Xuefen completed her Master’s degree (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) at Sun Yat-Sen University, China, in 2017. Her previous research focused on functional genomics, more specifically, she studied the immunity of amphioxus, aiming to understand the origin and evolution of the vertebrate immune system. Her doctoral project will mainly focus on Bryobia mites and Vegetable leafminers, which are serious crop pests in Australia. She is supervised by Ary, Paul and Peter.
Her project includes two parts: First to investigate the species complexity of Bryobia mites in broad acre crops and pastures across Australia. Since the identification of Bryobia mites are often difficult given their small size and lack of suitable morphological characters, there is little information known about their basic biology and ecology worldwide. In this part, DNA barcoding will be used in Bryobia mites to delineate and identify morphologically cryptic species which is important for implementing effective pest control strategies. The second part of the project will focus on the vegetable leaf miner (VLM), which is a polyphagous species of agromyzid fly capable of infesting vegetable and flower crops and driving severe crop losses. Since it was found in Australia in 2015, on the Cape York Peninsula, it is now at a high risk of expanding its range and causing severe detrimental impacts on Australian agriculture. For that reason, it is important to figure out the invasion route of the VLM and study its potential establishment routes, which she will use molecular, morphological and modelling data.