Rising from the ashes: How do trees resist fungal pathogens?

Supervisor:  Dr Andrea Harper

Co-Supervisor:  Professor Ian Bancroft

Project description:  

European ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) are currently experiencing high mortality from a fungal pathogen that causes ash dieback disease, although a small proportion of trees appear to be highly resistant to the disease. Recent work suggests that these trees may be “primed” to mount a stronger immune response than susceptible trees following their initial contact with the disease, perhaps through a mechanism resembling systemic acquired resistance (SAR). The timing of leaf fall in the autumn is also correlated with resistance, but how this relates to disease susceptibility is unknown.

This project will investigate the genetic mechanisms underlying the ability for some trees to resist fungal diseases. Cutting-edge techniques such as Associative Transcriptomics, which associates gene sequence and gene expression markers with traits of interest, will be used to identify candidate genes involved in resistance to ash dieback and look for interactions with phenological traits such as seasonal leaf fall. Genes identified through these analyses will be further characterized in the laboratory and validated in glasshouse experiments to shed light on the mechanisms involved in these processes.

This project would suit a student with an interest in applying multidisciplinary approaches to the study of biotic stress in plants. The student will gain experience in fieldwork, molecular biology,bioinformatics and advanced statistical genetics approaches, and will benefit from working closely with our collaborators in the forestry and conservation sectors.

We strongly encourage you to email the project supervisor prior to submitting an application to discuss your suitability for this project.  Please email:  andrea.harper@york.ac.uk

Funding:  This studentship is fully funded for 3 years by the Department of Biology and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,533 for 2017-2018, to be confirmed for 2018-2019), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

Start date: October 2018

Please read the 'How to apply' tab before submitting your application.

Applications are now closed

Interviews will be held on Monday 5 or Tuesday 6 February 2018 - TBC