The general objective of the thesis is to explore the determinants of the interactions among mites living in the environment of poultry in farm buildings in order to develop innovative and sustainable practices of biological control against Dermanyssus gallinae, the Poultry Red Mite.
This mite is an obligatory hematophagous bird mite and a major pest of laying hens. It is not a typical parasite, but more a micropredator, similar to adult female mosquitoes and bedbugs. It lives at a distance from the host and comes into contact with it only during short and rare meals. As such, this pest mite forms an integral part of the microhabitats’ food webs in farm buildings. Therefore, (1) conventional treatments are largely unsatisfactory, (2) this bioagressor is an ideal target for biological control by natural enemies inhabiting the poultry environment.
Our working hypothesis is that observed differences in the pest mite infestation behavior between farms (some with strong and recurrent outbreaks, others with consistently low levels of infestation) are related to the composition of predatory mite assemblages and to the relative spatial distribution of these and the pest mite population.
To state whether and how the emulation of ecological processes of the pest mite regulation might be reached by the intensification of predation activity by indigenous mesostigmatid mites (conservation biocontrol), we started work in the framework of a partnership between the CEFE and the ITAVI (Technical Institute of AVIculture). We have already collected data on the composition of typical mite communities in French layer farms.
The study aims now to characterize the food webs involving the mesostigmatid mites in the different microhabitats available both in terms of protagonist identification (who feeds on who?) and location of predation events (where in the building are prey attacked?). In parallel, we need to further investigate the determinants of the movements and spatial distribution of the pest mite. Then, results from these two axes will be explored together in order to state whether and how local actions may contribute to enhance pest-mitigating ecological processes.

Requirements for applicants:
Master of Science (MSc; five years after diploma equivalent to the French baccalaureate)
Applicants are expected to have a strong interest to applied and operational research, to be able to work as part of a team and to interact with other stakeholders (frequent interactions with operators from the poultry industry)
Appetite for experimental field and lab activities (bioassays, basic molecular biology …)
Thoroughness, no reluctance to handle living mites
Ability to largely use optical instruments such as microscopes and stereomicroscopes
Good communication skills in spoken and written English are required.

Deadline for application: 30th September, 2017.

Documents to send in your application:
– CV.
– Cover letter outlining your motivations.
– Contact information for 2 persons who can serve as references.

Contact:
Lise Roy and Rumsais Blatrix
Center for Evolutionary and Functional Ecology, CNRS – Université de Montpellier – Université Paul Valéry Montpellier – EPHE, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France.
Emails: [email protected] & [email protected]
Tel. Lise Roy: +33 6 69 78 76 87

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