In honor of #NationalPollinatorMonth the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlights the amazing work of an incredible person, Dr. Anahi Espindola, Asst Prof at the University of Maryland. Anahi shares details on current NIFA projects, provides sage advice to up and comers & promotes DEI.
Read article her: https://go.umd.edu/cTJ
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Hot humid weather with scattered storms make conditions ideal for mosquitoes in the DMV. The Bug Guy, Prof Emeritus Mike Raupp, gives NBC4 tips on how individuals and their communities can fight the bite:
- eliminate breeding sites
- apply personal protection
- and use Gravid Aedes Trap
writen by: Demian A. Nuñez and Darsy Smith
The end of the semester is here! For the last weekly seminar series, the Entomology Department welcomed Dr. Jason Rasgon to speak about his research and experience with new molecular tools for gene editing in arthropods. Dr. Rasgon completed his Ph.D. at the Entomology Department of the University of California, Davis. There he had the opportunity to conduct research on Wolbachia infection dynamics, a naturally occurring bacteria that lives within several insect taxa and is passed from one generation to the next through their eggs. Since early in his career, he has successfully answered research questions in various systems, which has given him the experience to lead projects across a wide range of biology-subdisciplines. Currently, he is a professor of Entomology and Disease Epidemiology at Pennsylvania State University, where he integrates population biology, ecology, molecular tools, and theory to answer both fundamental and applied questions in genetics. The main goal of Dr. Rasgon’s lab is the development of new methods that can be used to introduce transgenes into natural disease vector populations.
Before you bug out for the summer, we invite you to look back at Spring 2022 with us. DYK, the Entomology minor graduated its first students at spring commencement? Or that Dr. O’Brien was awarded the OMSE Excellence in Service Award this spring? Or that, in May, alum William Gimpel talked to the WaPo about developing alpha-gal syndrome after an encounter with a Lonestar tick? These are just a few of the stories mentioned in the Spring 2022 newsletter. Content also includes news on publications, awards, defenses and much more.
As weather warms lone star ticks are expanding their territory North. Mike Raupp explains in the New York Times more about the tick, including why its bite can lead to a red meat allergy called alpha-gal syndrome. & The Washington Post interviews alum William Gimpel about his experience after developing the syndrome.
Quote from Raupp in NYT: “What we’re now seeing is a wide-open door for ticks to continue expanding their range further northward”
Quote from Gimpel in Post: "I developed hives, fainted, my blood pressure dropped, and I told my wife on the way to the ER that I could not see. That has been my most serious reaction."
Read NY Times article here>>
Read Washington Post article here>>
Researchers document high recovery rate and spatial spread of EAB biological control agent S. galinae
The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a small and mesmerizing beauty and also one of the most destructive invasive species in the US. Since its introduction to the US in 2002 it has killed millions of ash trees causing serious economic and ecological damage. One approach for long term EAB management has been to introduce parasitic wasps from EAB’s native range to the US for biocontrol. A recent study by UMD and USDA researchers, Stokes Aker, Rafael de Andrade, Jian Duan and Dan Gruner – published this year in the Journal of Economic Entomology – takes a closer look at the performance of these wasps.
Their study suggests that Spathius galinae has a higher recovery and spatial spread compared to Spathius agrili, at least in Maryland. The authors would like to see continued monitoring and evaluation of both species to gain a better understanding of why one parasitoid appears to have gained a better foothold in Maryland than the other. Information like this is important to improve the efficacy of current biocontrol programs against EAB in North America.
Before concluding a shout out is needed. Congrats to Stokes Aker this is his 1st first-authored paper, and to Dan Gruner his proud UMD mentor.
This spring Dr. Hamby kicked off a new course BSCI487, “IPM: science-based decision making for sustainable pest management.” The course explores sustainable pest management in agroecosystems using the integrated pest management (IPM) paradigm. The class of 11 students met each Tuesday and Thursday for lecture, discussion, lab and the occasional field trip.
Sankara Ganesh, an undergraduate Biological Sciences major specializing in Ecology and Evolution with a minor in Entomology and Sustainability, describes the course as the perfect overlap between his interests in biology and sustainability. The class taught him about the various consequences of pesticide overuse including risks to human health, environmental contamination, non-target effects on beneficial arthropods, and the development of pesticide resistance. Now that Sankara has taken the course he feels even more enthused about IPM, saying “The key to managing pests while minimizing consequences lies within IPM.”
Sankara highly recommends the course, saying “It's the kind of course that students from any major can enjoy and succeed in as long as they make an effort to learn and participate. Also, Dr. Hamby is a very patient and understanding professor who treats all of her students with respect and kindness.” So, if you are interested in learning more about pest management, sustainable food production and the health of our planet, consider registering for BSCI487 when it is offered next. The course is acceptable toward Biological Specialization Areas: ECEV and GENB (Ecology, Behavior & Organismal category) and the Entomology minor.
