Postdoctoral Research Associate
Washington State University Everett
Available Title(s):306-NN_FACULTY - Postdoctoral Research Associate
Business Title:Postdoctoral Research Associate
Employee Type:Faculty (+) (Fixed Term)
Summary of Duties:
A Postdoctoral Research Associate position is available in the Department of Plant Pathology at the Washington State University (WSU) Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research & Extension Center, to work on marker assisted and genomic selection for resistance to Fusarium wilt of spinach. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is an important vegetable crop worldwide, with an estimated annual value of $12 billion. The only region of the USA that is suitable climatically for production of spinach seed crops is western Washington and western Oregon. However, the acid soils of this region are highly conducive to Fusarium wilt of spinach, caused by the soilborne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae, necessitating rotations of 10 to 15 years between spinach seed crops to avoid major losses to this disease. Fusarium wilt also has become increasingly important in some regions of vegetative (leafy) spinach crop production. Resistance to Fusarium wilt has been quantified in spinach germplasm but most cultivars are highly susceptible. With limited effective options for management of spinach Fusarium wilt, there is a need for highly resistant cultivars, particularly for organic production which now comprises >40% of fresh market spinach in the USA. As part of the previous USDA NIFA SCRI Project No. 2017-51181-26830, spinach lines, cultivars, and the entire USDA spinach germplasm collection as well as wild spinach accessions from the Dutch germplasm center were screened for their reactions to Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae. Excellent sources of resistance were identified from wild accessions. Genome wide association studies (GWAS) of the germplasm screened were used to identify SNP markers for resistance genes or quantitative trait loci (QTLs), and to understand the genetic basis of resistance to Fusarium wilt.
The project is part of a larger spinach project with collaborators in other states, funded by the new USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative project 2023-51181-41321, which builds on the previous SCRI project to develop spinach germplasm resources and molecular breeding tools to combat endemic and emerging diseases affecting spinach production in the USA. The effort is expected to provide spinach breeders with robust molecular tools to select for resistance to these important diseases and, consequently, to expedite development of resistant spinach cultivars. This Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRA) will focus on the Fusarium wilt aspect of the project, in collaboration with Dr. Gehendra Bhattarai at the University of Arkansas, and under the direction of Drs. du Toit (Co-PI), Shi (PD), Correll (Co-PD), and others on the team. This includes: 1) characterizing and validating molecular markers for resistance to Fusarium wilt, 2) introgressing resistance to Fusarium wilt into spinach breeding lines for cultivar development, and 3) developing a spinach grower-oriented outreach program based on economic decision tools for management of Fusarium wilt. To achieve these objectives, F2 segregating populations will be developed from F1 sister-plants crossed between dioecious male and female spinach plants, and BC1F2 populations from susceptible parents as the male line backcrossed to all female plants of the BC1F1 populations. Training populations will be constituted for Fusarium wilt resistance to test and validate SNP markers identified in the previous SCRI-funded project, and to predict the breeding values of these markers for Fusarium wilt resistance. Fusarium wilt evaluations will be completed in greenhouse trials. SNP genotyping will be based on whole genome re-sequencing and ddRADseq. Association analysis will be completed using GWAS. Genetic maps for each F2 population will be created, followed by QTL mapping. Genomic predictions for Fusarium wilt resistance will be calculated using BLUP and Bayesian methods to predict genomic estimated breeding values (GEBV). Molecular markers linked to resistance genes or QTLs will be used to select resistant plants from segregating populations. The predicted breeding values of Fusarium wilt resistance, based on SNP markers, will be validated using training populations. Field trials will be established in Washington and other states to evaluate germplasm developed during the project. The PRA also will contribute to extension and outreach aspects of the project, including presenting updates at seed growers’ and seed industry meetings, at professional scientific meetings, at the International Spinach Conference, and at spinach field days.
Design statistically robust greenhouse, field, and lab experiments focused on screening for resistance to Fusarium wilt; effective phenotyping of the reactions of diverse spinach germplasm to Fusarium wilt in a greenhouse will comprise the foundation of this project on which subsequent molecular analyses will be built.
Utilize plant pathology laboratory, field, and greenhouse techniques, including isolation, culturing, identification, and maintenance of pathogen cultures; inoculation with pathogens; phenotypic disease ratings; etc.
Extract and process DNA effectively from spinach germplasm and plant pathogen isolates.
Contribute meaningfully to whole-genome resequencing; identify and use molecular markers (SNPs) and association mapping for resistance to spinach Fusarium wilt in collaboration with project partners.
