My second MRes dissertation used non-invasive genetic analysis to study the distribution of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) on the River Don around Sheffield.
My PhD investigates the interaction between migration and disease in the Fall armyworm moth (Spodoptera frugiperda), an invasive crop pest of agriculture worldwide, by combining experimental approaches in insect behaviour, viral bioassays and molecular biology. Flight mill assays will determine how the migratory potential of the Fall armyworm is affected by infection with baculovirus. Candidate genes for long-distance flight and immune pathways will also be determined using quantitative PCR assays to understand the impact of infection on flight performance and immunity at a molecular level. The results from the study will further develop insect-disease models and hopefully contribute to the development of potential biocontrol strategies for the Fall armyworm.