Genetics of Overwintering in Mites
This research stream will introduce students to genetics and genomics in the context of understanding diapause in the two-spotted spider mite (scientific name: Tetranychus urticae). This mite species is a major agricultural pest/and each fall it enters diapause/a physiological state characterized by reproductive cessation in females and the accumulation of red-orange carotenoid pigments and other metabolites and proteins that allow mites to withstand the freezing temperatures and other stresses of the winter months. Students will isolate and characterize mutations that disrupt carotenoid biosynthesis and will use genomic (DNA) and/or transcriptomic (RNA) sequencing data to identify potential diapause mediators. An outcome of the research will be a better understanding of how diverse insects and mites overwinter in regions with temperate climates/and the skills that will be learned will be broadly applicable to diverse areas of modern biology of relevance to agriculture and even medicine. More generally/students will learn about plant-herbivore interactions and agriculture/and about how climate change will impact biological systems/biodiversity/and human welfare.