Nematodes live in almost all environments on earth and are thought to be the most abundant and speciose animals. They can be free-living, feeding on bacteria, fungi or other organic material, or may be predators of other small animals. Some species are parasites of humans or other animals. While the majority of these have detrimental effects on man, some are parasites of insects that can be used for pest control. In addition, some nematodes feed on plants and cause damage to crops across the world. A review of the most damaging nematode species can be found here.
Careers working with nematodes
Plant-parasitic nematodes are fascinating organisms to work with. People working with nematodes have a variety of careers. They may undertake research aimed at improving food security or may provide advice to farmers and growers. Here ESN members describe their jobs:
Matthew Back - university lecturer in applied science
Day to day duties involve lecturing, supervising project students, writing research grant proposals and general responsibilities associated with the department. For the lecturing side of my role, I am responsible for the delivery of plant pathology and disease management on undergraduate and postgraduate modules. I also teach on specialist courses for members of the industry and am regularly invited to speak to farmers, agronomists and crop protection specialists. I enjoy being involved in PhD projects and am currently supervising 6 students in topics associated with nematology. Much of my recent research has focussed on optimising biofumigation for the management of potato cyst nematodes (PCN). Current projects are considering the optimal rotational position of brassica cover crops, partial biofumigation and the factors which effect biofumigation efficacy during the incorporation of brassica residues i.e. cultivations in relation to the distribution of the residues, soil moisture content, soil type and myrosinase availability.
I work at ICIPE an international tropical research centre in Nairobi Kenya and my main role is to set up nematology research at ICIPE and contribute to increased nematological research in Africa.
A typical day starts with checking emails and communicating with other scientists regarding either scientific papers we are writing together or project proposals. There may also be some administrative matters such as ordering equipment for the lab or a chair for a student…I am lucky to have three excellent students at the moment so on a good day I spend time in the lab with them discussing progress, identifying nematodes, and also learning from them. We are a great team. A perfect day is going to the field and taking nematode samples. Meeting with farmers sometimes happens and we discuss their crops and try and explain about nematodes. Back in the lab you never know what you’ll find in those soil samples!
Dr. Olaf Strauch
Olaf works for a producer of entomopathogenic nematodes and microbial plant protection products, the e-nema GmbH, www.e-nema.de
My daily work is:
· The authorisation/registration of entomopathogenic nematodes and other biologicals as plant protection products worldwide.
· Research in the field of large scale nematode production and nematode breeding.
· Managing research projects.
· Supervising and training of students.