June 17, 2022

The more the merrier? Understanding the consequences of cabbage stem flea beetle larval intraspecific competition on larval development and parasitism rate.

Photo of cabbage stem flea beetle larvae on the stem of a plant

Location: Rothamsted Research

Duration: 8 weeks

A funded opportunity is available for an undergraduate student to be part of a novel research project at the oilseed rape insect pests’ group in Rothamsted Research with Dr Patricia Ortega-Ramos and Dr Sam Cook during the summer of 2022. This paid research placement is an exciting opportunity to gain valuable insights into research in the field of insect pest ecology and biocontrol, all while developing your CV.

Oilseed rape (OSR, Brassica napus) has traditionally been grown as the most profitable break crop. However, loss of control options for cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB; Psylliodes chrysocephalus) has led to a decline of the cropping area in Europe by 26% between 2012 and 2017. Without new approaches to CSFB control there is a serious risk to the UK OSR industry. Integrated pest management (IPM) may offer a solution to combat CSFB in a sustainable and efficient way, but to develop suitable IPM strategies we need to improve our knowledge on CSFB ecology. Consequently, this project aims to better understand the intra specific competition of CSFB larvae and how the number and size of larvae can affect host location and selection by parasitic insects.

The research will involve a combination of activities and approaches including field work at Rothamsted Research farm (live insect handling and trapping), laboratory work (entomological identification, insect dissections), bioimaging (use of electron and confocal microscopes), statistical analysis and results interpretation.

The student will gain valuable knowledge on the current problems and challenges agriculture is facing nowadays as well as experience in insect identification, handling, and dissections; data collection; and a range of methods farmers use to quantify pest damage. The student will be given support to develop skills in R with a focus on statistical analysis and data presentation. The student will also gain skills in a range of areas that can reach beyond academia like learning to work independently, organisational skills, develop self-confidence, or clarification of a career path.

The project will last 8 weeks in the months of July, August, and September, to enable fieldwork experience to be gained. Successful student will be supported by a student stipend of National Living Wage from the NERC Envision Research Experience Placement scheme.

To apply

We encourage applications from students from all backgrounds. Please check you meet the eligibility criteria before completing the online data collection form; this form is a mandatory part of the application process, but contains ‘prefer not to say’ options for all questions asked.

Once you have completed the online data collection form you will receive an email with the application form and details of how to apply to the supervisor. The application form should be completed and emailed to the lead supervisor along with a reference from your personal tutor.