Laboratory Residentials 2016-17

Laboratory Residentials are an initiative of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network. Laboratory Residentials provide scope for plant diagnosticians to develop expertise and knowledge, and may include improvements in their skill bases in areas such as laboratory practices and quality management, diagnostic techniques, and specialist disciplines. This year a targeted round of residentials was made that aimed to support the delivery of the Modern Diagnostics Project under the Australian Government’s Northern Australia White Paper, the Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics (SPHD) is pleased to announce the following residentials for 2016-17.

Name Description of residential
Ainsley Seago Dr. Ainsley Seago will travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand to train in bark beetle taxonomy with Dr. Roger Beaver, the world specialist on Australian and Pacific scolytine weevils. The goals of this visit are (1) to identify and document scolytine species that are uniquely important and/or endemic to Australia and the Pacific, (2) to develop accessible, well-illustrated digital identification tools for relevant genera and species of Australian and Pacific scolytines, and (3) to update and expand the existing catalogue of Australian Scolytinae.
Andrew Manners The residential will be undertaken by Andrew Manners, Senior Entomologist, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The focus of the residential will be an intensive training week at the Queensland Museum under the tutelage of Owen Seeman. The training will 1) improve tetranychid slide making skills (males have to slide mounted laterally for species level identification of many genera within the family), and 2) improve tetranychid identification skills such that species level identification is possible. In addition, a low intensity survey will be completed in production nurseries, focusing on native plants, with follow up contact and training to identify collected specimens.
Eliza Finlay Enhancing Australia’s ability to identify species of Miridae was given high priority under the recent Modern Diagnostics Project gap analysis. This collaborative two week NPBDN laboratory residential with Dr Mallik Malipatil at the Centre for AgriBioscience will provide an invaluable opportunity to improve Miridae identification skills leading to improved biosecurity surveillance capability. The residential will include the development of a key to sub-families of endemic and pest Mirids on agricultural crops in Australia’s north, including species of interest in neighbouring counties.
Isabel Valenzuela – Gonzalez Residential activities at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) will include developing skills in aphid slide preparation and aphid species identification using morphological methods and, conducting morphometric analyses. This work will serve as a base for drafting a protocol document on slide preparation which is specific to aphids and the preparation of a literature based checklist of aphids from tropical Australia.
Kathy Crew This two-week Laboratory Residential is with Prof. Sebastien Massart at University of Liege, Gembloux, Belgium. It will progress the development of a simple and robust diagnostic assay for the recently identified banana ampelovirus, to facilitate urgent safe import of virus-free germplasm from south-east Asia into Australia for TR4 (Panama disease) management. Banana ampelovirus genomic sequence will be assembled from existing next generation sequencing data sets. This requires higher level bioinformatics training due to difficulties encountered in sequence assembly because of the high level of sequence variation between and within ampelovirus species, and the lack of homologous sequences in databases. Diagnostic PCR primers will be designed based on the assembled sequence.
Linda Semeraro As part of the laboratory residential program, Linda Semeraro (entomologist/ diagnostician from the Victorian Agricultural Insect Collection, Agriculture Victoria) will visit Dr Owen Seeman (Collection Manager Arachnida) at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, to learn about Tetranychoidea mites. The aim is to improve mite slide preparation and identification skills of this economically significant  mite superfamily. Reference collection material of pest species of concern to northern Australia will be examined. Outputs include a protocol for slide preparation of mites and identification of some undetermined specimens from various mite surveys. The residential will also improve collaborative opportunities between respective collections.
Luke Halling This laboratory residential aims to improve leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) diagnostic capability as well as a collection resource in northern Australia. These benefits will be achieved by working with expert Chris Reid at the Australian Museum in Sydney and in the Cairns insect collection of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. One deliverable we expect to accomplish whilst reviewing these collections is development of a diagnostic key incorporating the Plain Pumpkin Beetles (Aulacophora indica group) of northern Australia and exotic species with pest potential for Australia.
Mary Finlay-Doney Dr. Mary Finlay-Doney from the NT Department of Industry and Resources will be spending two weeks with Dr. Adam Slipinski at the CSIRO, Canberra . Mary will be working on the morphological identification of ladybeetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) of biosecurity signifigance to northern Australia, particularly those in the phytophagous epilachnid group. These morphological identifications will be complemented by the development of DNA barcodes for selected species. This residential will be funded under the Modern Diagnostics Project.
Natasha Burrows Scales and mealy bugs are very small yet interesting group of insects. Worldwide, some species are important economic pests to the horticultural industry. Whilst others are commercially grown for the production of dyes and lac. The laboratory residential with Michael Gorton, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Cairns, will encourage my technical skills required to identify and curate such organisms. This will in turn strengthen the Northern Territory’s Department of Primary Industries and Resources ability to identify and recommend treatment for scales and mealybugs, carry out research related to this group, whilst also assisting in biosecurity efforts to respond to any new incursions.
Toni Chapman This residential will be undertaken by Dr Toni Chapman, Molecular Bacteriologist, NSW Department of Primary Industries at the University of Florida and Colorado State University. The aim of the experience is to improve our diagnostic capacity for bacterial diseases of rice with a focus on the exotic bacteria Xanthomonas oryzae and Burkholderia glumae. This unique experience will not only increase Toni’s capacity as a bacterial diagnostician, with both field and laboratory based experience, but this knowledge will be shared through the development of a National Diagnostic Protocol for Xanthomonas oryzae and an updated protocol for Burkholderia glumae.
Vu Tuan Nguyen & Sharl Mintoff Drs Sharl Mintoff and Vu Tuan Nguyen, (NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources) will spend our Laboratory Residential at the University of Gadja Mada in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in June 2017. Our key activities will include laboratory and field based work that examines bacterial wilt diseases with Professor Siti Subandiyah. This residential is expected to strengthen our diagnostic skills in the identification of bacterial wilt diseases and allow us to obtain reference DNA samples from fresh plant material to be used for the validation of the national diagnostic protocol for bacterial wilt diseases. It is also intended that a training workshop for bacterial wilt diseases will be conducted in Australia upon our return and will be open to other diagnosticians.
Yu Pei Tan Downy mildews (DMs) are an important group of pathogens of cultivated grasses in the tropics and subtropics. Despite their importance, molecular methods have rarely been applied to species identification. The main impediment is difficulty in the extraction of good quality DNA from herbarium specimens. It is the aim of this proposal to develop my molecular skills with Professor Marco Thines, foremost expert on oomycetes pathogens, at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Germany. The techniques that I learn will be advantageous to the verification of DMs specimens in Australian herbaria, and the resolution of DMs infecting grasses in Australia and South-East Asia.

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