REP Project

April 26, 2023

Insect Ecology: Facilitating research to detect declines, impacts on agriculture and higher trophic levels (Entomological assistant role)

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Location: Rothamsted Research

Duration: 10 weeks

An exciting opportunity for a 10-week funded project working in the Insect Survey at Rothamsted Research (Harpenden) is available. We envisage that this Research Experience Placement (REP) student will be involved in a broad range of entomological activities to enhance their knowledge within entomology and provide many transferrable skills for future employment. Current roles and tasks include:

  • Contributing to an ongoing project to update and expand the biomass dataset explored in Shortall et al (2009) Insect Conservation and Diversity 2 pp251-260 samples taken every fourth day from April 1st to September 28th will be weighed on filter paper to gain an estimate of wet weight biomass.
  • As part of a new initiative to digitise the suction-trap archive, samples will be catalogued, given QR code labels, rehydrated with 95% ethanol where required and re-boxed in bespoke containers. There are an estimated 250,000-350,000 samples that require cataloguing over the next five years and these are being used to inform insect declines.
  • Conducting bat monitoring surveys, setting up bioacoustics monitors to detect bat diversity/feeding activity and insect collection methods across sites in the UK.
  • Assisting in the collection of plant and insect samples in the field at the Rothamsted Research sister-site in Suffolk. Conducting flora surveys of potential non-crop host reservoirs of plant viruses. Assisting in molecular laboratory work (DNA extraction, PCR and LAMP assays) to detect plant viruses. This will train the student in the molecular tools needed for many ecological studies.
  • Preparing and producing scanned images of petri dish samples so that they can be used for training Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the identification of aphids. This will introduce the student to deep learning, a fast and emerging field that will have huge impact on ecology in the years to come.
  • In addition, they will be using sophisticated multispectral imaging technology to understand whether there are differences between viruliferous/non-viruliferous insects. Again, an activity which introduces the student to new technological tools for ecology.
  • At other times, the student will gain identification expertise, sorting trap collection skills with the Rothamsted Research Insect Survey, which will progress the student’s microscope skills.

The REP student will be expected to liaise with all members of staff in the RIS and coordinate their workload accordingly (e.g., weekly schedule of work). They will be given flexibility with their involvement for each of the projects and a moderate/high level of autonomy will be encouraged. This will provide the REP student with knowledge in how to successfully prioritise their workload and coordinate with different RIS members and other Rothamsted Research employees.

To apply

We encourage applications from students from all backgrounds. Please check you meet eligibility criteria before completing the EDI Form 2023 ; 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.