Picard Lab

The Picard Lab

The Picard Lab’s research is focused on the understanding and correlations between genotype and phenotypes specifically related to insects.

Many of the insects studied in the lab are forensically relevant insects (i.e. blow flies), with the goal of using whole-genome data to extract variations in the genome related to forensically relevant traits such as development time and rate.

Additionally, The Picard Lab has expanded to include species of insects for development as sustainable, alternative protein sources for human food and animal feed consumption. The lab uses a combination of traditional genetic and bioinformatics techniques to mine data for the characterization of important traits.

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Send an email to Dr. Picard with a statement of interest, and describe your previous research lab experience, if applicable.

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The lab has spent a significant effort in trying to understand the correlations between insect genomes and their associated phenotypes, with a particular interest in understanding the variation present in insect phenotypes. These have some forensic applications, especially forensic entomology, as these abundant insects are at the mercy of natural phenotypic variation in their development rates.

As such, the lab has generated genomes of Cochliomyia macellaria under selection experiments for development rate, and is extracting genotypes linked to this phenotype. This will have wide-ranging applications to increase accuracy in minimum postmortem interval estimations. Furthermore, understanding genetic variation across the landscape (population genetics) will give us a more thorough view of blow fly population dynamics and the ability to estimate abundances in different environments, and the potential for the prediction of variation rates of development.

The lab currently has MPS data (including short and long read technologies) for the following species: Cochliomyia macellaria, Phormia regina, Chrysomya rufifacies, Lucilia cuprina and Lucilia sericata.

  • AA Andere, ML Pimsler, AM Tarone, CJ Picard.  (2020) The genomes of a monogenic fly: Views of primitive sex chromosomes.  Scientific Reports, 10, 15728, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-72880-0.  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-72880-0 
  • NH Mahmoudzadeh, A Fitt, DB Schwabb, N Martenis, L Neese, CG Owings, GJ Brinkley, H Li, J Karty, S Sudarshan, RW Hardy, AP Mozcek, CJ Picard, JM Tennessen. The oncometabolite L-2-hydroxyglutarate is a common product of Dipteran larval development. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Accepted).  
  • Y Yan, M Williamson, RJ Davis, AA Andere, CJ Picard and MJ Scott. (2019) Improved transgenic sexing strains for genetic control of the Australian sheep blow fly Lucilia cuprina using embryo-specific gene promoters. Molecular Genetics and Genomics.  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00438-019-01622-3 
  • CJ Picard, JD Wells, A Ullyot, K Rognes. (2017) "Amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis supports the valid species status of Lucilia caesar and L. illustris (Diptera: Calliphoridae)." Forensic Science Research DOI: 10.1080/20961790.2017.1398286  
  • AA Andere, RN Platt II, DA Ray, CJ Picard (2016) "Genome sequence of Phormia regina: Implications for medical, veterinary and forensic research." BMC Genomics (17) 1-17.
  • AM Salam, FK Adham, CJ Picard (2015) "Survey of the genetic diversity of forensically important Chrysomya blow flies from Egypt." Journal of Medical Entomology, 1-9.
  • National Institute of Justice 2013-DN-BX-K019: Species and age determination of blow fly pupae based upon headspace analysis. 2014-2016 (PI: John Goodpaster, IUPUI)
  • National Institute of Justice 2012-DN-BX-K024: Genomic tools to reduce error in PMI estimates derived from entomological evidence. 2013-2015. (PI: Aaron Tarone, Texas A&M University)

Imagine a single blow fly, one of countless many, is out there in the environment doing the only thing it knows how to do - send its genetic material to the next generation. This fly in its attempts to complete this task has essentially become a scientist sampling its environment in a way that traditional human scientists would have a very difficult time doing. Contained within this single fly is information about animals that have died, animals that are still living, abundance and diversity of those animals, and information about the chemistry of the environment (such land use practices).

A single fly giving rise to a multitude of data that is capable of painting a picture of the ecosystems' conditions in time and space. Now multiple this information by tens, or hundreds, or thousands of flies carrying this information, and the fly can now monitor any environment for large scale environmental processes. The fly can monitor the environment for the presence of potentially rare animals (conservation areas), or alternatively, invasive animals, how changing climates affect the overall makeup of the animal ecosystem, if wildlife corridors really restore the original conditions, what animals become crucial in a food web system, etc.The fly is able to determine each and every one of these parameters under their natural conditions.

Our lab has been working towards extracting this information from flies in our environments to evaluate the impact of humans and other changes on the entire ecosystem.

  • Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). Blow Flies as Ubiquitous Chemical Sensors. 2019-2020. (Co-PI: Nicholas Manicke, IUPUI)
  • National Geographic Society Explorers Grant. Environmental drones: blow flies as indicators of vertebrate diversity and abundance. 2018-2019. (Co-PIs: Nicholas Manicke, William Gilhooly III, Rudy Banerjee, IUPUI)
  • National Geographic Society: Support for Women and Dependent Care: Travel award to attend International Conference on Conservation Biology. 2019.

Insects are the most numerous and diverse animals on Earth, and through millions of years of evolution, they have learned to adapt to anything, literally, anything. Therefore, it is no surprise that insects will eventually save humankind. Insects as food and feed is a new area of research, but one that builds upon the previously and continuing efforts of the lab's research goals. Understanding the correlations between genomes and their associated traits and behaviors will propel this growing industry of the mass production of insects as an environmentally sustainable alternative to protein. You might not want to eat insects just yet, but eventually the globe will need this industry to supply the growing demands of increased populations and the climate changes impacting current protein industries.

Our research is focused on developing new genetic and genomic-based techniques to enhance currently production, and to produce new alternatives.

  • T Eriksson, AA Andere, H Kelstrup, V Emery, CJ Picard. (2020)  The yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) genome: Implications for an emerging industry.  Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, https://doi.org/10.3920/jiff2019.0057.  https://www.wageningenacademic.com/doi/abs/10.3920/jiff2019.0057
  • C Rhode, R Badenhorst, KL Hull, MP Greenwood, AE Bester-van der Merwe; AA Andere, CJ Picard, C Richards. (2020)  Genetic and phenotypic consequences of early domestication in mass reared black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens).  Animal Genetics, 51: 752-762.   
  • T Eriksson, CJ Picard.  (2020) Review: Genetic and genomic selection in insects as food and feed.  Journal of Insects as Food and Feed (Accepted). 
  • S-S Yang, W-M Wu, AM Brandon, H-Q Fan, JP Receveur, Y Li, Z-Y Wang, R Fan, RL McClellan, S-H Gao, D Ning, DH Phillips, B-Y Peng, H Wang, S-Y Cai, P Li, W-M Cai, L-Y Ding, J Yang, J Ren, Y-L Zhang, J Gao, D Xing, N-Q Ren, RM Waymouth, J Zhou, H-C Tao, CJ Picard, ME Benbow, CS Criddle. (2018) Ubiquity of polystyrene digestion and biodegradation within yellow mealworms, larvae of Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Chemosphere, 212: 262-271.
  • JK Tomberlin...CJ Picard, et al. (+ 54 authors). (2015) "Protecting the environment through insect farming as a means to produce protein for use as livestock, poultry, and aquaculture feed". Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 1(4): 307-309.
  • National Science Foundation IIP-1841482. I/UCRC Planning Grant: Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insects Farming (CEStIns). 2019-2020. (Co-PIs: Andrea Liceaga, Purdue University, Yunlong Liu, IUSM)
  • Beta Hatch Inc./Department of Defense SBIR Phase II Subcontract. Genomics of Beetles. 2019-2021.
  • Beta Hatch Contract.Population genomics of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor. 2018.