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December 2014

Postcard from China: Western University student is establishing pest control strategies

Global warming is becoming a serious issue and one of its consequences is the emergence of a major pest: the spider mite (Tetranychidae urticae). The spider mite family consists of more than 1,200 species and can cost thousands of millions of dollars in crop damage around the world.

At Western University, I work with Genomics in Agricultural Pest Management (GAP-M), an international consortium with researchers from Canada, Spain, Belgium, France, and the United States. GAP-M is focusing on the study of spider mite genomes to develop strategies to reduce crop damage and increase yields. By using comparative analysis of three spider mite species’ genomes and their feeding models, we hope to find new systems for pest control strategies.

The Mitacs Globalink Research Award encouraged me to establish a “global link” with scientists in China who are leaders in genomics research. My internship in Beijing was great. The host institute provided me high-performance computation clusters to check and modify about 7,000 genes across three spider mite genomes. The experts from the host institute were interested in the project and helped me figure out genome structure problems. The overall experience not only benefited my research; it also established research connections between international partners.

After my project in Beijing, Western sent me to VIB/Ghent University in Belgium as a joint PhD student to broaden the global collaboration even further. I am now working at VIB, another worldwide top institute, and focusing the three sets of spider mite genomics data. Hopefully we will gain an even better understanding of different feeding models from this major pest.

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for their support of the Globalink research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

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