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Environment and Biocontrol

Application Domain Leader: Owain Edwards

Organisms and ecosystems are failing to adapt quickly enough to the accelerating rate of environmental change. Synthetic biology provides a suite of intervention technologies that can help protect or enhance species and ecosystems to be more resilient to threats.

The Environment and Biocontrol Application Domain supports projects developing technologies that protect the environment. The first focus of this Application Domain is to identify innovative approaches, as well as key biological components, leading to the next generation of detection and remediation technologies.

We are also undertaking projects aiming to engineer resilience in key species threatened by environmental change. This approach requires a thorough understanding of species under threat in order to identify what physiological and genetic interventions could provide the necessary protection. The main targets of this approach are keystone species without which entire ecosystems could collapse.

Our final area of focus is developing novel pest control technologies. This includes innovative engineering approaches and novel targets to achieve effective control of target species, as well as modelling and risk assessment approaches to ensure interventions are achieved with minimal risk to non-target organisms.

Because the technologies developed in the Environment and Biocontrol Application Domain have the potential for real world environmental applications, and therefore releases into the environment, successful project impact will be highly dependent on effective collaboration with the Maximising Impact Application Domain, including effective community and stakeholder engagement in decision-making about the use of these technologies.

Projects by outcome area

Detection and remediation technologies

  • Synthetic biology devices for streamlined nucleic acid amplification and detection at point-of-care
  • Engineering resilience to green biotechnology
  • Tissue engineered jellyfish-like pseudo-organisms for aquatic detoxification

Engineering resilience

  • Logic gate control for biodiversity protection
  • Development of Cas9-expressing rock pigeons, Columba livia, as a model for synthetic biology applications in altricial birds
  • Investigating thermal tolerance in Symbiodinium, the algal symbiont of corals

Pest control strategies

  • Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd)
  • Development of synthetic speciation platform in mosquitoes for population replacement and genetic biocontrol
  • Systematic reverse genomics for testing genome annotation completeness
  • Detoxifying the cane toad
  • Assessing the utility of gene drives for combating pesticide resistance in Australia