Dr Joel Allainguillaume

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About me

I am Associate Professor in Conservation Science (Molecular Genetics) in the Centre for Research in Biosciences at the University of the West of England, Bristol. I have a passion for Teaching, Learning and Research and I contribute to a number of programmes and modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels within the Department of Applied Sciences. To date, the majority of my research work has centred on the application of molecular and genomics approaches to address problems of agronomic, ecological and conservational importance.

Area of expertise

Cacao improvement

My main area of research interest concerns the study of Cacao Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV). CSSV infection of cacao trees is endemic in West Africa where over 70% of the world's cacao is produced.  This virus can result in a major reduction in crop yield and CSSV is now considered to be the most damaging pathogen affecting cacao in West Africa.  Monitoring the disease is difficult and is hindered by a latent period, and the fact that symptoms of infection generally only appear in the plant at times of new growth. To date no successful 'on-site' testing method has been established for this disease. The aim of my research is to understand the virus life cycle and to develop systems for detection of pre-symptomatic CSSV that is robust, inexpensive and applicable as a field-based system. Research projects include the study of mealybug species responsible for the spread of the virus and genomic studies to reveal the extent of molecular diversity of the complex of viral species responsible for CSSV disease, information key to the development of a robust assay. This work is a collaborative project with the University of Reading (UK) and CIRAD (France), funded by the European Cocoa Association (ECA). Research for the development of the field detection assays has begun in November 2016 in collaboration with Mars Chocolate UK Ltd and WCF Ghana CocoaAction. This 18 months project will be conducted at UWE and is funded by TSB-Innovate UK. In parallel to this, a PhD student, funded by UWE (Oct 2015) is investigating alternative approaches for the detection of CSSV.

Environmental monitoring and DNA barcoding

I am also interested in conservational issues arising from interactions between the agricultural and natural ecosystems. Most of my early research interest related to environmental risk assessment studies relating to the commercial release of genetically modified crops. In this respect, I was engaged in a key interactive position on a major multidisciplinary BBSRC-NERC-funded project that aimed to develop a better understanding of the ecological processes leading to unwanted change following event deregulation. Recently, I specifically developed new molecular strategies to support conservation studies of critically endangered species such as the endemic Welsh species Cotoneaster cambricus or in collaboration with Bristol Zoo, the East African Pancake tortoise Malacochersus tornieri. My interest here lay in the use of DNA barcodes for environmental, commercial and forensics applications. I have been contributing to the development of plant DNA barcoding for the characterization of the native Welsh flora. I have been investigating industrial applications in relation to this research. For instance, I have used plant DNA barcode information for the forensic characterization of the plant species composition of food supplement pills. I am also involved in the application of High-throughput next Generation sequencing in combination with DNA plant barcode markers to analyse complex DNA templates.​


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