Dr Sze-Huei Yek
The symbiosis of Sirex - Amylostereum - Deladenus, particularly on the mutualism between Sirex and Amylostereum, and host-parasite between Sirex-Amylostereum (host) and Deladenus (parasite). In order to look at examine questions encompassing the whole symbiosis, I incorporated multi-disciplinary fields/tools such as microbiology, molecular genetics, genomics and bioinformatics.
Hymenopteran evolution, especially on immune-related genes. The number of hymenopteran genomes (ants, bees and wasps) are increasing in number. Questions regarding the evolution of haploid-diploidy (sex determination system), and social evolution can now be examined on the genome-wide context. I am particularly interested in immune-related genes and its expressions in social and solitary hymenopteran. The evolution of eusociality also put inbred sisters in close contact. This behaviour or eusocial lifestyle is also a hotbed for parasites and diseases to spread. yet, not many eusocial hymenoptera are plague with diseases or parasites. Why is that so? By examining the immune-related responses of solitary and eusocial hymenoptera, we could find the evidence of:
1) Does eusocial hymenoptera experienced higher parasite and disease load compared to solitary hymenoptera?
2) If they do, where do these positive selections occurred in the innate immune system?
Ants taxonomy and diversity. Ants serve as an excellent indicator for the state of an ecosystem, and they are important soil and terrestrial engineers. In some part of the world, they are utilized as biocontrol agent for tree pests, and at the same time, farmed for their high-protein larvae as food source. Their importance to the environment and to human are just beginning to emerge. However, due to their small size and the rate of habitat changes worldwide, we don't know what's the extent of the diversity of these amazing insects. One of my interest (professional and personal) is first to familiarize with the ants diversity of Southern Africa, and then selectively choose some of the species for behavioural ecology studies. In essence, I am looking for new model species in the ant world.