Ashley’s work focuses on optimising the ‘Mobile And Real-time PLant disEase’ (MARPLE) Diagnostics platform.
The MARPLE system was recently developed from a genomics-based pathogen surveillance technique – field pathogenomics. This portable system allows scientists in Ethiopia to identify and track strains of the wheat pathogen, yellow rust (Puccinia striiformis f.sp tritici), allowing for informed disease management decisions to be made within the growing season. Information gained can then also be used on a national and international scale to help breeders develop wheat varieties resistant to the current population of yellow rust.
To optimise MARPLE, Ashley will be testing different methods of DNA extraction and isolation to determine which is the best for a point-of-care platform. Additionally, they will study yellow rust genes to gauge which produce the most useful sequence data and which genes are best pooled and amplified together during the MiniPCR step of the diagnostics.
Ashley is also interested in the increasing availability of sequencing and the many avenues to which genomics can be applied – be it phylogenetic analysis, population structure, or GM applications. Projects that make a positive impact such as improving crops, preventing disease and fighting climate change are also of particular importance to them.
Whilst studying at Edge Hill University, Ashley undertook placements in Umeå, Sweden and Chicago, USA, where they managed an experimental prairie restoration and assisted in preparing next-generation sequencing libraries.