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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Training Partnerships

Graduate Research Opportunities

Lead supervisor: Chris Jiggins, Zoology

Co-supervisor: Ed Turner, Zoology

This is a CASE project with Better Origin. 

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. 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, and to use artificial selection to drive trait improvement.
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. The project could also use artificial selection followed by resequencing to identify genes underlying economically relevant traits. In summary this project will look at evolutionary change and genetic diversity in an economically important organism.
What will the student do?: 
The student will conduct selection and performance experiments on strains of the black soldier fly. They will extract DNA and perform genome sequencing and bioinformatic analysis. Important skills from the project will include working with an industrial partner, learning high throughput bioinformatics and analysis of genome sequence data. Finally, the fly is amenable to genetic manipulation with CRISPR so functional experiments to investigate the way in which particular genes function will also be possible.
References - references should provide further reading about the project: 
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).
Sandrock, C., Leupi, S., Wohlfahrt, J., Kaya, C., Heuel, M., Terranova, M., Blanckenhorn, W. U., Windisch, W., Kreuzer, M. & Leiber, F. Genotype-by-Diet Interactions for Larval Performance and Body Composition Traits in the Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens. Insects 13, 424 (2022).
Zhan, S., Fang, G., Cai, M., Kou, Z., Xu, J., Cao, Y., Bai, L., Zhang, Y., Jiang, Y., Luo, X., Xu, J., Xu, X., Zheng, L., Yu, Z., Yang, H., Zhang, Z., Wang, S., Tomberlin, J. K., Zhang, J. & Huang, Y. Genomic landscape and genetic manipulation of the black soldier fly Hermetia illucens , a natural waste recycler. Cell Res 30, 50–60 (2020).
You can find out about applying for this project on the Department of Zoology page.