Junior Scientist Positions available within nGICE:
We welcome applications for PhD (4y) and postdoc (2y) positions within the Max Planck Center next Generation Insect Chemical Ecology (nGICE). Please find below the advertisement of 17 positions within projects aiming to examine different challenging aspects of Insect Chemical Ecology in the Anthropocene. Each position is based in the lab of the main supervisor at either Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology, MPI-CE Jena, Department of Biology, Pheromone Group, Lund University or Department of Plant Protection Biology, SLU Alnarp, following the employment rules at each of these institutions. All positions include social security. As part of the training and research activities nGICE PhD students and postdocs will also work at least 6 months in a lab of one or more of the co-supervisors. Common methodology courses and conferences will provide a broad competence base and an extensive professional network for next Generation Insect Chemical Ecologists. Applicants should rank up to three projects of interest. Applicants should have a university degree in biology or chemistry. Master degrees and PhD degrees (for the postdoc positions) in relevant topics are merits.
Deadline for applications is January 15, 2020. After an initial screening, a number of applicants will be interviewed via Skype, where after a recruitment symposium for selected candidates will be held in Jena, March 19-22, 2020. Projects are estimated to start May-September 2020.

To apply follow the instructions here: nGICE online registration
 

1

How flies smell food in the Anthropocene
On an evolutionary timescale, coevolution of plants and insects has resulted in an insect olfactory system that often is fine tuned to detect and recognize biologically relevant odors, such as flower odors or host odors. However, the currently increased emissions of air pollutants like ozone and NOx lead to oxidization of many of these odors and can thereby affect the chemical communication between insects and their hosts. Moreover, anthropogenic parameters can affect not only the stimulus, but also the receiver. Therefore, we ask:
1.    does exposure to ozone and/or NOx affect the chemistry of fruit odors and the resulting coding in the fly’s brain?
2.    does exposure of flies to ozone or NOx affect the coding and perception of fruit odors?

Methods involved:
Chemical analyses (MPI, LU)
Functional imaging (MPI)
Behavioral assays (MPI)

PhD (4 y) or postdoc position (2 y) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany)

Main supervisors: Markus Knaden (MPI)
Co-supervisors: Silke Sachse (MPI), Martin Andersson (LU), Christer Löfstedt (LU)

2

Insect olfaction in the Anthropocene
Pollution can potentially affect the communication between insects and their hosts/conspecifics in different ways. In this context, nothing is known regarding how increased levels of CO2, ozone, NOX, increased temperature, etc. directly affect the insects’ olfactory system. In the present project we will, therefore, expose flies (Drosophila melanogaster) and moths (Manduca sexta) to the currently observed and the expected future conditions and then screen the expression patterns of olfactory related genes. Subsequently, we will perform single sensillum recordings on the insects’ antenna to test whether we find any physiological correlates to the observed changes in expression patterns.

Methods involved:
GC-SSR (MPI / SLU / LU)
NOX exposure (LU)
CO2 / ozone exposure (MPI)
Nanostring technology (MPI)

PhD (4 y) or postdoc position (2 y) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany)

Main supervisors: Markus Knaden (MPI)
Co-supervisors: Bill Hansson (MPI), Rickard Ignell (MPI), Sharon Hill (SLU), Martin Andersson, Christer Löfstedt (LU)

3

Comparative dissection of the CO2 circuitry in fly and mosquito species
Raising CO2 levels represent one of the major factors of the Anthropocene. CO2 has been shown to be a relevant cue for host location both in flies and in mosquitoes. However, while CO2 in D. melanogaster and Aedes aegypti is detected and processed via a highly specialized neuronal circuitry, it induces opposing behaviors, with the fly being repelled, and the mosquito being attracted. Notably, it has been shown that even within flies, as well as within different mosquito species, the valence of CO2 differs. We will, therefore, screen various fly and mosquito species for their CO2 preference, and select those species with the most dramatic differences to elucidate their CO2 information processing circuitry.

