Congrats team Checkerspots - Maggie Lewis, Taís Ribeiro, Maria Cramer, and Kristin Jayd- for scoring 2nd place in the entomology Games at the Entomological Society of America's Eastern Branch meeting! This fall University of Maryland Checkerspots are headed to Denver, where they will compete at the national level. Go Checkerspots!!!!!
Assessing patterns of genetic diversity and structure of foundation species helps researchers better understand population dynamics in order to establish effective conservation strategies. Postdoc Magdalene Ngeve, Neel Lab, collaborated on an extensive study on the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata in the Western Indian Ocean. Findings of that study were published in Scientific Reports earlier this month: “Expansion of the mangrove species Rhizophora mucronata in the Western Indian Ocean launched contrasting genetic patterns.” The authors hope their findings will, one day, be integrated with other regional genetic data to further understand the connectivity of mangroves at a global scale.
written by: Angela Saenz and Eva Perry
On February 12th (2021), Dr. Zoe Getman-Pickering, who obtained her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2020 and is currently a postdoctoral scientist working at George Washington University with John Lill, spoke in the Entomology Colloquium series about her research related to the tri-trophic interactions between plants, herbivorous insects, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (referred to as mycorrhizal fungi, or mycorrhizae, hereafter). She described her work on the relationship between plants and mycorrhizal fungi, and the biotic and abiotic factors influencing this relationship.
Measuring and comparing biodiversity is challenging because rare species are often undetected. So, what can researchers do to address these sampling issues in biodiversity measurement? Michael Roswell, Postdoc in Espindola Lab, and colleagues have a new paper out in Oikos that recommends using two tools in tandem -coverage and Hill diversity.
Join us in congratulating Michael on this recent pub entitled, “A conceptual guide to measuring species diversity,” "Editor's Choice" of the March issue in Oikos, and now one of the most downloaded Oikos articles from the past 2 years.
Hamby Lab has a new paper out in Insects that describes the current use of cultural controls in the management of the invasive spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), a small insect that causes big problems for fruit crops. Paper entitled, “Cultural Control of Drosophila suzukii in Small Fruit—Current and Pending Tactics in the U.S.”
In this paper first authors, Torsten Schöneberg (Postdoc) and Margaret Lewis (PhD student), explain cultural controls as a pest management technique that modifies production practices and the crop environment to reduce pest populations and damage. By reporting on the approaches and effectiveness of various cultural controls for SWD management, from pruning to irrigation methods, the authors hope to further encourage fruit growers to adopt these techniques as an alternative to pesticide use.
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Rethinking teaching biology to be gender neutral through careful wording of course-specific material concerning gender identity, disability, and Race
Written by: Mike Nan
Dr. Karen Hales is a Biology Professor at Davidson College who employs genetic tools with the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) model to understand the molecular mechanisms of mitochondria function in cells. While past colloquium speakers have presented on the latest research in their lab, Dr. Hales addressed an even more pressing, teaching topic: Enhancing inclusivity in undergraduate science courses through careful wording of course-specific material concerning gender identity, disability, and race.
"Maryland is at the epicenter of the cicada emergence, so there will be spectacular numbers of cicadas emerging very heavily, starting perhaps in early May," Michael Raupp, Prof Emeritus at UMD, told WJLA. "But the big ‘cicada-palooza’ is going to happen the last two weeks of May and into early June. So in some areas, there will be 1.5 million cicadas per acre emerging from the ground."
WJLA article: 'Cicada-palooza' is coming. Maryland will be at the epicenter
Katie Reding and Leslie Pick’s paper, High Efficiency CRISPR/Cas9 Mutagenesis of the white Gene in the Milkweed Bug Oncopeltus fasciatus has been chosen for GSA journals’ 2020 Spotlight Collection of research and scholarship. The collection curated by the editors showcases noteworthy examples of genetics and genomics investigations. Congratulations to the Pick Lab for this exciting recognition!
