I am a PhD student from France, recruited to the EU-funded Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network BIG4. The core of BIG4 is interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research on the diversity and evolution of the four largest insect orders: Hymenoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, and Lepidoptera (Biosystematics, Informatics and Genomics of the 4 big insect groups). These ‘big four’ insect groups constitute about half of all living species on Earth and have an enormous impact on natural or anthropogenic ecosystems.
As a biologist, I am particularly interested in insects as biological models, as well in genomics studies and how this research field can be used to answer ecological, biological and phylogenetic issues.
Since November 2015 I am working as doctoral student in the Biodiversity Lab. I work on molecular phylogenetics, more precisely on Lepidoptera (butterflies) phylogenomics. I am involved in different projects as investigating the level of DNA degradation in museum specimens of various ages, exploring different possibilities for sequencing DNA from museum samples and finally phylogenetics studies on particular clades of Lepidoptera.
Because natural history museums around the world hold vast amounts of biological material collected over hundreds of years that have almost exclusively been used for morphological studies of species, the project is to apply Next generation sequencing techniques to these important resources of data. The recent advent of these techniques has opened up new possibilities, as these methods are based on sequencing short fragments of DNA. Such techniques have been used successfully to sequence genomic material from fossilized taxa, such as Neanderthals, mammoths and cave bears. However, the techniques have rarely been applied to museum specimens so far, although the term “museomics” has already appeared in the literature.
I completed my MSc in Ecology and Evolution at the University of Rennes (France). My MSc research project was focused on the identification of genomic regions involved in the polymorphism of reproductive modes in the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum, Aphididae), at the Institute for Genetics, Environment and Plant Protection (IGEPP) at Le Rheu (France). This project was under the supervision of Jean-Christophe Simon and Julie Jacquiéry. More precisely, I looked for genomic regions under selection for this trait and tried to investigate the genetic mechanisms underlying the loss of sexual reproduction in the pea aphid, by using a pool-seq approach. Prior to that, I have partaken in a training course and worked on different research projects at the Biological Centre on Populations Management (CBGP) at Montferrier-sur-Lez (France). For this first research internship, supervised by Emmanuel Jousselin, I was introduced to studying sexual and asexual (parthenogenesis) reproduction in the leaf curl plum aphid (Brachycaudus helichrysi, Aphididae), with an experimental ecological approach with insect breeding and rearing.