Undergraduate Research Assistant

Area of Focus:



University of Guelph OAC Department of Plant Agriculture Logo



URA: Improvement of Ontario Hazelnut Cultivars

On Campus Jobs & Opportunities

Anticipated Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

  • Scientific Knowledge and Application
  • Critical and Analytical Thinking
  • Problem-Solving
  • Teamwork and Collaboration

Improvement of Ontario hazelnut cultivars focusing on winter hardiness and pest tolerance, with an emphasis on management of Eastern filbert blight disease

The Simcoe pathology program at the University of Guelph, operated by Dr. Katerina S. Jordan, Department of Plant Agriculture, is seeking a motivated and reliable undergraduate student employee to assist with research activities on an OMAFRA Special Initiatives funded hazelnut trial in summer 2022. This multi-year trial focuses on three primary areas:

  1. Disease development (Ascospore monitoring/trapping, phenological stages of tree bud development),
  2. Fungicide product efficacy, and
  3. Timing of fungicide application for Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) disease control

Brief Outline of Research Project
EFB, caused by Ansiogramma anomala is an economically significant disease of hazelnut that has the potential to devastate orchards once established. It is especially difficult to detect in the early stages of growth as EFB develops/spreads beneath the bark, often undetected. Cankers form on the bark surface, typically the year following initial infection, and release ascospores during the spring. Ascospores infect hazelnut trees via infiltrating newly emerging bud tissue, and are thought to spread rapidly during rain events, further exacerbated by wind. Branches or other tree parts having cankers eventually die-back, but are typically pruned out as soon as detected. Limited fungicide chemistries in Ontario are available in Ontario for control of this disease, and timing of fungicide applications/best application practices are areas in need of additional research.

Eastern filbert blight is a common pathogen of many of the hazelnut cultivars planted in Ontario, and has been a limiting factor in expansion of acreage for Ontario hazelnut growers. Ferrero Canada is a multinational hazelnut processor that uses the nuts for many different products; some of their products have specific nut characteristics (shape, size, etc.), and the preferred cultivars that produce the 'ideal' nuts are unfortunately susceptible to EFB. As such, Ferrero, in interest of expanding production and world-wide sources of hazelnuts, has been a driving force in expanding Ontario research to obtain local data. This project aims to provide valuable information to Ontario growers via disease monitoring, a fungicide efficacy trial and a fungicide application timing trial. The project components are novel in this area of research in Ontario, and data from this trial will be an important tool for improving management of EFB for Ontario growers. Project team members include University of Guelph researchers, OMAFRA specialists and industry partners.

Job description (task/responsibilities, relevant scheduling details, and required and/or preferred qualifications)
The Plant Pathology Field and Laboratory Research Assistant position is a paid Undergraduate Research Assistant opportunity, 35 hours per week, for a student enrolled in a B.Sc. program, or similar with a keen interest in science, plant pathology, and agriculture. Potential to continue in a part-time research assistant role in fall '22 semester may also exists. Compensation will follow the standard rates as outlined by the Department of Plant Agriculture. Please note that rate of pay can be discussed in the interview process. The position is based out of the Simcoe Research Station, Simcoe ON, but some of the work may also be outdoors at other research stations/farm locations/Guelph campus as part of our lab team - transportation will be available to other locations, if required.

During the S22 semester, the successful applicant will have the opportunity to work in the field on hazelnut plant maintenance, inoculation, scouting for pests/disease, quality/data collection, harvesting, tissue and soil sampling. Responsibilities in the lab may include media preparation, isolating/culturing fungal pathogens from infected tissues, preparing microscope slides, assisting on-site Research Technician. There may also be opportunities to assist our lab group with an OMAFRA funded bitter rot project (field and lab work) as well as a ginseng project in the greenhouse. The successful applicant, under the direction of the on-site Technician/Research associate will also:

  • Be responsible for maintaining cleanliness in the Simcoe lab space, washing glassware, autoclaving media, waste and other general lab tasks
  • Having knowledge of Excel spreadsheets and ability to enter data
  • Possess working familiarity with farm equipment and the use of basic hand tools is considered an asset, but training of all equipment is provided
  • Strong ability to follow directions and Standard Operating Procedures, as well as the ability to work independently when required

Hours of work will coincide within the standard UofG business day, Monday-Friday 8:30AM-4:30PM, although due to the nature of the fieldwork and travel, hours may vary from the standard schedule. Total hour per week, however, will not exceed 35. As the position will involve regular use of onsite utility vehicles and may involve movement between research stations and field locations, a Valid G Driver's license with clean abstract is required. All relevant safety training will be provided and any UofG modules previously completed (Health and Safety, WHMIS, Lab Safety, Biosafety Training, Farm Safety etc.) are considered an asset. CSA green patch safety footwear, to be supplied by the successful candidate, is required to work at UG research stations.

Application Procedure
Experience Guelph

Division/ Dept.
Plant Agriculture

Available Semester(s) of Employment
Summer 2022 (up to 4 months)

Position Type

# of Positions Available

Start Date
2022-05-02 00:00:00.0

End Date
2022-09-02 00:00:00.0

Anticipated Student Learning

  1. Research and experimental design
  2. Laboratory skills including biosafety training, good laboratory practices, sterile technique, inoculum preparation, media preparation
  3. Fungal isolation, culturing and identification
  4. Data collection in field setting, disease/pest scouting, and maintenance of plant material
  5. Time management and organization skills

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