Undergraduates from across disciplines joined Dr. Bill Lamp & Grad Assistant Amanda Rae Brucchieri for an i-series course ripped from the headlines, “BSCI145 The Insect Apocalypse: Real or Imagined”, a new course that encouraged students to learn more about the natural world and interpret scientific information presented to them. Over the semester students applied their knowledge through hands-on experiences in the classroom, lab and even field trips.
Thorne quoted in NY Times
Earlier in May while some of us were scrolling through photos of the coronation across the pond, Prof Emerita Dr. Barbara Thorne was quoted talking about another monarch - the Termite King. She told The New York Times that "“There are some parallels to our monarchy system for humans.” Read article here>>
Congratulations to Dr. Tammatha O'Brien, Principal Lecturer & Director of The Master of Professional Studies in Applied Entomology Program, for being named among UMD's Women of Influence. Tammatha is an outstanding lecturer who consistently and meaningfully supports women minorities in our community both inside and outside of the classroom. Fellow faculty member Louisa Wu says, “She cares very much about students and her colleagues, and she strongly promotes DEI and civil rights work in her teaching and campus service. I am inspired by all that she does.”
[Seminar Blog] Enhancing ecological interactions through vegetation diversification: living mulches in tropical agroecosystems
written by: Leo Kerner & Angela Saenz
Imagine a lush, highly diverse field of papaya that requires limited chemical interference to control insect and weed pests. This is the reality of living mulch. Dr. Robin Gomez, an associate professor of Weed Science at the University of Costa Rica, studies sustainable pest control methods in tropical ecosystems. He suggests that the key to successful implementation of sustainable agricultural practices relies on acquiring specialized knowledge of each system.
When you see a honey bee buzzing around, or while you spread honey on your toast, have you ever wondered how old the honey bees that are visiting flowers or making honey are? The answer is: it depends. Worker honey bees assume different jobs in their life, and that role changes with age. Young workers take care of the colony, nursing and feeding the larvae. Later they become guards, protecting the hive. When the worker bee is even older, they take on the job of exploring the outdoors and foraging nectar and pollen for the colony. So, a bee pollinating a flower is probably older than the bee that made your honey.
written by: Mariom Carvajal
Insects are critical to the function of ecosystems and provide benefits to humans, such as pollination and biological control. Although many insects hold great economic and cultural value to humans and benefit our lives, some reduce agricultural productivity and others pose risks to human health. To find new ways to manage these pests, some Entomologists turn to the study of invisible cellular processes or insect-microbe interactions. Two research in progress talks presented on March 10th 2023 by University of Maryland researchers, Dr. Anastasia Naumenko and Mr. Brendan Randall, focused on how knowledge of these microscopic processes can be used for the benefit of agricultural and public health systems.
By Ben Gregory
These days, most Americans don’t worry too much about malaria, the deadly disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite and spread by Anopheles mosquitoes (Figure 1, left). That wasn’t always the case, however. In fact, during the nineteenth century, malaria was one of the leading causes of death in the United States, affecting nearly every corner of the country, but particularly the south (Hong 2008). Fortunately for those of us living here today, malaria is extremely rare. This is thanks to sweeping control and public health measures taken by the CDC and its predecessor organizations in the early and mid-twentieth centuries. But, more recently, another mosquito-borne disease of concern has spread across the country: West Nile fever.
[Seminar Blog] Caste-switching jumping ants: studies on the plasticity of reproduction and lifespan
By Megan Ma
Dr. Francisco Carmona-Aldana (he/him), a postdoctoral scholar at the New York University School of Medicine, recently presented his research on “Ants: studies on the plasticity of reproduction and lifespan” which focuses on how ants obtain tradeoffs between reproduction and longevity through caste-switching. In the collaborative projects led by Dr. Danny Reinberg and Dr. Claude Desplan, he and his team study ants of the species Harpegnathos saltator as an experimental model to understand how aging can be regulated. H. saltator ants are peculiar in that workers can become pseudo-queens and take reproductive control of their colonies when a queen is absent. A group of 4 to 6 ants will undergo antennal dueling, a behavioral interaction to determine who will become pseudo-queens, or “gamergates.” These gamergates will have active ovaries, lay eggs, and extend their lifespans to accommodate this reproductive caste-switching. They live for 3 years in comparison to their lifespan as a former worker (1 year) and the maximum lifespan found in queens (5 years). In addition to altering the duration of their lifespans, gamergates have the potential to revert back to their worker states (induced in laboratory conditions). They can return to their original, non-reproductive role to perform their worker duties and no longer produce eggs.
