Preventing disease with soil chemical ecology

Germinate-to-Exterminate - Manipulation of soil chemical ecology for novel disease control

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021


Cradle Coast

Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore


$28,597pa for 2 years

About the research project

Expressions of interest are invited for a potential Masters student to join a project team exploring novel approaches for soil-borne disease control that focus on manipulation of the soil chemical ecology to disrupt signalling between the host plant and the pathogen. Plant roots release an array of metabolites known as root exudates. We know that these are responsible for both activation of soil-borne pathogens and attraction of their infective spores to the host plant roots.

In this project we will utilise strategic treatments to disrupt and confound the pathogen. The first work program “Germinate-to-Exterminate” seeks to stimulate pathogen pre-mature germination in absence of a host plant leading to depletion of the pathogen in the soil. The second work program “Diffuse-to-Confuse” uses similar treatments applied during plant growth to confound the ability of the pathogen motile spores from finding host roots via the normal process of chemotaxis.

These concepts are highly novel and have generated significant interest from local and international industry partners. The candidate will likely run experiments both in Tasmania and New Zealand (pending the opportunity for international travel)

The disease of primary focus is powdery scab of potato. This is one of the most economically important diseases of potato production globally, and one for which no current effective alternate controls exist. The candidates work will be both ground-breaking and of critical industry importance.

Thew successful candidate will be joining the largest research group currently working on this pathosystem, with strong support from colleagues and industry.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Calum Wilson


The scholarship supporting this project provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 2 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fee scholarship for up to 4 years (successful domestic applicants will be awarded an RTP Fees Offset and successful international applicants will be awarded a University of Tasmania Fees Offset)

The scholarship supporting this project is funded by the University of Tasmania and the Australian Government through the Research Training Program and the Destination Australia Program.


The project is open to domestic (Australia and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from International applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the PhD minimum entry requirements and the following additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be commencing a new course of study with the University of Tasmania in the 2021 academic year
  • Applicants must already have been awarded a first-class Honours degree or hold equivalent qualifications or relevant and substantial research experience in an appropriate sector
  • Excellent written and verbal English language skills
  • Driver’s license

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate strong research and analytical skills
  • Applicants will need excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Applicants will need to be able to work independently and as part of a team

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience with intensive vegetable production and/or plant pathology

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Calum Wilson, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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