When Terps graduate this semester, some will be stepping off the stage with the Entomology minor on their diploma. The minor program is designed to provide students with a broad understanding of the form and function of insects, their interactions with people and society, and their role as model species for fundamental and applied research. After fulfilling the core course requirements in general and advanced entomology, minors take two to three electives that cover a wide variety of subjects including, advanced biology, pollination biology, plant sciences, and environmental sciences.
Grace Soltis, a Biological Sciences: Ecology and Evolution Specialization student (soon to be alum!), was the first student to join the minor when it launched in 2021 and will be one of the first to graduate. She joined Dr. Dan Gruner’s lab in January of 2020. In 2021, Grace was awarded the Ernest N. Cory Undergraduate Scholarship for her extraordinary efforts in Entomology. In May we congratulated her once more, this time for successfully defending her entomology honors thesis, "Periodical cicadas emergence triggers dramatic shift in avian foraging,” a project that measured the impact of Brood X cicadas on the food webs of Maryland forests.
It has been wonderful having Grace in the Entomology Minor and Honors Program. We wish her all the best in her next endeavor, a PhD program in Biology: Ecology and Evolution at Florida State University.
Please join us in congratulating Dr. Karen Rane, Director of UMD’s Plant Diagnostic Lab, for being named recipient of the National Plant Diagnostic Network’s (NPDN) Lifetime Achievement Award.
Quote from NPDN announcement:
“Since the beginning, NPDN has benefited from Rane’s practical experience and advice, whether it was in developing training tools, setting priorities or mentoring new diagnosticians.”
Read the networks full press release here: https://www.nifa.usda.gov/about-nifa/blogs/national-plant-diagnostic-network-recognizes-outstanding-service-lifetim
written by: Mintong Nan and Lindsay Barranco
Let’s face it. Graduate school can be a wonderful experience, but there are stressors aplenty - from financial worry to time management, coping with expectations of yourself and others, all in a field of scientific research - where the nature of the work involves a high degree of uncertainty and uncharted territory1, 2. These cumulative pressures can all lead to a great deal of stress for the graduate student, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, skilled and caring professionals like Ms. Simone Warrick-Bell are there if needed. Ms. Warrick-Bell has been a graduate student academic counselor for the University of Maryland (UMD) Graduate School since early 2020, and prior to 2020 she was a care manager with the UMD counseling center. She holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. Her works include individual consultation sessions and leading graduate student circle sessions, which were created solely to support UMD graduate students. The entomology department was happy to welcome Ms. Warrick-Bell to our Friday seminar series and to hear more about the services she provides through the Graduate School.
written by: Ebony Argaez and Minh Le
The natural world is teeming with gorgeous and awe-inspiring biological structures, patterns, and colors that cannot be described via mere words alone. During the digital age, accurate and realistic imagery of these specimens can be obtained through the lens of a camera. However, the camera can only capture what is, not what could have been. Exquisite imagery requires the gentle and imaginative hand of an artist like Taina R. Litwak a scientific illustrator with the US Department of Agriculture’s Systematic Entomology Lab and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History who joins this week’s entomology colloquium at the University of Maryland to talk about entomological art in the digital age.
written by: Eric Hartel
Combining different schools of thought or discipline can lead to more meaningful discovery and understanding. The work of Dr. Chris Hamilton addresses this by studying Aphonopelma, a group of tarantulas that are found in the incredible and unique biome of sky islands in the southwestern United States and Mexico. This group of tarantulas are important as a marker for understanding the region, and hold a place of cultural significance in the San Carlos Apache creation story. What is a sky island you ask? They are made of mountain ranges that are surrounded by desert valleys. These mountains create interesting temperature and humidity gradients that play host to various stratified environments. These environments are similar to ocean islands because the deserts take the role of the impassable ocean, isolating organisms to specific islands if they can not cross the desert. The tarantulas in this area have no way to cross the large deserts and are partitioned into their niches across this area. The speciation and diversity of these tarantulas can shed light on the geologic history, evolution, and current state of this understudied diversity hot spot.
We are very pleased to announce that the winner of the CMNS Board of Visitors Junior Faculty Award is Entomology's Assistant Professor, Karin Burghardt! Karin’s work focuses on human-mediated impacts on plant and insect community interactions and populations. In addition to carrying out this research Karin is a highly engaged university citizen. She teaches undergraduate level courses, serves on a number of committees and shares her knowledge about sustainable practices with the general public.
Please join us in congratulating Karin on this well deserved recognition. & FYI, Karin will be presenting at Science on Tap Monday, May 2, so swing by her talk if you are able. A great opportunity to congratulate her in person and learn more about her work.
