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Health Sciences staff profiles

Mr Rami Al-Jiab

PositionPhD Student
DepartmentDepartment of Anatomy
QualificationsBSc double major in Genetics and Biochemistry BSc(Hons) in Genetics
Research summaryGenetics-based pest control strategies


Rami graduated from Massey University, where he was working on producing and analysing transgenic fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) for pest control and basic research purposes.

Rami’s main research interests are in investigating and developing novel genetic techniques for pest control. Pests are one of the primary causes of harm to sector productivity, biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and human health. Pest control strategies are hence numerous, but can be costly, ineffective at low population densities and damaging to non-target species. Genetic pest control research offers the hope of designing alternative novel pest control strategies that are less costly, more efficient and most importantly safer compared to current strategies used. The biological aspect and genetic aspect of the technology means it can also be more efficient at controlling small population pests which is always how new intrusions begin and can be designed for any species, respectively.

Rami’s PhD project at the Gemmell Lab revolves around the 'Trojan Female Technique' (TFT). Central to this technique is the recent finding that natural mitochondrial DNA variants exist that effect male but not female fertility and fitness. 'Trojan' females, bearing these variants, reproduce normally, but, the fertility of their male offspring is compromised, leading to a reduction in population growth and persistence over time.

These natural variant alleles have been shown to have a population suppression effect in fruit flies. Rami’s focus is to provide further evidence for this effect and develop a method for its application that can be used in any species. Furthermore, he aims to find similar alleles in other insect pests, significant to the New Zealand economy, such as the Clover root weevil (Sitona obsoletus) and the German wasp (Vespula germanica).

Rami's research is a collaboration between the Gemmell Lab, the Dearden Lab in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Otago, and the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.

Rami is supervised by Professor Neil Gemmell, and co-supervised by Professor Peter Dearden (Biochemistry) and Professor Dan Tompkins (Predator Free 2050 Ltd).