These are the Entomology projects that our Summer Research Scholars will be tackling in 2019. 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
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
2. Zeroing in on an Ambrosia Beetle that Attacks Apple Trees
Black 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. Agro-ecology of arthropod pests
The Loeb lab studies native and invasive pest species and their impacts on small fruit agricultural commodities in New York, including strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and grapes. We then aim to use this information to develop applied solutions to pest management. Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is one of the most significant invasive arthropods affecting small fruit crops in the United States. While insecticides are the most commonly used method of pest management for SWD, alternative approaches are increasingly in demand. 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 identification of repellent and attractant volatile organic compounds will lead to better pest monitoring and deterrence in the field. Biological control using entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi are also of interest and we are beginning to study the differential effects of ground-focused applications, targeting the vulnerable pupal life stage. We also study overwintering biology and behavior, and how abiotic and biotic factors drive population dynamics, with the aim of identifying and interrupting overwintering populations. The summer scholar would have the potential to work on any of these projects, learn about SWD, and more broadly, invasive species management in small fruit agriculture.
Field: 30%; Lab: 70%. Faculty: Loeb
4. Smart Smells: Using volatiles for early detection of pests and pathogens
Plants attacked by pests and pathogens undergo distinct physiological changes that can be invisible to most observers. These physiological changes often occur well before other visible symptoms of infection become apparent to humans scouting agricultural fields for problems. These physiological changes resulting from pest and pathogen attack can be detected in other ways, however. Upregulation of plant defenses as a result of pest infestation or pathogen infection can cause the release of a number of volatile organic compounds both in the air aboveground and in the root zone belowground. By monitoring these volatile chemicals, we can look for fingerprints of early pest and pathogen attack. This information is important to producers, so they can respond before the pests and pathogens become a problem. Our primary focus with this project is identifying characteristic volatile profiles for use in developing sensors for early warning and detection of pests and pathogens. To identify these volatile profiles, we will use field and laboratory-based volatile collection techniques, identify these compounds using state-of-the-art automated gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), and apply supervised, semi-supervised, and unsupervised machine learning to the large datasets generated from the automated GC-MS analysis.
Field: 25%; Lab: 75%. Faculty: Willett
5. 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
6. UV light to manage spider mites
UV light has been demonstrated to suppress some plant diseases and arthropod pests. This technology could be especially useful in organic production systems and in greenhouses. Spider mites are important pests of many crops and are often difficult to control. Research has shown that UV light can kill spider mites and suppress their populations. However, relatively little is known about this process including whether applications at particular points during the circadian rhythm are more effective than others (due to repair of damaged DNA), whether there are chronic as well as acute effects of UV exposure, and how susceptibility differs among life stages. It is also unknown how laboratory assays reflect effects under field conditions. This project will explore these questions using the two-spotted spider mite and hops system in the laboratory and in the field.
Field: 40%; Lab: 60%. Faculty: Nyrop