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Students and teaching

Photograph of a parasitic wasp larva disected from inside and aphid (Hannah Clarke, PHD student)The group hosts and supervises students at doctorate, masters and undergraduate levels. Typically 10-15 students are engaged in practical work in the group in any year. All students are registered at universities, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, York and St Andrews. We supervise students or link in other ways with universities overseas at Arkansas, Guelph, Idaho, Manitoba, Paris-Sud, Tromso, Trondheim, Wageningen and elsewhere.

Group members regularly lecture on university courses, notably at St Andrews and Dundee Universities, lecture to visiting students and interest groups, and are active in the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience, a joint initiative between The James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee. Professor Steve Hubbard provides close links and collaborations with the universities of Dundee and St Andrews. Professor Janet Sprent, Emeritus, Dundee is closely associated with the group's work on legumes and nitrogen fixation.

Recent student successes

Jenny Slater was awarded first prize for her Dragon’s Den pitch at the annual institute PhD event at Birnam (9-10 March 2017) in which she proposed to investigate alternative methods of pest biocontrol by making use of plant-plant defence signalling mechanisms. Daniel Leybourne, Mark Whitehead, Kirsty Black and Pilar Morera-Margarit also gave excellent talks at the event.

Jenny Slater was accepted onto the Plant-Herbivore Interactions Gordon Research Seminar and Conference to present her work on maternal effects in pea aphids and their natural enemies, parasitoid wasps.  To help fund this trip, Jenny applied successfully to the Society of Experimental Biology and the British Ecological Society for travel grants, and won a total of £1,000 towards her travel costs.

Pilar Morera Margarit secured a £1,500 grant from the SSCR (Scottish Society for Crop Research) Soft Fruit Committee to study the bacterial community associated with vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus), a major pest of soft fruit. With these funds, Pilar is using a molecular sequencing approach to determine whether the insect bacterial community varies between vine weevil populations collected from crop and non-crop environments at sites across the UK, and assess whether this underpins the success of this pest species.

Daniel Leybourne has received funding from the James Hutton Institute PhD student travel award scheme to attend and present work at the 3rd Hemipteran-Plant Interactions Symposium in Madrid in June 2017, and to attend a satellite workshop post-symposia on using the Electrical Penetration Graph (EPG) technique to monitor aphid feeding behaviour. Daniel has also been selected as one of six student representatives of the British Ecological Society (BES) at the ‘Voice of the Future’ event, organised by the Royal Society of Biology and the Science and Technology Select Committee. Representatives at this event will get the opportunity to question members of the Science and Technology Select Committee on various aspects of Governmental science policy.

Current and recent doctoral students

  • PhD students in 2017: Jenny Slater, Daniel Leybourne and Pilar Morera Margarit (supervisor Ali Karley); Ashley Gorman (Cathy Hawes); Kirsty Black and Erica Della Jacovo (Pete Iannetta); Ed Baxter (Geoff Squire). In addition, the following NASSTEC students visited the Institute in 2016/17 as part of their training: Stephanie Frischie, Emma Ladouceur, Cristina Blandino, Antonio Teixeira (Pete Iannetta, with Geoff Squire, Tracy Valentine, Cathy Hawes)
  • Ruth Wade 2011-2015 (awarded): How will predicted changes in precipitation shape cereal ecosystems? James Hutton Institute (Ali Karley, Scott Johnson) University of York (Sue Hartley, Biology) 
  • Amanda Wilson 2011-2014 (awarded): Determining the impact of agricultural systems on small mammals. James Hutton Institute (Brian Fenton, Graham Begg), University of St. Andrews (Steve Hubbard)

