Trio from Pick Lab, Faculty Assistant Jessica Hernandez, Prof and Chair Leslie Pick and Grad Student Katie Reding, look into using a new study organism to discover novel genes and mechanisms. Their findings conclude that harlequin bugs are a versatile insect model, effective for examining gene expression. The Pick Lab takes us through their discovery, from rearing harlequin bugs in the lab to where they see molecular genetic analysis of harlequin bugs leading. Learn more in their latest paper out this month in EvoDevo "Oncopeltus-like gene expression patterns in Murgantia histrionica, a new hemipteran model system, suggest ancient regulatory network divergence."
Congratulations to Professor Maile Neel on receiving the Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award from the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB). Given to individuals who have been “a leader in translating principles of conservation biology into real-world conservation”, Neel is recognized for her work translating her research on species recovery and genetic diversity into practical applications for restoration managers. Follow link to see SCB’s announcement with more on Neel's work being released by SCB in the near future.
Congratulations to Max Ferlauto (MS student, Burghardt Lab) on being named 2020 Smithsonian Institute Fellow (SIFP) and Joan Mosenthal DeWind Awardee. These awards will help fund his studies into Lepidoptera conservation, with the SIFP award supporting Max's work at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center this upcoming summer. See below for the Xerces Society press release on the DeWind Award and further information on Max's research.
When work from home orders were declared many of us left University of Maryland campus with the essentials. For Todd Waters, Ag Tech and UMD Insect Zookeeper, this meant bringing home some of the insects he cares for. He tells NPR All Things Considered that he is now housing spiders, assassin bugs, mantis, scorpions and tarantulas, just to name a few. Todd Waters is now engaging a new insect zoo audience, his roommates! Listen here, https://www.npr.org/…/bring-home-the-tarantulas-as-research…
Grad Student Darsy Smith and Professor Bill Lamp have an article out in a special edition of University of Maryland Extension's Agronomy News entitled, "Unexpected Outbreak of Cowpea Aphid in Alfalfa." Although outbreaks have been observed in the past, they warn that this outbreak, discovered by Terry Patton (Dively Lab), is considerable in size and extent. Follow link to see their guidance on identifying, monitoring and reporting this crop damaging pest.
Professor Emeritus Michael Raupp collaborates with researchers Ashley N. Schulz, Angela M. Mech, Craig R. Allen, Matthew P. Ayres and others to develop standardized tools for determining non-native insect impact. They are optimistic that standardized assessment tools can build consensus among experts, which in turn, could improve managers and policy makers' response to the threats imposed by non-native species. Their findings were published this month in NeoBiota. Follow link for publication, "The impact is in the details: evaluating a standardized protocol and scale for determining non-native insect impact"
Entomology Ph.D. candidate Maggie Lewis (Hamby Lab) has been awarded an Ann G. Wylie Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Maryland’s Graduate School. Awarded to students in the final stages of their doctorate, the Wylie Fellowship provides one semester of support during the 2020-2021 year.
Maggie’s dissertation research studies various aspects of the biology and management of spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), particularly its interactions with yeasts and plant pathogenic fungi. She also examines how insecticide spray coverage impacts SWD management and is trying to understand how to improve spray coverage within bramble production systems.
"This is a well-deserved award. Maggie has worked hard for it” said Kelly Hamby, Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist. “Maggie has made significant contributions to furthering integrated pest management programs for SWD. We are thrilled her work is being recognized in this way."
Please join us in congratulating Maggie on being named recipient of this award.
Postdoc Alina Avanesyan and Professor Bill Lamp have another publication out on the invasive lanternfly. The paper entitled, "Use of Molecular Gut Content Analysis to Decipher the Range of Food Plants of the Invasive Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula" was published in Insects special issue "Molecular Gut Content Analysis: Deciphering Trophic Interactions of Insects.” Their study is the first to show that host plant DNA can be identified within the gut contents of the spotted lanternfly. Molecular gut content analysis provides insight into the feeding behavior of lanternflies at all developmental stages and can be helpful in predicting host plant range. This research could improve the monitoring and management of this invasive species.