Visit the collection here: https://academic.oup.com/genetics/pages/spotlight
More on the article: Entomology graduate student Katie Reding (Pick lab) used CRISPR/Cas9 to make a genomic deletion of the white gene in the milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus. The white gene was one of the first genes identified in Drosophila, over 100 years ago, where it is necessary for the red eye color of flies. Interesting, in Oncopeltus, white is necessary for pigmentation throughout the body but it is also necessary for organismal survival, as animals homozygous for the white mutations do not survive to adulthood. This is the first demonstration that CRISPR is effective in Oncopeltus. Methods Katie developed will be useful for researchers to test the function of other genes in this and related species.
In the spring, trillions of periodical cicadas are expected to emerge. "They will be a source of wonder and consternation as they emerge from the earth and lay eggs in treetops.” writes Prof. Emeritus Mike Raupp in Tree Care Industry Association Magazine.
Exciting news out of Hooks Lab!
Congratulations to Veronica Yurchak & Demian Nunez who placed 1st and 2nd, respectively in the Graduate Student poster contest held during the Virtual Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. The judging panel saw 24 poster entries in total, and our students posters stood out as top. Award winning posters listed below.
Title: Using a living mulch in reduced tillage sweet corn Authors: Veronica Yurchak, Alan Leslie and Cerruti RR Hooks
Title: Developing a perennial living mulch system for Mid-Atlantic cantaloupe growers. Authors: Demian Nunez, Macarena Farcuh, Karin Burghardt and Cerruti RR Hooks
Katy Evans, PhD student in Espindola Lab, co-authors new publication w/ Penn State researchers, "The Role of Pathogen Dynamics and Immune Gene Expression in the Survival of Feral Honey Bees" out in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution earlier this month. Their research shows feral colonies may have higher tolerance to pathogens than managed honey bee colonies. Understanding environmental and genetic factors behind the feral bees' increased immunity could help beekeepers combat colony losses.
For more details about the study, check out Penn State's press release.
Krisztina Christmon is the current president of ESO and is a third year PhD student in the vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab studying the honey bee parasite Varroa destructor. You can find her either at the lab or by the microscope. If not, then she’s probably gone surfing! Krisztina is passionate about the host-parasite pathogen interactions. Follow the link to get an in depth look at her collaboration with the USDA. https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/12/4/374/xml
With Brood X only months away from emerging, Newsweek asks Raupp what to expect and what to look forward to. Follow link to read full article.
Quote: " Although the idea of swarms of insects appearing from the earth may sound "unbearable and frightening," Raupp said, "this is a wonderful opportunity for millions of people to witness and enjoy a remarkable biological phenomenon in their own backyard that happens nowhere else on the planet, truly a teachable moment."
Congratulations to the recipients of the Spring 2021 Ernest N. Cory Undergraduate Scholarship! This scholarship provides up to $1,000 for undergraduate students each semester who have creatively contributed to Entomology Department research and/or extension efforts. Choose, "Read More" to find out more about Elizabeth Butz, Sophia Barringer & Madison Tewey and their extraordinary efforts in Entomology.
We are very pleased to announce that the winner of the CMNS Board of Visitors Junior Faculty Award is Entomology's Assistant Professor, Megan Fritz! Megan’s work focuses on the study of insect evolution in response to a constantly changing environment. The lab uses molecular, genomic, and computational tools to shed light on the genomic variants that facilitate adaptation. Her outstanding research program has produced significant publications and attracted external funding. She has received two prestigious USDA- NIFA grants, which support her efforts to utilize genomic approaches to solve critical real-world problems and train students and postdoctoral fellows. Megan is a highly engaged university citizen, she teaches graduate and undergraduate level courses, participates in outreach and serves on a number of department and University committees. Congratulations Megan on this well-deserved recognition!
Professor Emeritus, Galen Dively and his colleagues have a new paper out in the Journal of Economic Entomology titled, “Sweet Corn Sentinel Monitoring for Lepidopteran Field-Evolved Resistance to Bt Toxins” The study demonstrates that the sentinel plot approach as an in-field screen can effectively monitor phenotypic resistance and document field-evolved resistance in target pest populations, improving resistance monitoring for Bt crops. As a direct result of Galen’s research, the EPA has proposed a number of changes to the way the agency monitors genetically modified crop technologies. This fall Galen presented his research at the Fall Entomology Seminar Series. Check out PhD students Darsy Smith and Veronica Yurchak's Seminar Blog summarizing that talk.
