These are the Entomology projects that our Summer Research Scholars will be tackling in 2020. Faculty members associated with each project are also listed. You can read more about their programs by clicking on their names.
1. Smart Smells: Using volatiles for early detection of pests and pathogens
The Applied Chemical Ecology Technology lab seeks to understand the chemical communication of insects, plants, and micro-organisms in order to develop applied solutions to agricultural problems and scale them with technology. The summer scholar will be working to collect chemical signals, analyze them using automated instrumentation, and evaluate effects on behavior using bioassays. Students will have the opportunity to work in the field and the lab with insects, plants, and nematodes. Additionally, students will get experience with chemical instrumentation, analysis and applying that knowledge to agriculturally relevant systems.
- Field: 25%, Lab 75%
- Faculty: Willett
2. Loeb Lab – Insect Ecology and Sustainable Management of Arthropod Pests of Grapes and Berries
The Loeb lab studies the ecology of arthropods that impact fruit crops, especially grapes and berries. We then use this knowledge to develop sustainable pest management solutions. One example is our work on spotted wing drosophila (SWD), one of the most significant invasive arthropods affecting berries in the United States. While insecticides are the most commonly used method of pest management for SWD, alternative approaches are needed. We are studying the chemical ecology of SWD to gain insights into how we can manipulate their behavior through repellents and attractants. As another example, there is a new approach to producing strawberries involving growing them under plastic tunnels, which has a number of advantages, but also several challenges with arthropod pests, especially spider mites and Lygus bugs. We are investigating the use of natural enemies (predators, insect diseases) for these pests as alternatives to insecticides. The summer scholar will have the opportunity to conduct research on arthropod pests of grapes and berries that will contribute to their sustainable management.
- Field: 30%, Lab: 70%.
- Faculty: Loeb
3. What impacts the susceptibility of insects to the biopesticide Bt and transgenic Bt-crops?
The soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is the most widely used environmentally friendly bioinsecticide in agriculture and public health. The current genetically modified insect-resistant crops are all engineered with the insecticidal protein genes from Bt to confer insect-resistance. However, the molecular modes of action of various insecticidal Bt toxins in insects have yet to be understood fully, and evolution of resistance of insect populations to Bt toxins 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.
- Lab: 100%.
- Faculty: Wang
4. Biocontrol Down Under: enhancing the use of insect-pathogenic organisms to control soil-dwelling pests
Soil houses one of the most biodiverse arthropod communities on earth. These communities are comprised of multiple trophic groups including herbivores, decomposers, fungivores, and predators. While we know that arthropods 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. Research in the Wickings lab focuses on the ecology and management of soil arthropods, including both pests and beneficial organisms. Our interests span basic and applied aspects of soil ecology and we are currently working in we anticipate mentoring a summer scholar in one of our many ongoing research areas including:
- understanding the impact of pest management practices on soil biological health and belowground ecosystem services
- developing methods to enhance the effectiveness of biological control against belowground pests
- investigating the ecology of belowground plant-insect-microbe interactions
- Field: 50%, Lab: 50%.
- Faculty: Wickings
5. Sounds of Soil
The monitoring of soil dwelling animals is challenging, but is a critical step in the sustainable management of root-feeding pests. This project will explore the potential use of bioacoustics for the detection and characterization of soil animals. The project will involve testing the utility of different acoustic sensors in laboratory settings and evaluating the sensitivity of sensors for detecting soil animals under field conditions in managed grass systems.
- Field 50%, Lab 50%
- Faculty: Wickings
6. Integrated Pest Management for Vegetable Crops
In 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 more of these important crops.
- Field: 70%, Lab: 30%.
- Faculty: Nault