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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Lead Supervisor: Chris Jiggins, Zoology

This is a CASE project with Entomics

Brief summary: 
By applying genomics to the use of insects as food, you will be using cutting edge technology to improve global food security
Importance of the area of research concerned: 
By feeding on organic waste biomass, such as food, agricultural and manure wastes, BSF larvae are capable of converting waste biomass into a sustainable and renewable source of sought-after nutrients – BSF larvae are rich in lipids and proteins, and BSF larvae-derived meals are effective feedstuffs for a range of commonly farmed livestock species ranging from poultry to farmed fish. We have already obtained a high quality assembly of the BSF genome. We have also established a stock derived entirely from the original founder pair that can be used for future genetic analysis. However in order to improve the BSF for economic purposes we need to characterise genetic variation in economically relevant traits. This project aims to identify genes underlying traits such as growth rate and tolerance of particular waste products.
Project summary : 
The BSF is genetically diverse with high divergence between strains derived from different populations around the world. However little is understood about this variation - are these strains really different species and do they harbour genetic variation that could be useful for domestication purposes. The project will characterise variation in economically relevant phenotypes among strains of the BSF derived from around the world. We also aim to understand the phenotypic and genetic differences between strains (or perhaps species?) of the BSF. In summary this project will look at evolutionary change and genetic diversity in an economically important organism.
What will the student do?: 
You will characterise growth-related traits and other phenotypic measures under standard conditions to understand the variation between strains. Then genetic analysis will be applied to identify the genetic underpinning of variation between strains, using a combination of transcriptomics, artificial selection and genetic association studies. Bioinformatic and genomic analysis will take advantage of our reference genome for the species. Genome regions identified as related to strain differences can be analysed in natural populations to investigate patterns of evolution and natural selection in the genome.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
Vogel H, Müller A, Heckel DG, Gutzeit H, Vilcinskas A. Nutritional immunology: Diversification and diet-dependent expression of antimicrobial peptides in the black soldier fly Hermetia illucens. Developmental & Comparative Immunology. 2018;78: 141–148. doi:10.1016/j.dci.2017.09.008
Nguyen TTX, Tomberlin JK, Vanlaerhoven S. Ability of Black Soldier Fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) Larvae to Recycle Food Waste. Environ Entomol. 2015;44: 406–410. doi:10.1093/ee/nvv002
Generalovic, T. N., McCarthy, S. A., Warren, I. A., Wood, J. M. D., Torrance, J., Sims, Y., Quail, M., Howe, K., Pipan, M., Durbin, R. & Jiggins, C. D. A high-quality, chromosome-level genome assembly of the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens L.). G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics 11, jkab085 (2021).
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Zoology page.
Prof Chris Jiggins
Department of Zoology Graduate Administrator