Methods involved:
Establishing new neurogenetic tools (e.g. PA-GFP and GCaMP lines in non-melanogaster flies and mosquitoes) (MPI/SLU)
Neuronal tracing (MPI/SLU)
Functional imaging (MPI)
Behavioral assays (MPI/SLU)

Postdoc position (2 y) or PhD position (4 y) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany)

Main supervisor: Silke Sachse (MPI)
Co-supervisors: Markus Knaden (MPI), Sharon Hill (MPI), Rickard Ignell (SLU), Marcus Stensmyr (LU)

4

Pre-adaptation to climate change in flies and mosquitoes
Do pre-adaptations to climate change exist in current insect populations? We will study naturally occurring genetic variations in flies and mosquitoes. We will perform a large-scale behavioral screen to select individuals exhibiting altered host odor preferences at higher CO2-levels, and odors that have been modified by ozone and NOX. Transgenic lines will allow us to monitor functional modulations at the circuit level and to anatomically trace individual neurons in specific neuronal populations in flies and mosquitoes.

Methods involved:
Behavioral screens (MPI/SLU)
Functional imaging (MPI)
GC-SSR (MPI/SLU)
Neuronal tracing (MPI)

PhD (4 y) or postdoc position (2 y) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany)

Main supervisor: Silke Sachse (MPI)
Co-supervisors: Bill Hansson (MPI), Markus Knaden (MPI), Sharon Hill (SLU), Rickard Ignell (SLU)

5

Coping with the Anthropocene by learning
Previous studies show that ozone abolishes the innate response to flower odor in the moth Manduca sexta, but that the moth at least partly overcomes this problem by learning the oxidized flower plumes. In this project, we will identify the underlying behavioral and neural mechanism(s) involved in such changes by using the fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model insect. We will test whether flies lack innate attraction to host odors that were exposed to ozone and NOX, and whether they can also overcome this lost attraction by learning the oxidized compounds as adults. We will, furthermore, ask whether larval experience with these oxidized compounds affects adult behavior, i.e. whether memory retention during the pupal stage (and metamorphosis) can help the flies to better cope with anthropogenic changes of the environment. If so, we will employ mutants with well-known learning deficiencies to elucidate the memory retention and then analyze learning-induced modulations in the brain.

Methods involved:
Behavioral and learning assays (MPI/SLU)
Functional imaging (MPI)
NOX exposure (LU)
CO2 / ozone exposure (MPI)

PhD (4 y) or postdoc position (2 y) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany)

Main supervisors: Markus Knaden (MPI)
Co-supervisors: Peter Anderson (SLU), Silke Sachse (MPI), Bill Hansson (MPI), Martin Andersson, Christer Löfstedt (LU)

6

Prepared for climate change?
Organisms living at different latitudes will be differentially affected by climate change. We will test the effect of rising temperatures and higher concentrations of green-house gases on olfactory detection and communication in four drosophilid flies that have adapted to life in desert, global and arctic climates. The species we aim to include are Drosophila mojavensis, D. melanogaster, D. eskoi and D. subarctica. To do this we will use both laboratory and field bioassays combined with gas chromatography-linked electrophysiology. The aim is to map the olfactory-based ecology and the olfactory systems of these fly species and consequently to expose them to different factors involved in climate change, i.e. increased temperatures and levels of CO2, NOX and ozone. The working hypothesis is that species living in colder climates are more sensitive to anthropocene-driven changes in climate.

