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Senior Technician (Molecular Ecology)

Durham, United Kingdom
£17,763 which is pro rata the full time salary of £29,605 per annum.
Closing date
6 May 2024

The Role and the Department

The purpose of this role is to support research into the insects visiting cocoa flowers (Theobroma cacao) and pollinating them. Globally, cocoa is an important crop: demand for cocoa is strong, and cocoa production makes up a large portion of the economy for some low and middle income countries. Millions of people, often small holder farmers, rely on cocoa production to support their families. Because cocoa trees are largely self-incompatible, transfer of pollen amongst trees is critical for pod production. Despite years of research, the ID of cocoa pollinators remains elusive. There are several reasons for this, including the tiny size of cocoa flowers, the sheer number of flowers per tree (hundreds or thousands), and the low pollination rate, which mean that chances of observing a flower being pollinated is miniscule. Some evidence suggests the pollinators may be most active later in the day and early in the morning when fewer people are about. Further, experiments in which the cocoa flowers are pollinated by hand show dramatic increases in the short term, thus suggesting that pollination is limiting cocoa productivity. This project uses a sophisticated DNA sequencing approach called metabarcoding to sequence traces of DNA left behind by pollinators on the flowers, and then match these DNA fingerprints to known species that left them behind - much like the police do at a crime scene.

The person selected for this role will provide technical laboratory expertise towards metabarcoding by preparing solutions, performing DNA extraction, PCR, agarose gel electrophoresis, PCR product clean-up, and preparation of Illumina sequencing libraries. The post-holder will maintain detailed databases and a laboratory notebook. She or he will also contribute towards our diverse and friendly lab culture by acting as a good lab member, training students, and taking part in biweekly lab meetings. The Ecology, Evolution, and Environment section of the Biosciences department conducts world-leading research on everything from molecules to ecosystems and will provide an engaging and invigorating environment. There will be some flexibility for hybrid working (e.g. data entry) but a substantial portion of time will be in the lab.

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