Adaptation and population genomics of the cotton bollworm

Craig Anderson

The capability for establishing thousands of markers randomly throughout the genome provides outputs that have allowed for unparalleled progress in environmental genomics.

Dr Craig Anderson is an OCE postdoctoral researcher at CSIRO who specialises in molecular ecology and the use of genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) data, which has come on leaps and bounds over the five years since RADseq was first described.

Craig's work uses GBS data to infer population genomics as well as the extent of genetic variation behind varying degrees of adaptation in the cotton bollworm Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). The larvae of this moth, which feed on a wide range of plants including many important cultivated crops, is renowned for developing resistance to a diverse array of pesticides, including (and most controversially) to toxins derived from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, implemented in transgenic crops. 

Craig has constructed a linkage map to associate and orientate scaffolds in the high-quality H. armigera genome and identify candidate adaptive regions for pesticide resistance.
 
A global review of H. armigera population structure has allowed Craig to infer gene flow between Africa, Asia and Australasia. Characterisation of these populations has implications for biosecurity and will aid in defining the risk imposed by potential incursions of H. armigera into the Americas. GBS is currently allowing for rapid identification of hybridisation with a relatively more sensitive and wide-spread sister species that will have significant evolutionary and socio-economic impact.
 
Whole-genome sequencing in bacterial strains of B. thuringiensis has shown that toxins widely used to control pest species frequently occur among strains found in soils. This not only has implications for resistance in H. armigera towards current and anticipated transgenic crops, but allows for comparison of whole-genome short-read sequencing within silico GBS.
 
Craig did his PhD research in ecotoxicology at Cardiff University and the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, describing the acute and chronic affects of arsenic exposure upon the earthworm (Lumbricus rubellus) across several levels of biological organisation.
 
While at CSIRO, Craig is looking to collaborate and expand further into evolutionary biology and epigenetics.
email | Twitter: @Craigledee

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