Methods involved:
Field work (MPI/LU)
Gas chromatography – single sensillum recordings (MPI)
Exposure to CO2, NOX, ozone and high temperatures (MPI/LU)

PhD (4 y) or postdoc position (2 y) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany)

Main supervisor: Bill Hansson (MPI)
Co-supervisors: Marcus Stensmyr (LU), Markus Knaden (MPI)

7

Mosquito odorant receptor function
A vast majority of volatile organic compounds are shared in the odour space of distantly related mosquito species. Yet, the structure of the receptors used to sense these odorants differ markedly. How are the functional characteristics of the odorant receptors conserved, while the structures are so divergent? In this project we will analyse the functional characteristics of odorant receptors from several species, using a reverse chemical ecology approach to elucidate the structure-function relationship of odorant receptors, in an ecological and evolutionary context, using both physiological and functional genomic techniques.

Experience with physiology is a requirement. Experience with fly genetics is a merit.

Methods involved:
SSR, GC-SSR (SLU)
Molecular biology (SLU)

Postdoc position (2 y) at SLU Alnarp, Sweden
Main supervisor: Rickard Ignell (SLU)
Co-supervisors: Sharon Hill (SLU), Mats Sandgren (SLU)

8

Climate impact on mosquito behaviour
The capacity of mosquitoes to transmit disease is intimately linked to nectar and blood feeding. To locate these resources, mosquitoes cue in on blends of volatile organic compounds. Climatic change may alter the composition of these blends, leading to changes in attraction to, and discrimination among resources, which may lead to changes in the vectorial capacity of the female and the risk of contracting mosquito borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue. This project aims to test how human-derived atmospheric emissions affect behaviour, detection and integration of blend composition by mosquitoes from a comparative perspective.

Experience with behaviour, physiology and gene expression are merits.

Methods involved:
NOX exposure (LU)
CO2 / ozone exposure (SLU, MPI)
Behavioural assays (SLU)
SSR (SLU)
Functional imaging (MPI)

PhD position (4 y) at SLU Alnarp, Sweden

Main supervisors: Rickard Ignell (SLU)
Co-supervisors: Sharon Hill (SLU), Silke Sachse (MPI), Markus Knaden (MPI) Martin Andersson (LU)

9

Climate affects malaria vector behavior
Malaria transmission is dependent on a stereotyped set of odour-driven behaviours throughout the gonotrophic cycle of the female mosquito. Climate change, including alterations in temperature and humidity, is predicted to significantly affect malaria transmission in the near future. Many of these effects may be a result of changes in mosquito behaviour as a result of the new environmental conditions. By mimicking the predicted climatic changes, this project will investigate the impact on the detection and integration of resource-dependent olfactory cues, and the mechanisms by which, and how fast, mosquitoes adapt to the changing environment.

Experience with behaviour, physiology and gene expression are merits.

Methods involved:
Behavioural assays (SLU)
SSR (SLU)
Functional imaging (MPI)

PhD position (4 y) at SLU Alnarp, Sweden

Main supervisor: Rickard Ignell (SLU)
Co-supervisors: Sharon Hill (SLU), Silke Sachse (MPI)

10

Climate impact on vector capacity
With rising temperatures, increasing pollution and extreme water conditions, the Anthropocene is seeing range expansions, contractions and outright migration of a wide variety of species, resulting in new inter- and intra-specific contacts, with the potential to create super-vectors. Such a range expansion of two Culex pipiens biotypes has resulted in hybrid offspring that are seriously effective bridge vectors of West Nile virus. While each parent is either strongly ornithophilic or anthropophilic, the hybrid offspring are both, making them a superb bridge vector. Here, we will analyse the mechanisms underlying the change in host preference, using both classical and reverse chemical ecology approaches. While behavioural analyses will be important for determining parental and hybrid phenotypes, the focus of the project will be to identify and functionally characterise the chemoreceptors involved in host preference variation.

Experience with functional genomics and behaviour are merits.

