44448 - Summer Studentship – Smart Devices for Automatic Detection and Identification of Flying Insects - Plant & Food Research

Updated: 19 days ago
Deadline: 27 Sep 2021

Aim of project and nature of duties/techniques:

This project aims to utilise technology to better understand the behaviour and distribution of flying insects in both crop and native ecosystems.


Plant & Food Research (PFR) is a New Zealand science company delivering research and development designed to grow competitive advantage for clients in the horticulture, wine, cropping, seafood and associated high value food sectors worldwide.

Our summer studentship programme creates a special "career experience" for high calibre candidates. Our unique programme includes a full induction training day, a career planning session identifying potential pathways, a specific project - designed for you, as well as a final farewell and awards function.

Photonic sensors have the potential to radically change how we monitor and measure insect behaviour on the landscape (Brydegaard et al 2018). Our cross disciplinary team of engineers, entomologists and chemical ecologists are working to design smart insect traps and quadrats to automate in field monitoring of flying insects in a variety of different environments. Based on simple optoelectronic beam break sensors, these devices detect flying insects as they disrupt a curtain of light and can even identify their species based on biometrics like size, shape and wing beat frequency (Chen et al 2014).

When embedded in pheromone based traps these sensors allow for automated surveillance of insects which threaten the nation's biosecurity. By automating this surveillance we can better protect native and crop ecosystems from unwanted pest incursions by providing the earliest possible warning of an insect pest's presence. Giving an eradication response the best possible chance of success. These same traps also can provide an early warning of pest's presence in horticultural systems, allowing for more effective application of softer spray free control strategies while populations are still low.

When built into a quadrat format these sensors allow us to passively monitor flying insect activity within a fixed area, helping us build a better understanding of insect activity and biodiversity in different ecosystems.


  • Brydegaard, Mikkel, and Sune Svanberg. "Photonic monitoring of atmospheric and aquatic fauna." Laser & Photonics Reviews 12.12 (2018): 1800135.
  • Chen, Yanping, et al. "Flying insect classification with inexpensive sensors." Journal of insect behaviour 27.5 (2014): 657-677.


As to their abilities and interests, the successful candidate could assist in:

Improving the optoelectronic sensor.

  • Refining data logging hardware/firmware.
  • Developing networking support and web infrastructure.
  • Trialling devices in lab and field.
  • Building training data sets and refining species identification algorithms.

Criteria for the Position

An interest in Optics, Hardware Development, Entomology/Ecology or Machine Learning.

Could suit either an engineer with an interest in the natural world or a biologists with an interest in technology.

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