Krisztina Christmon (PhD student, vanEngelsdorp Lab), who is studying the host-parasite-pathogen interaction of honeybees, is co-author of a paper published in Viruses special issue: Advances in Honey Bee Virus Research. Follow link to read Krisztina’s first ever publication titled, “Development of a Honeybee RNA Virus Vector Based on the Genome of a Deformed Wing Virus.” Krisztina and her fellow researchers are hopeful that the development of these vectors could lead to the further understanding of viruses like deformed wing virus including similar viruses affecting different bee species.
Congratulations on reaching this milestone Krisztina!
Catching bugs isn’t just for entomologists: Inside the University of Maryland’s plant diagnostic lab
written by: Dongxu Chen, PhD student, Hawthorne lab and Katie Reding, PhD student, Pick lab
Every gardener, farmer, or landscaper will at some point find some mysterious spots on their prized plants, or perhaps find that a random subset of their crop has wilted overnight. To anyone who’s not an expert, the pathogens causing these diseases can be hard to identify and seemingly impossible to control. Indeed, it can take much more than a trained eye to properly diagnose many plant diseases; often, axenic culture (growing only the organism of interest without contaminants) of the pathogen is required, and in some cases molecular tests are warranted. Dr. Karen Rane, the entomology department’s resident plant pathologist and this week’s colloquium speaker, uses all of these tools and more to handle the roughly 700-900 diseased plant samples her plant diagnostic lab receives each year (Fig. 1)*.
Unusually warm weather has bugs emerging sooner than expected. "People need to understand that as soon as the temperatures reach maybe 55 to 60 degrees, those ticks are going to be active -- they’re going to be looking for food and that’s going to be you,” Professor Emeritus, Mike Raupp tells WBALTV. Raupp also reminds viewers, it’s not just pests that are emerging early it’s pollinators too.
Follow link to story: https://www.wbaltv.com/article/spring-like-temperatures-bugs-emerging/31262917?fbclid=IwAR1KByUyuwXxGF8D7uBW309zwn_Ql6gS2-3NR4FNCHuR5_B4MdniPZLStiM
MacCracken has a paper out in the Journal of Plant Sciences on Permian insect herbivory titled, "The Middle Permian South Ash Pasture Assemblage of North-Central Texas: Coniferophyte and Gigantopterid Herbivory and Longer-Term Herbivory Trends." Check out publication here>>
The St. Leger laboratory, Department of Entomology at The University of Maryland (UMD), invites applications for a Postdoctoral Scholar – Employee position starting Spring 2020 on a National Science Foundation funded project entitled “Unraveling the mechanisms by which novel fungal-plant associations evolve”. The candidate post-doctoral associate will work on a unique experimental system involving a radiating genus of fungi (Metarhizium spp) which have rapidly diversifying lifestyles. The goal is to ask fundamental questions about lifestyle shifts - where a pathogen jumps from one host (insect) species to another, or changes its role from just pathogen to plant symbiont. By taking a comparative approach, with a strong set of hypotheses from ecological and evolutionary theory, the project will provide insights into the genetic and molecular underpinnings determining evolutionary shifts in lifestyles that will be generally applicable to pathogens and hosts. Understanding these shifts is critical, especially in light of environmental change, invasive species and the laboratories work on transgenic approaches to controlling vectors of human disease. A combination of experimental approaches will be used, and there will be many opportunities to develop new projects to explore the evolution of lifestyle shifts.
Click here for the complete Job Announcement.
Written by: Elizabeth Z. Dabek, MS student (Hooks Lab) and Zac Lamas, PhD student (Hawthorne Lab)
Dr. Chris Nice, an evolutionary biologist from Texas State University, is working with a group of collaborators across the US to find clues as to how hybridization influences speciation. His work takes him to some amazing places, from coastal California to the alpines of the Sierra Nevada. In these areas he searches for a special genus of butterfly, the Lycaeides. Interspecies mating occurs within this group of related butterflies. Dr. Nice and his team search for a variety of cues to see if hybridization played a role in generating the diversity of species in this genus.