Methods involved:
Behavioural assays (SLU)
GC-SSR (SLU, MPI)
Genomic analyses and gene expression via Nanostring (SLU, MPI)

PhD position (4 y) at SLU Alnarp, Sweden

Main supervisor: Sharon Hill (SLU)
Co-supervisors: Rickard Ignell (SLU), Markus Knaden (MPI)

11

Host plant choice in a changing climate
Reliable host plant selection is crucial for the fitness of many phytophagous insects, and involves complex decision-making processes based on plant-derived chemical cues. This project will investigate how climatic changes and Anthropocene-related pollutants affect host plant selection guided by volatile cues in the polyphagous moth Spodoptera littoralis. The aim is to investigate how future environmental conditions affect volatile composition and emission of selected S. littoralis host plants. Moreover, we aim to examine how such conditions influence female and male behaviours, both from the innate plant preference hierarchy and from the experience-based phenotypic plasticity perspective. The study will form the basis to predict the potential for host plant shifts and range expansion in S. littoralis and other pest insects. The project includes behavioural experiments, such as attraction and oviposition, as well as neurophysiological studies to investigate underlying mechanisms.

Experience with behaviour and physiology are merits.

Methods involved:
CO2 / ozone exposure (SLU, MPI)
NOX exposure (LU)
Behavioural assays (SLU/MPI)
Neurophysiology (SLU/MPI)

PhD position (4 y) at SLU Alnarp, Sweden

Main supervisor: Peter Anderson (SLU),
Co-supervisors: Markus Knaden (MPI), Silke Sachse (MPI)

12

New habitats – new hosts
Climate change will enable animals to colonize areas previously not utilized. In these novel areas, animals will encounter new niches, with new hosts ripe for exploitation. In this project, we will examine how the insect olfactory system adapts to host shifts at the molecular, cellular, and circuit level. We will investigate the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster and a host of closely related taxa in the melanogaster species subgroup. The project will involve field work as well as state-of-the-art methodology in physiology and behavioral analysis. The overall aim is to pinpoint specific genes, cells, and neuronal circuits that govern host choice.

Methods involved:
Field work (LU, MPI)
Gas chromatography – single sensillum recordings (MPI)
Laboratory bioassays (LU)
Chemical analysis (LU)
Functional imaging (MPI)

PhD position (4 y) at LU Lund, Sweden

Main supervisor: Marcus Stensmyr (LU)
Co-supervisors: Christer Löfstedt (LU), Silke Sachse (MPI)

13

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool
The Anthropocene and industrial farming practices has turned a plethora of insects into agricultural pests. Among the most destructive and fast spreading is the fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda, a noctuid moth with a larval stage that displays a voracious appetite for a wide range of important crops. Currently spreading like wildfire throughout the African continent – sowing destruction in its wake – there is a growing concern that this subtropical species will, thanks to the warming climate, also move north through Europe. The present project will investigate the olfactory system and chemical ecology of this important pest species. The project involves field work and state-of-the-art methodology in physiology, genetics, genomics, and behavioral analysis. The overall aim is to pinpoint specific sensory genes and cells that underlie this species’ rapid expansion as pest.

Methods involved:
Field work (LU/SLU)
Gas chromatography – single sensillum recordings (LU/SLU)
Laboratory bioassays (LU/SLU)
Chemical analysis (LU)
Bioinformatics, molecular biology and cell assays (LU/SLU)


Postdoc position (2y) at LU Lund, Sweden

Main supervisor: Christer Löfstedt (LU)
Co-supervisor Peter Anderson (SLU)

14

Fight the bite
With anthropogenic warming, Europe will face new challenges from mosquito-borne diseases. Mosquito taxa, hitherto rare or unknown from our latitudes, are expected to spread north as temperatures become more favorable for these mostly subtropical disease vectors. Although efficient synthetic insect repellents are available, there is a growing customer demand for natural insect repellents. Although popular, many of these plant-based insect repellents have poor efficiency, and unknown mode of action. There is accordingly a need to find working natural repellents. In this project, we aim to decipher the mechanism by which commonly used plant-based repellents work. Specifically, we will identify aversive volatiles from a set of traditionally used plants with insect repellent properties and identify receptors and neuronal circuits involved in the repulsion. The project will involve use of genetically modified mosquitos (Aedes aegypti), functional imaging and behavioral studies.

