Western Science Centre 342
office: (519) 661-2111 x 86776
lab: (519) 661-2111 x 86794
In the last several years my group has made major strides in the development of Tetranychus urticae(spider mite) as an arthropod herbivore model. T. urticae has a rapid life cycle and feeds on over 1000 plant species. It therefore represents a key pest for greenhouse crops, annual field crops and many horticultural crops. The use of chemical pesticides is the predominant method of controlling spider mites. However, due to their short generation time and high reproduction rate, spider mites have developed resistance to the major pesticide groups, presenting a major challenge to control them. Currently, there are no cultivars resistant to spider mites.
We have led the T. urticae whole genome sequencing project [funded by the USA Department of Energy and Joint Genome Institute (DOE-JGI; http://www.jgi.doe.gov/sequencing/why/50028.html )], and established an international collaborative team GAP-M, (http://devbiol.zoo.uwo.ca/spidermite/), funded by Genome Canada, Ontario Genomics Institute and Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, to assemble, annotate and analyse the T. urticaegenome. We developed protocols for spider mite rearing, established a normal table of spider mite development, and developed methods for large-scale embryo collections, assay of gene expression (in situ hybridization and antibody staining) and inactivation of genes using RNA interference (RNAi). We are now moving forward with the goal of developing environmentally sound pest control strategies that reduce environmental pollution and energy consumption in agriculture.
Evolution of developmental mechanisms
We are examining the functions and expression patterns of genes analogous to Drosophila segmentation genes in Copidosoma floridanum, an insect with a radically derived mode of early development. We are using in-situ hybridisation, antibody staining and ds RNAi to determine how the role of these genes may have changed over evolutionary time.
We are using fundamental knowledge gathered in the projects described above to develop novel tools for sustainable agriculture as well as in developing novel materials. To date, two applications are under development:
a) RNAi-based pest control for spider mite
b) spider mite silk as natural bio nanomaterial