Dr. Krisztina Christmon: Finding answers to the challenges presented by the honey bee parasite Varroa destructor
Written by: Lindsay Barranco
Dr. Krisztina Christmon has measured approximately 100,000 mites during the course of her PhD studies at the University of Maryland, which may very well be a world-record. She recently presented her research exit seminar entitled “Varroa destructor: abiotic and biotic correlates to body size, and the effects of size and host type on mite tolerance to acaricide exposure” and described how her inquiry into mite size variability began in 2016, as a new PhD student in the UMD Bee Lab. The UMD Bee lab administers the National Honeybee Disease Survey (NHDS), and maintains collected data from large and small-scale beekeepers across the United States in order to detect honey bee disease and monitor for invasive species. Invasive species, particularly varroa mites, pose a serious threat to honey bee health which in turn, potentially impacts the important pollination services honey bees provide to fruit and vegetable growers nationwide.
Back in 2021, an exciting entomological event happened in the DMV area. As part of Brood X, millions of periodical cicadas emerged in tandem, providing a unique opportunity for researchers to study these charismatic insects. Mary Salcedo from the Socha Lab of Virginia Tech contacted the UMD Cicada Crew, an Extension and Outreach group led by Dr. Raupp and Dr. Shrewsbury, with the intention of finding cicada emergence hubs to research insect wing expansion, and grad student Angela Saenz, a former member of the Cicada Crew, led the way and helped with their research. As stated in Salcedo et al. (2023), they found that during ecdysis, cicadas pump hemolymph through wing veins to expand their folded wing pads, and after pumping ~16% of their body mass, their fully expanded wings become even lighter than the wing pads. These findings provide new insights into the role of insects' circulatory system in wing expansion.
Post-Doctoral Associate Position in Shrewsbury Lab - Biological Control / IPM
Position Summary: This position addresses the use of natural enemies (including pathogens) in the biological control of the invasive spotted lanternfly (SLF, Lycorma delicatula) in urban environments. The project is part of a collaborative effort with USDA and other university researchers with opportunities for networking and Extension. The incumbent will also participate in the statistical analysis and publication of existing data sets.
Click here for more information.
The Dept of Entomology is buzzing with excitement as University of Maryland moves closer to bee campus certification. Dr. Hawthorne shares with The Diamondback that obtaining this certification could be beneficial to the well-being of the campus. Not only by enhancing pollinator habitat but by expanding courses on plants, pollinators and their interactions.
[Seminar Blog] What Influences Your Science? A Case Study on Cultural, Political, and Scientific Entanglement
written by: Amanda Rae Brucchieri and Robert Joseph Salerno
"The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Can this quote be contested? To answer this question, one must consider the way scientific knowledge is continually evolving. The scientific process is self-correcting, meaning the acceptance of ideas should be based on available data. What is often overlooked are the influences of politics, policy, culture, and community in the process of science and the acceptance of scientific data.
Dr. Fred Gould, a distinguished professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University whose relationship with the University of Maryland extends back over 30 years, addressed a full hall about this shadowed intersection of science and society. In his talk, Gould dove into the 16-year ban of Mendelian genetics in the Soviet Union and the history that resulted in the ban’s conception.
[Seminar Blog] Getting the Help you Need! Accessibility and Disability Service at University of Maryland
written by: Lasair ni Chochlain, Eric Hartel
Addressing the varied needs of graduate students as not only learners but also researchers and teachers is a complex job. The University of Maryland and the Department of Entomology are doing their best to tackle this issue head on in 2023. To learn more about how the disabilities of graduate students are accommodated at UMD, we invited the Director of Accessibility and Disability Service (ADS), Tessa Cahill, to come to the Entomology Dept. colloquium to present “Disability Compliance and Accommodations: A Graduate Student Experience.” Tessa is the inaugural director of ADS, which is currently going through a period of growth and expansion to better serve the campus community. These changes are the result of an an external review by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) and support from UMD’s Administration that has led to ADS hiring more full-time staff and expanding their reach across many departments. By embracing this review and the changes ADS has made, the University of Maryland has been able to provide a significant increase in support. Improved communication between counselors, students, and faculty is also helping to standardize and improve the quality of services offered. Tessa first spoke about “how we got here” on a national level and then about the role and services of ADS on the university level.
Congratulations to Entomology graduate students Katie Reding and Minh Le, from the Pick lab, for their publication "Genome editing of the vermilion locus generates a visible eye color marker for Oncopeltus fasciatus" in Scientific Reports. The study used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to generate an eye color mutant in Oncopeltus (Of). Bugs homozygous for mutations in the Of-vermillion gene are viable, fertile and have bright red rather than black eyes. This is the first visible, genetic marker for this species, paving the way for development of additional genetic tools in this emerging model system for Hemiptera. In addition, these studies mapped Of-vermillion to the X-chromosome, the first gene to be mapped to a chromosome in this species. Finally, experiments using RNAi showed that knocking down the Oncopeltus ortholog of the rosy gene (encoding xanthine dehydrogenase) in Of-vermillion mutants changed the body color from orange-red to yellow, thus identifying a second candidate gene useful as a visible marker.
