Last month, Ubiquitome announced the finalists of the Freedom For You grants program. The grants program was designed to provide support for remote qPCR projects, with each winner receiving a Freedom4 device. The ten selected finalists are receiving support from Ubiquitome in the form of Freedom4 qPCR reagents and consumables, project design consultation, and technical support, including wet lab processing. Three grant winners will receive a Freedom4 gold standard qPCR mobile device worth USD$25,000.
Emily Telfer and Rebecca McDougal, Scion molecular biologists, have been selected as finalists for their research on Kauri dieback. Emily is a leading geneticist in the Forest Genetics team while Rebecca is the senior molecular diagnostician in the Forest Protection team.
The multi-species Phytophthora research program, in which Rebecca and Emily are involved, includes Kauri dieback research to look for disease resistance and characterise infection by Phytophthora taxon Agathis (PTA). Rebecca also conducts research on PTA diagnostics, where portable PCR technologies could have a major beneficial impact.
Kauri dieback was first discovered in the 1970s on Great Barrier Island and has now spread to areas in the Northland and Coromandel regions of New Zealand. To confirm the presence of PTA, the cause of Kauri dieback, soil samples are collected from around trees showing signs of the disease and tested back in the laboratory. PTA is currently detected using a culture-based technique which can take up to a month to confirm the presence of the organism. A new qPCR technique to detect PTA from soil samples, is currently being investigated as a new method to speed up the diagnostic process. Using qPCR analysis will enable field teams to map the spread of the disease faster.
Kauri, revered as a toanga species by Māori, is one of New Zealand’s most iconic trees. Hence Kauri dieback is a growing conservation issue for the country. The Kauri Dieback Programme was formed in 2009 as a partnership involving tāngata whenua from areas with naturally occurring Kauri, Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation, Auckland Council, and the Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regional Councils. Two key foci of the Kauri Dieback Programme are to conduct research into the disease including development of management tools and carry out surveillance to determine the distribution of the disease. From the partnership’s beginning, Scion’s Forest Protection team have been engaged with both of these aspects of the wider disease management, community and government response to Kauri Dieback.
Emily has published articles relating to genomic extraction and analysis of pine and other tree species. Her most recent article discusses techniques that are applicable to Kauri dieback.
Telfer, E., Graham, N., Stanbra, L., Manley, T., Wilcox, P. (2013) Extraction of high purity genomic DNA from pine for use in a high-throughput Genotyping Platform. New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science 43:3
Rebecca has done extensive research on forest diseases and has published these in high-impact journals, including articles such as:
McDougal, R. L., Schwelm, A., Bradshaw, R.E. (2011) Dothistromin biosynthesis genes allow inter- and intraspecific differentiation between Dothistroma pine needle blight fungi. Forest Pathology 41: 407-416
Rebecca recently presented her research at the Kauri dieback symposium, discussing diagnostic techniques used currently and the future of testing.
Current methods of testing require potentially contaminated soils to be removed from the site and transported long distances for analysis, with careful disposal required once the analysis is complete. The large volumes used for analysis make this a labour intensive and costly process. Utilising mobile molecular testing and undertaking qPCR analysis at the site of the tree to determine whether it is diseased or not would greatly decrease the chance of incidental spread.
For more information on Emily and Rebecca’s research click here or to view a full list of the finalists visit our website www.ubiquitomebio.com.