  • Tim Lewis 2010-2013 (awarded): Linking erosional processes with seedbank dynamics to inform sustainable cropping. CECHR studentship.  James Hutton Institute (Cathy Hawes, Blair McKenzie), University of Dundee (John Rowan, Environmental Sciences) 
  • Abir Abusirwil 2010-2013: Pharmacological studies using myxospermous seed mucilage of the model plant Capsella bursa-pastoris L. Medik. (Shepherd's purse). James Hutton Institute (Pete Iannetta), University of Strathclyde (Val Ferro, Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences). 
  • Gillian Banks 2008-15 (awarded): Feral oilseed rape – role in environmental risk assessment and GM coexistence. Staff member / SIGMEA project. James Hutton Institute (Geoff Squire, Cathy Hawes), University of Dundee.
  • Hannah Clarke 2009-2012 (awarded): Bacterial secondary symbionts of Macrosiphum euphorbiae and multi-trophic interactions. James Hutton Institute (Ali Karley, Danny Cullen), University of Dundee (Steve Hubbard, Life Sciences)
  • Ananthi Anadanadesan 2009-2012 (awarded): Mathematical modelling of the spatio-temporal dynamics of aphid-plant-virus interactions.   EPSRC-CASE Studentship. James Hutton Institute (Ali Karley), University of Dundee (Mark Chaplain, Mathematics)
  • Wenni Deng 2009-2012 (awarded): Understanding the dynamic properties of (Capsella bursa pastoris l. Medik) seed coat mucus. CECHR studentship. James Hutton Institute (Pete Iannetta), University of Dundee (Dong Sheng-Jeng, Civil Engineering). 
  • Nicola Cook  2008-2011 (awarded): Population genetics of the farmland sawfly Dolerus aeneus (Hymenoptera, Symphyta). BBSRC-CASE/Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. James Hutton Institute (Ali Karley, Joanne Russell), University of Dundee (Steve Hubbard, Life Sciences), GWCT (Nick Sotherton).
  • Emily Clark 2007-2010 (awarded): Molecular characterisation of the bacterial communities in cabbage aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae) and their associated fitness effects. SCRI (Ali Karley, Tim Daniell), University of Dundee (Steve Hubbard, Life Sciences)  

Undergrad and masters students

  • Marion Demade (2014) from AgroParisTech in France is spending 5 months in Dundee from April 2014 to work as an intern on decision trees in the EU PURE project on integrated pest management. She will be developing the 'biodiversity' branch of the major decision tree being developed out of the programme DEXiPM. Supervision: Geoff Squire and Mark Young at the JHI, Frederique Angevin at INRA France.
  • David Navarro Miró (2013) is funded through an ERASMUS training programme for four months. He is from Vila-real (Castellón) Spain, in the final year of Environmental Science in the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia (EPSG). He wishes to specialise in sustainable cropping systems and is working here with Pete Iannetta on ascertaining whether a standard method may be generated to assess the viability of seed lots from a single extract and tetrazolium assay.
  • Karl Goedtgheluck (2013) has a placement at the Institute from June to the end of September. He is a second year student in agriculture based at the Engineering School in Agriculture, Food and Health Sciences, and Geology at Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais, France. He has been working with Gill Banks and Geoff Squire, learning about laboratory work and field sampling, helping at the Centre for Sustainable Cropping and processing plants and soil for carbon and nitrogen content.
  • Victor Martinez Heredia (2013) is funded by the ERASMUS training programme for several months. He is from Valencia, Spain, in the final year of his degree in environmental science, and wishes to specialise in molecular biology. He is working with Pete Iannetta on transformation and cloning genes in shepherd's purse Capsella bursa-pastoris.
  • Laura Lopez (2012-13) is funded by the ERASMUS training programme and Legume Futures for several months. She is from Sabadell (a city next to Barcelona), Spain, in the final year of her degree in biology, and wishes to specialise in plant-ecology, especially legumes, and has experience working with Trifolium (Supervision: Pete Iannetta, Euan James)
  • Sarah Doherty (2011-2012) on a one-year experience placement from Durham University, Biology. Supervisor: Geoff Squire.



Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.