Complete data management and statistical analyses effectively and in a timely manner.
Communicate and present results professionally to general and scientific audiences at stakeholder meetings, scientific conferences, and field days.
Publish results in peer-reviewed, scientific journals in a timely manner, and review related scientific publications.
Assist with additional grant writing, if needed, to support the project.
Collaborate professionally with regional, national, and international scientists/stakeholders.
Work effectively independently and as part of the larger team associated with this project.
Travel in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the USA for field trials, presentations, and research meetings related to this project.
Assist with mentoring students, interns, and staff involved in this project.
PhD in plant pathology, plant breeding, or closely related field pertinent to the project.
Demonstrated experience in plant pathology, including inoculation of plant pathogens, plant disease phenotyping, plant pathogen isolation and identification methods, etc.
Ability to complete research in field, greenhouse, and lab conditions.
Experience with applied plant pathology in field and greenhouse environments.
Ability to design statistically valid research trials, and proficiency in analyzing and interpreting data effectively using relevant statistical methods and software, including R.
Experience utilizing molecular techniques for plant pathogen identification and quantification, including regular PCR assays, real-time PCR assays, and DNA sequencing/sequence analyses.
Experience in molecular plant breeding, including characterizing and validating molecular markers, GWAS, QTL mapping, and other tools to breed for resistance to plant diseases.
Strong analytical skills (statistics and bioinformatics), particularly GWAS, genomic selection, and predicting breeding values of quantitative traits (calculating GEBVs).
Ability to complete research independently and to work well as part of a team.
Excellent written and oral English communication skills, and the ability to participate actively in a mutually-supportive and respectful team environment.
Evidence of high-quality scientific publications and presentations.
Attention to detail, excellent record keeping, and ability to manage multiple concurrent projects.
Possession of a valid driver’s license for at least 2 years, and ability to obtain a Washington State driver’s license within 1 month of starting this position.
Ability to obtain a Washington State Pesticide Applicator’s/Consultant’s License within 3 months of starting this position.
Ability to drive a pickup truck, willingness to drive to spinach production sites in western Washington and western Oregon, and willingness to travel to cooperating states.
Capacity to lift up to 30 lb repetitively.
Willingness to learn and implement new techniques for advancement of the project.
Experience with research methods on soilborne plant pathogens.
Experience with phenotypic screening of plant germplasm for resistance to wilt diseases.
Experience with development and application of molecular markers in breeding for plant disease resistance.
Completion of at least two graduate courses in plant breeding.
Familiarity with spinach production systems and diseases.
Demonstrated competence with statistically sound epidemiological research methods, and competence with QTL, SNPs, GWAS, and association mapping.
Ability to help manage a research program, including experience mentoring undergraduate and graduate students and interns.
City, State, Zip:
Mount Vernon, WA, 98273
$67,724.80 - $75,000.00 | Commensurate upon qualifications and experiences.
In accordance with RCW 49.58.110, the above salary reflects the full salary range for this position. Individual placement within the range is based on the candidate’s current experience, education, skills, and abilities related to the position or as mandated by a U.S. Department of Labor prevailing wage determination.
WSU offers a comprehensive benefits package which includes paid sick and vacation leave; paid holidays; medical, dental, life and disability insurance package for employees and dependents; retirement; deferred compensation and optional supplemental retirement accounts.
For a more detailed summary of benefits offered by WSU for Faculty visit: https://hrs.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/2024-Benefit-Overview-for-Faculty-and-AP.pdf
Find total compensation information here: https://hrs.wsu.edu/managers/recruitment-toolkit/total-compensation/.
This is a temporary position.
Temporary End Date:
This is a 12-month position with the possibility of renewal annually for 3 years, pending satisfactory performance and availability of funding.
Posting Close Date:
Applicants must submit their completed application by February 25, 2024 at 11:59 p.m.
This position has been designated by the department to require a background check because it requires access to children or vulnerable adults as defined by RCW 74.34, engages in law enforcement, requires security clearance, interacts with WSU students in a counseling or advising capacity, has access to personal identifying and/or financial information, unsupervised access to university buildings/property, or other business-related need. A background check will not be completed until an initial determination of qualification for employment has been made.
Please upload all documents in the “Resume/CV” section of your application. Documents may be submitted in one file or separate files. Applicants are encouraged to upload as a PDF if possible . Applicants will be requested to provide contact information for professional references within the online application.
Application materials should clearly communicate how the applicant meets all required qualifications and additional requirements.
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