Entomology Projects

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What project will you work on during your internship as a Summer Research Scholar? You should choose three (3) projects from the list below and note them in order of preference (e.g., 2, 4, 1) at the top of the APPLICATION FORM. We will do our best to accommodate your top choice.

Faculty members associated with each project are also listed. You can read more about their programs by clicking on their names.

1. Integrated Pest Management for Vegetable Crops

VegetablesIn New York, insect pests attack many of our high-value vegetable crops including potato, onion, cabbage, sweet corn, pumpkin, squash, pepper, tomato and snap bean. A primary goal of my research program is to develop integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for these crops that are practical, economical and environmentally responsible.  Students will learn about conventional and novel IPM strategies for many of the primary insect pests of New York’s most important vegetable crops. Moreover, students will have an opportunity to evaluate a novel IPM tactic for a major vegetable insect pest that limits productivity of one of these important crops.
Field: 80%; Lab: 20% Faculty: Nault

2. Zeroing in on an Ambrosia Beetle that Attacks Apple Trees

Ambrosia BeetleBlack stem borer is a tiny beetle that bores into the trunks of apple trees and creates a gallery that it fills with "ambrosia" fungus to feed its young, and infested trees can yellow, wither and die from the attack. We are trying to determine where and when this beetle is showing up, what attracts it to young apple trees, and how to prevent it from causing damage in orchards.  The Scholar will assist with trapping and monitoring for these beetles and their damage, and help assess the effectiveness of some management tactics to prevent them from damaging apple trees in western New York orchards. 
Field: 70%, Lab: 30% Faculty: Agnello

3. Using behavior modification to manage the invasive fruit fly spotted wing drosophila

Fly imageThe new invasive fruit fly Drosophila suzukii, aka spotted wing drosophila, is causing havoc to berry crops in the Northeast and many other regions of North America.  Unlike most other fruit flies that can only lay eggs in rotting fruit, spotted wing drosophila females have a very large, serrated egg-laying device that allows them to lay eggs in ripe, soft-skinned fruits such as raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and cherry. Consumers don’t generally appreciate the extra protein in their berries. Hence, raspberry and blueberry growers have needed to dramatically increase the amount of insecticide to produce a clean crop. This is costly both in terms of dollars and the environment.  As an alternative to insecticides, we are studying the volatile chemicals used by spotted wing drosophila to find or reject fruit hosts as part of a project to develop a method to manipulate fly behavior to reduce pest infestations. The student scholar will develop experiments to better understand behavioral responses of male and female SWD to aversive and attractive odors and their population level consequences. 
Field 20%, Lab 80% Faculty: Loeb

4. Acquisition and Transmission of Erwinia amylovora by Drosophila melanogaster

Fire blight on appleFire blight is a necrotic disease of rosaceous plants caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. Though outbreaks are sporadic, this pathogen has a significant economic impact on global apple and pear crops, decimating orchards and resulting in 100% crop loss in some cases. Insects have long been implicated in the disease cycle, but intimate details regarding their role in pathogen transmission are scarce. Anecdotally, dipterans will feed on the sugary, bacteria-laden exudate on diseased shoots, trunks, and fruitlets, but whether or not this interaction translates to pathogen spread is unknown. This project will investigate whether or not a model fly organism, Drosophila melanogaster, can acquire and transmit E. amylovora from fire blight ooze. We will use laboratory bioassays to assess numerous variables including: 1) whether the insect prefers to feed on diseased or healthy fruits; 2) if the insect carries the pathogen internally, externally, or both; 3) if the insect can transmit the bacteria to healthy fruits and shoots; and 4) if live bacteria can be cultured from insect frass.
Field 20%, Lab 80% Faculty: Loeb

5. What impacts the susceptibility or resistance of insects to the biopesticide Bt and transgenic Bt-crops?

caterpillarThe soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is the most successfully used biological insecticide in agriculture and public health. The current genetically modified insect-resistant crops are all engineered with the toxin genes from Bt to confer insect-resistance. However, the molecular modes of action of various insecticidal Bt toxins in insects are not fully understood, and evolution of resistance to Bt toxins in insect populations threatens the long-term future of Bt-biotechnology for environmentally benign pest management. We use biological, genetic and molecular approaches to study the mode of action of Bt toxins and mechanisms of insect resistance to Bt toxins. The scholar will participate in our research projects to conduct an independent study under guidance of and in collaboration with lab members.
Field: 0%; Lab: 100%. Faculty: Ping Wang

6.  Biocontrol Down Under: enhancing the use of insect-pathogenic organisms to control soil-dwelling pests

GrubSoil houses one of the most biodiverse insect communities on earth.  These communities are comprised of multiple trophic groups including herbivores, decomposers, fungivores, and predators.  While we know that insects thrive in the soils under our feet, we have a poor understanding of their basic ecology, and thus, soil is often considered a black box by many scientists.  This presents major challenges in soil insect pest management, especially biological control, which relies on a thorough understanding of how pests interact with their biotic and abiotic environment.  The Soil Arthropod Ecology Lab (SAEL) at Cornell University will be conducting field experiments on sod farms and golf courses throughout Central and Western, NY in 2017 to explore the potential use of beneficial, entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi to control root-feeding insects.  Our project will seek to enhance establishment of entomopathogens in soils and will identify soil biotic and abiotic conditions that promote their persistence. The participating scholar will acquire skills in the collection and identification of soil-dwelling insects and pathogens, and will learn laboratory procedures for quantifying soil entomopathogen persistence and infection.  The SAEL scholar will also become familiar with pest management and other practices used in turfgrass. 
Field: 50%; Lab: 50%. Faculty: Wickings 

7. Safe Sex for Insects: Using Genetics to Control Pest Populations 

MothIn 1962 Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring and challenged scientists to come up with more environmentally friendly ways to manage pests. In our program we search for novel and effective ways to manage insect pests. Many of these tactics involve studying the behavior, genetics and sexual reproduction of pest insects and using these findings to improve pest management, while ensuring safety to human health and the environment. Our target in this year’s research is using genetic approaches to control the Diamondback Moth, a global pest that causes an estimated $4-5 billion in damage annually. Join our international group of researchers as we conduct studies at the forefront of insect pest management. 
Summer scholar must be a Cornell student. 80% lab, 20% field. Faculty: Shelton