in environmental DNA detection of forest insect pests and their biocontrols
T he New York
State Hemlock Initiative in the Department of Natural Resources and the
Environment at Cornell University is seeking a postdoc to use species-specific
quantitative PCR (qPCR) to detect environmental DNA (eDNA) in forest
ecosystems. The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a serious invasive insect pest on
eastern hemlock trees, causing decline and eventual mortality, with
ecosystem-wide implications for our eastern forests. Early detection of this
pest allows for targeted insecticide treatments to prolong hemlock health;
however, these treatments are expensive and require repeated application over
time. Our lab is researching and deploying biological control using specialist
predators on HWA, which have the potential to control HWA throughout large geographic
areas. Currently, we are focusing on the ecology of two cryptic species of
flies in the genus Leucopis . We are using a range of molecular tools
(barcoding, microsatellites, and qPCR assays) to aid in our understanding of
DNA is an exciting area of research that has been widely used in studies of
fish and other aquatic organisms, and recently for detection of terrestrial
pest insects such as spotted lanternfly and brown marmorated stink bug. These assays
are extremely sensitive, detecting down to a single copy of mitochondrial DNA
from fecal waste, saliva, honeydew, shed cells or other traces left behind by
target organisms. We are in the process of publishing the qPCR assays and field
and laboratory results for HWA and three biological control agents (one beetle
and two flies). Ultimately, we will develop standardized and repeatable
monitoring protocols for use throughout the range of invasive HWA in eastern
North America. We need to answer some outstanding questions to inform our
interpretation of field data; for example, we need to determine the persistence
of this eDNA in the field and the size fractions of eDNA that make up the
signal, which could vary over time. Active sampling strategies and passive ones
should be compared and optimized for different objectives.
successful candidate will be responsible for designing and carrying out
experiments to meet these goals and will contribute to identifying additional
goals and directions as the project develops. We anticipate this will include
field work, bench work, and home-based writing and analysis. All activities
will be subject to current COVID-related guidelines put in place by Cornell
University and the State of New York.
- Ph.D. in a related biological discipline
- Relevant research experience or strong interest
in the project
- Creative research scientist with excellent
- Publication record
- Arc-GIS experience for spatial tracking of
sampling strategies, preferred but not required.
- Ability to work collaboratively as well as independently.
commensurate with background and experience. An attractive benefits package is
available. Term is a one-year appointment, renewable for an additional year
contingent on performance and funding. The start date is February 2021 or as
soon as possible. Information about salary and benefits at Cornell can be found
here: https://postdocs.cornell.edu/benefits/ .
start date would be February 1, 2021, or as soon as possible. There is some flexibility as needed. Applications including a CV, a cover
letter indicating how your qualifications and experience have prepared you for
this position, the names of at least three references and a statement of contribution to
diversity, equity, and inclusion should be submitted to the Department
of Natural Resources and the Environment via https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/17979 Applications will be accepted until this position is
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