On a related note, a recent Maryland Farm & Harvest episode covered several stories on corn production, including a segment at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center featuring Galen’s research on genetically modified corn.
written by: Demian Nunez and Madeline Potter
Neonicotinoids are most commonly known to the public as a class of chemicals responsible for widespread pollinator decline. To growers they are a cheap means of dealing with historically difficult soil pests and are heavily used throughout the United States as a preventative measure. Given their prevalence, are the benefits enough to justify their use? Recent University of Maryland (UMD) entomology graduate Dr. Aditi Dubey, Hamby Lab, addressed this question and more in her exit seminar, summarizing five and a half years of research.
Hunting the Flesh Eating Screwworms: Dr. John Welch and an entomological career of adventure and service
written by: Graham Stewart, Meghan McConnell, Tais Ribeiro
On the past November 20th, Dr. John Welch, Liaison for Action Programs of International Services (APHIS) and co-recipient of the 2020 Scientist of the Year Award, brought to the Entomology colloquium his example of a successful entomological career outside of academia, sharing some of his adventures and the many roles he has occupied. Although Dr. Welch’s work has involved a variety of issues, over the years his main focus has been on eradication of the screwworm (Fig 1), Cochliomyia hominivorax (Diptera: Calliphoridae). The screwworm is a deadly, parasitic fly that feeds on the living tissues of warm-blooded animals. It has many nicknames, one being “man-eater”. It has been a problem for livestock and humans for decades, leading to major economic losses for farmers. Two entomologists Edward F. Knipling and Raymond C. Bushland, are known for pioneering successful eradication efforts through the Agriculture Research Service (ARS). They developed the sterile insect technique (SIT), a low dose of radiation to make the screwworms sterile. The flies are then raised in a lab and released in infested areas. These sterile males mate with the females and the eggs laid do not mature.
written by: Eva Perry and Lindsay Barranco
At the beginning of his Entomology Department exit seminar presentation, graduate student Dylan Kutz asked his zoom-viewing audience “Who cares about spiders?” and “Why study drainage ditches?” – two questions that immediately grabbed everyone’s attention. Over the past three years Dylan has proven himself to be an adventurous and fearless researcher – sampling agricultural cropland drainage ditches for spiders in order to ascertain how they may facilitate natural pest management practices by supporting spider populations.
written by: Darsy Smith & Veronica Yurchak
Dr. Galen Dively, a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland, has become a leading figure in the effort to monitor and mitigate resistance development to genetically modified Bt corn, primarily addressing the very destructive corn earworm. At this week’s colloquium, Dr. Dively presented on his work designing a new approach for monitoring insect resistance in Bt corn, as well as how this approach is changing the way genetically modified crop technologies are regulated by the EPA.
"Assessing the impacts of seasonal leaf litter disturbance on overwintering pollinators and natural enemies" earns grad student Max Ferlauto first prize poster at AGNR cornerstone event. Watch video to see how Max's work supports the college's initiative to improve human, animal, and environmental health.
Congratulations to AGNR Enterprise Challenge winners, Krisztina Christmon and her fellow teammates.
Krisztina and her team were challenged to, in a 3 week time span, come up with an idea to turn empty poultry houses in Maryland into something else. Krisztina said, “It was a short but intense 2 weeks of brainstorming and research. We wanted something that would be easy to set up, sustainable, novel and profitable." The team pitched a plan to the judges to use the empty poultry houses to address the dark reality of the US plastic crisis. “It is such a mounting issue in Agricultural that it already has a name for itself: plasticulture.”says Krisztina. Their award winning plan, she shares “[to] turn these facilities into an agricultural plastic washing-sorting-recycling facility. In addition, we would develop a technology to neutralize the chemicals (pesticide, fertilizer etc.) of wastewater and in the end product”
The team won the competition's top cash prize and a spot in the MD and National iCorp program where they will learn more about entrepreneurship and ways to make their idea come alive.