Research-In-Progress talks are important opportunities for entomology graduate students to develop the communication skills necessary to become researchers in entomology and related disciplines. At the first research-in-progress talks of the spring 2023 semester, three graduate students presented their research, which cover different subfields of entomology: Theresa Menna, a 2nd-year Biological Sciences-CBBG PhD student in the Fritz Lab, Minh Le, a 2nd-year Entomology PhD student in the Pick Lab, and Max Ferlauto, a 4th-year Entomology PhD candidate in the Burghardt lab.
Every spring, visitors flock to Washington, DC, to see over a thousand Japanese cherry trees in full bloom along the Potomac River. This ephemeral event draws massive numbers of viewers and concludes once the trees have shed their petals, sometimes just a week after blooming. We don’t often think about petals after they’ve fallen, but recent research suggests that these petals are more than just visually pleasing. Dr. Rebecca Hale is an urban ecologist who leads the Watershed Science Lab, a team focused on investigating urban stream dynamics to understand how cities can develop more sustainably. Dr. Hale and her team have recently found evidence that petals from flowering trees can have a tremendous impact on nutrient levels in surrounding water systems. Even in urban settings, these water systems are a foundational component of the ecosystems we rely on.
The beautifully bright French marigold with its yellow, orange and mahogany blooms proves to be a bit too attractive to beneficial arthropods surrounding sweet corn fields. During the 2021 field season, researchers in the Hooks Lab and UMD Extension were busy, “Evaluating French marigold as a border insectary plant for the enhancement of beneficial arthropods in sweet corn plantings.” They found that while the marigold plants were indeed attracting beneficial arthropods such as encyrtid wasps and lady beetles, the beneficials remained near the marigold strips rather than dispersing throughout the sweet corn plots. The authors concluded that “when used as a border insectary plant, marigold may not improve biological control through predation and parasitization of economically important insect pests in sweet corn plantings”. Moreover, in the current study, marigold may have functioned as a natural enemy sink by luring natural enemies from sweet corn border rows.
Share your colleagues work with your networks. Here are a few posts ready to share via twitter and facebook.
written by: Ebony Michelle Argaez
Big data is the fuel of the 21st century, it is a part of our everyday lives; we produce and consume it. One example is the use of various types of data acquired from social media apps that are then used to deliver ads to targeted audiences. Yet, big data is also used in academia, health, science, and government for addressing research questions.
What is big data? Big data can be measured by its volume, variety, and velocity. Big data contains high volume in the form of many individual observations. Variety refers to many attributes associated with these observations. Velocity is the repetition of that volume and variety across some other dimension (e.g., time or populations). When preexisting big data sets are used in ecological studies, it is called ecoinformatics . Dr. Michael Crossley, an Assistant Professor and Agricultural Entomologist in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, uses ecoinformatics to understand how insect ecology is affected by changes in agricultural landscapes.
The Department of Entomology is pleased to announce Katy Evans and Arielle Arsenault-Benoit as the recipients of the first Charles F. Reichelderfer Memorial Mentorship Award for their outstanding impact on the professional development of their mentees. Each awardee made positive impacts on the academic ambitions of several people, but the mentorship of each was especially notable for inspiring an undergraduate student to pursue graduate work in Entomology. In fact, both mentees have now been accepted into a graduate program. We also recognize the positive impacts of two additional nominees with an Honorable Mention. Anthony Nearman and Maria Cramer provided much-valued and appreciated guidance to undergraduate and junior graduate students. We thank Katy, Arielle, Anthony and Maria for setting an important example in building a supportive professional community in our department.
Congratulations to the Fritz lab for their award winning posters at the Mid-Atlantic Mosquito Control Association (MAMCA) annual conference. UMD-SOARE student Sommer Stephens placed first, for her award winning poster, "Allele frequencies of Culex pipiens bioforms vary across an urban to rural gradient." When not messquitoing around in the Fritz lab for the summer, Sommer is a student at NC State majoring in Animal Sciences. Sommer's proud UMD mentor, Arielle Arsenault-Benoit, also placed in the poster competition with her work, "Spatiotemporal organization of cryptic North American Culex species along an urbanization gradient in greater Washington, D.C."
Link to MAMCA announcement: https://mosquito-va.org/scc-poster-competition
written by: Taís Ribeiro and Brendan Randall
It is crucial for graduate students to learn how to design and execute scientific research. Using this research as an informative tool that affects both the livelihoods of people and addresses public needs is essential to communicating science. The ongoing educational partnership between the public and scientists is known as extension and it is one of the pillars of the Department of Entomology.
At the first Entomology Research in Progress Seminars, we heard about the work of two researchers that not only perform scientific research but are actively involved in the dissemination and application of their research to solve problems faced by growers and the public. The postdoc Dr. Nathalie Steinhauer and her work in extension in Beekeeping operations, and the PhD Candidate Maria Cramer, who works in agricultural environments. Both of these researchers are passionate about teaching and learning from stakeholders by showing their scientific results and seeing how applied science affects people’s lives.