Congratulations to Aditi Dubey, Maggie Lewis, Galen Dively and Kelly Hamby whose research paper, "Ecological impacts of pesticide seed treatments on arthropod communities in a grain crop rotation", was published last week in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
Their findings, "Pesticide seed treatments can impact arthropod taxa, including important natural enemies even when environmental persistence and active ingredient concentrations are low."
written by: Maria Cramer, PhD student, Hamby Lab and Lindsay Barranco, MS student, vanEngelsdorp Lab
When you conduct research on urban pollinators, it’s impossible to ignore the way your research impacts people and the way people impact your research. This was the overarching message from Dr. Mary Gardiner who studies the ecology of urban greenspaces in Cleveland, Ohio.
Over the past several decades, Cleveland has lost half its residents, resulting from protracted economic decline. Currently, population levels equal what existed in Cleveland in 1900, resulting at least in part from a steady rise in home foreclosures. The home foreclosures and resulting vacant lots from demolished homes have led to a major increase in greenspace. The city of Cleveland maintains these lots by mowing on a monthly basis which costs the city upwards of 3 million dollars per year. Dr. Gardiner wondered if the weedy and grassy spaces within Cleveland’s 30,000 vacant lots could provide valuable bee habitat. Would planting flowering plants, exotic or native, provide better habitat than what the vacant lots offered? Which species of bees might these green spaces attract? And importantly, could providing bee habitat help beautify demolished and vacant areas?
Written by: Mike Nan, PhD student, St. Leger lab
Dr. Jian Duan, a Research Entomologist at USDA, is working on sustainable ways to manage the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) through introduction and establishment of natural enemies (stingless wasps) from the pest’s native range. This approach, also termed as classical biological control in the literature, can lead to permanent or sustainable reductions of pest populations. Dr. Duan explained that there are four stages in the invasion of new environment by a non-native species: (1) Transport (Introduction), (2) Establishment (or colonization), (3) Spread, and (4) Impact. There are two possible outcomes at each stage that can lead to either failure or success in progression.
written by: Max Ferlauto, MS student, Burghardt Lab
In this anthropogenic age, most natural, social, and economic systems are tightly linked. However, scholars studying these systems tend to be isolated by their respective disciplines. It is the role of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) to bridge this divide. SESYNC, located in Annapolis, MD, is one of four Synthesis Centers that have been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Synthesis Centers facilitate team research to generate discoveries from existing data, addressing fundamental questions and leading to innovative solutions. What sets SESYNC apart from other Synthesis Centers is its focus on linking natural and social science together.
The idea came about in 2010 at a small workshop during a discussion about the NSF’s call for a new Synthesis Center. Margaret Palmer, Bill Fagan – both professors at the University of Maryland, and Jonathan Kramer, the then director of the Maryland Sea Grant, decided that the new center needed to study socio-environmental not just ecological science. Palmer and Kramer, joined by ecological economist Jim Boyd, spent almost a year drafting the proposal. Their effort paid off and the NSF provided funding for SESYNC in 2011.
written by: Maria Cramer, PhD student, Hamby Lab and Veronica Yurchak, PhD student, Hooks Lab
Dr. Maggie Douglas, an assistant professor from Dickinson College, managed to stump most of a room full of entomologists when she asked them if pesticide use in United States agriculture was going up or down over time. There were a few embarrassed laughs, but Douglas reassured everyone; “It’s a complicated question. There’s disagreement in the scientific community.”
Congratulations to Gussie MacCracken (PhD Student, Shultz Lab) whose paper is out in Biology Letters today! Her research extends the history of plant–mite mutualisms back another 25 million years.
Publication: "Late Cretaceous domatia reveal the antiquity of plant–mite mutualisms in flowering plants." https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2019.0657