Methods involved:
Laboratory bioassays (LU/SLU)
Imaging (MPI)
Chemical analysis (LU)

PhD position (4 y) or Postdoc (2 y) at LU Lund, Sweden

Main supervisor: Marcus Stensmyr (LU)
Co-supervisors: Rickard Ignell (SLU), Silke Sachse (MPI)

15

Moth odorant receptors coping with anthropogenic change
Odorant receptors are involved in resource discrimination and mate finding in moths. Many moths in diverse Lepidopteran families use similar pheromone components, detected by receptors that in some cases are closely related and in other cases have diverged remarkably but retained functional characteristics. The same holds for receptors involved in bark beetle pheromone communication and host detection. This project aims at identifying structural characteristics of moth and bark beetle odorant receptors and to investigate how these receptors may cope with anthropogenic changes in the olfactory landscape of insects. The project will involve modelling of receptor-ligand interactions, mutagenesis and structural studies using cryo-EM and x-ray crystallography.

Methods involved:
Modelling (SLU)
Structural studies (LU/SLU/MPI)

PhD position (4 y) or Postdoc (2 y) at LU Lund, Sweden

Main supervisor: Christer Löfstedt (LU)
Co-supervisors: Mats Sandgren (SLU), Bill Hansson (MPI) Martin Andersson (LU) Sharon Hill (SLU), Rickard Ignell (SLU)

16

Bark beetle olfactory preferences in a changing world
Bark beetles are associated with symbiotic fungi, which aid the beetles when infesting host trees. The fungi associated with Ips typographus vary geographically, which is thought to be partly due to differences in temperature and climate. In addition, I. typographus shows olfactory preferences for certain fungi, which may vary geographically. Since the geographic distribution of fungi relates to climatic conditions, we hypothesize that climate change is likely to affect the evolution of the beetle-fungus relationship differently depending on climate zone. We will investigate whether the preferences of I. typographus from populations across Europe are correlated to geographic variation in fungal communities. By studying existing variation, we aim to predict how the preferences might change in light of a changing climate, and investigate whether preferences remain in the presence of increased ozone, NOx, and CO2. Part of the project will be done in cooperation with the Gershenzon lab at MPI-CE, Jena.


Methods involved:
Laboratory bioassays (LU/MPI)
Single sensillum electrophysiology (LU)
Biochemical analysis of fungal volatile profiles (LU/MPI)
DNA metabarcoding (LU/MPI)

Postdoc (2 y) at LU Lund, Sweden

Main supervisor: Martin Andersson (LU)
Co-supervisors: Christer Löfstedt (LU), Bill Hansson (MPI)

17


Bark beetle olfactory genomics in a changing world
Bark beetles are associated with symbiotic fungi, which aid the beetles when infesting host trees. The fungi associated with Ips typographus vary geographically, which is thought to be partly due to differences in temperature and climate. In addition, I. typographus shows olfactory preferences for certain fungi, and these preferences may vary geographically. We will investigate whether genomic and transcriptomic variations in chemosensory genes are present among bark beetle populations from different climate zones of Europe, and if such variation is linked to differences in olfactory preferences for fungi. We will also explore possible expression variation in these genes during exposure to ozone, NOx, and CO2 and functionally characterize target odorant receptors to predict how the olfactory sense of bark beetles may evolve in light of climate change. Part of the project will be done in cooperation with the Gershenzon lab at MPI-CE, Jena.

Methods involved:
Laboratory bioassays (LU/MPI)
Nanostring (MPI)
Genomics/transcriptomics (LU/SLU)
Deorphanization of odorant receptors in heterologous systems (LU)

PhD (4 y) at LU Lund, Sweden

Main supervisor: Martin Andersson (LU)
Co-supervisors: Christer Löfstedt (LU) Bill Hansson (MPI), Sharon Hill (SLU)