The Laboratory of Nematology
at Wageningen University and Research is looking for a PhD researcher to be a part of an EU HORIZON EUROPE project titled “An integrated set of novel approaches to counter the emergence and proliferation of invasive and virulent soil-borne nematodes” (acronym: Nem
Emerge) (start: early 2024). Nem
Emerge concentrates on two drivers of emerging diseases: global warming (pathogens proliferate in a poleward direction) and genetic selection (due to ample use of a small set host plant resistances). The project consortium comprises 19 partners from all over Europe that work together in ‘work packages’ that address different aspects of this project. The project allowed us to appoint three PhD’s: each will work on another work package, but together you will be a team of PhDs that contribute to the overall project goals.
Nematodes, also referred to as roundworms, are ubiquitous in soils. A small minority of the plant-parasitic nematodes seriously threatens food and feed production and needs to be controlled. Nem
Emerge concentrates on the two most impactful plant-pathogenic nematodes, namely root-knot and cyst nematodes. Chemical control of these nematodes is no longer a viable option, and durable alternatives have to be developed. Such solutions are knowledge-intensive, and as a PhD you will directly contribute to sustainable disease control by addressing urgent scientific questions in a European framework.
Although plant-pathogenic nematodes are able to infect plants by themselves, under natural conditions they act in association with other soil microbiota. Nematodes migrate in soil and their surface is covered with bacterial and fungal propagules. We hypothesize that this is not just a reflection of the soil microbiome but rather a nematode-specific selection of it. At least in part this “pathobiome” contributes to the infection success of cyst and root-knot nematodes by protecting them against nematode antagonists and by promoting their plant-parasitic capabilities. However, our knowledge about the nematode’s pathobiome - how it shapes and determines plant parasitism - is still in its infancy.
As a PhD you will investigate and compare the pathobiomes of the two most successful categories of plant-parasitic nematodes, cyst (Globodera
spp.) and root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne
spp.) both under highly controlled and field conditions. Moreover, you will research the molecular mechanisms by which plant-parasitic nematodes select and manipulate soil microbiota and how this contributes to the parasitic success of these nematodes.
Your duties and responsibilities include:
You will work here
- design of experimental set ups that will allow the determination and comparison of pathobiomes among plant-parasitic nematodes;
- use of a bio-informatics workflow to analyse microbial and nematode sequencing data;
- use of molecular and biochemical techniques to identify and characterize interactions between plant-parasitic nematodes and their associated microbiomes;
- development of strategies to steer the pathobiome in directions that support plant defence responses and weakens nematode virulence.
The research is embedded within the chair Laboratory of Nematology
, and members of the Nematology team, which is led by Prof. Geert Smant
. You will be co-supervised by dr. Hans Helder and dr. Aska Goverse.