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written by: Maria Cramer and Huiyu Sheng
Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is a pest that causes backyard berry growers and commercial farmers alike a lot of grief. Native to Eastern Asia, this fruit fly (closely related to the famous Drosophila melanogaster) first appeared in the mainland U.S. in 2008. Like other fruit flies, SWD lays eggs in fruit, but unlike others, it has a sharp ovipositor that allows it to cut through fruit skin and lay eggs inside (Figure 1). Because of this, SWD larvae aren’t restricted to rotting or damaged fruit– they can infest otherwise perfect produce. Their favorite fruits include raspberries, blackberries, grapes, and cherries.
Besides the ick-factor, the wounds from cutting into fruit can introduce microorganisms that cause the fruit to rot. To make things worse, because they’re inside fruit, the larvae are protected from insecticide sprays (Figure 2). This means farmers have to instead target the adult flies, which requires frequent insecticide applications. Spraying insecticides over and over has many downsides; it’s expensive for farmers, it could hurt other insects, and it could even put pressure on SWD to develop resistance to the chemicals themselves, making them less effective.
Dr. Torsten Schöneberg would love to see an end to this “spray and pray” approach for managing SWD. Currently a researcher at Agroscope in Switzerland, Dr. Schöneberg recently completed a postdoc in the Hamby Lab at the University of Maryland. He returned to the Entomology Department’s weekly seminar series to give an update on the research he did during this time.
Beyond the honeybee: How many bee species does a meadow need for pollination and ecosystem health? Way more than previously known according to a new study by UMD Ento's postdoctoral associate Michael Roswell. Follow link to read full AGNR article, https://go.umd.edu/qD2
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[Seminar Blog] Exploring the Role of Sunflower Pollen in Mediating Disease in the Common Eastern Bumblebee
The Entomological Society of America's Eastern Branch Early Career Award recognizes early professionals who have made outstanding contributions to entomology, shown commitment to extension or outreach, and excelled in entomological education. Congratulations to Dr. Karin Burghardt, the recipient of this year's award!
Dr. Karin Burghardt is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland College Park. Trained as a community ecologist, she specializes in understanding plant-insect interactions in human-modified landscapes ranging from suburban yards to abandoned agricultural fields to managed forests. Her research and extension program helps determine best practices for how humans can share space with a variety of flora and fauna.
In April, Karin will be honored at the Eastern Branch Meeting in Philadelphia and entered for consideration for the Society–level award given at ESA's Annual Meeting. Congratulations again on the well-deserved recognition Dr. Burghardt!
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[Seminar blog] The role of interaction networks in describing plant-pollinator interactions and predicting vulnerability to environmental change
written by: Kathleen Evans
While there remains more to learn about the functional role that biodiversity plays in agroecosystems, it is evident that high-diversity ecosystems promote important ecosystem services such as decomposition and nutrient cycling, pollination, and biotic pest control (Tscharntke et. al. 2005). Biodiversity is thought to provide ecosystem stability and resilience to disturbance, but such evidence is scarce. Significant losses in biodiversity occurred during the post-war era when agriculture practices transformed from traditional to modern and rapid agriculture intensification practices created more homogeneous and simplified landscapes (Tscharntke et. al. 2005; Vandermeer 1997). Unfortunately, there is still a knowledge gap in our understanding of how changes in land-use and simplification have altered the local and regional ecological processes, community structure and ecosystem services. Interaction networks enable us to understand how ecological communities assemble and function and is a useful tool for measuring changes in the stability and resilience of ecological communities. Dr. Adam Vanbergen, Director of Research (écologie des insectes) UMR Agroécologie in Dijon, France, studies interspecific interaction networks (e.g. plant- pollinator) and ecosystem services (e.g. pollination) and how they are affected by environmental change and kindly shared his work with the UMD Entomology Department at our weekly seminar series.
[Seminar Blog] “One should make one’s life a mosaic. Let the general design be good, the colors lively, and the materials diversified.” – Marthe Bibesco
written by: Eva Perry and Jonna Sanders
Dr. Joe Hanly’s research on speciation genomics in Colias Butterflies (sulphurs) of North America is the very embodiment of this phrase, through his investigation of wing patterns in the evolution and diversity of these butterflies. A post-doctoral researcher at George Washington University, Dr. Hanly’s research for the past several years has focused on understanding the relationship between genotypes to phenotypes, or rather, how specific genomes, through the processes of development and evolutionary selection, lead to specific phenotype expressions in wing patterns in Colias butterflies.
When Krisztina Christmon, PhD Student, vanEngelsdorp Lab, finds time away from studying host-parasite-pathogen interaction of honeybees she can be found working out ways to clean up and recycle agricultural plastics.
“Plastic films and tubing are essential for farming but at the end of the season most of these materials end up in landfills, burnt in the field, or buried in the soil,” explained Christmon. “The safer alternative would be to recycle them; however the recycling infrastructure of the U.S. is not equipped to handle many farm plastics.”
Read more in Momentum Winter 2022 edition