Congratulations Mayda Nathan (PhD student, Gruner Lab) on being selected to receive the Ecological Society of America's Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award! Mayda is currently studying the recent northward range expansion of Florida’s mangroves. As a recipient of the award Mayda will travel to DC this March to meet with lawmakers and advocate for federal funding for biological and ecological sciences.
Follow link to read ESA's press release:
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
written by: Nancy Harding
On November 5th the Entomology Department conducted an educational community outreach event that provided hands-on experience with insects and other arthropods to 27 students along with a couple of their teachers (Karen McCabe, Dan Hatfield and Brenda Stephens) from Pocomoke Middle School. Dr. William Lamp welcomed and provided the students with a glimpse into the fascinating world of insects. An overview of the innovative and important research currently being conducted in the department was provided by the following: Anna Noreuil, Ph.D. student (Fritz lab) gave a presentation and hands-on activity regarding the northern house mosquito; Rachel Kuipers, Lab Assistant (vanEnglesdorp lab) gave an overview of the research to further understand the loss in honey bee colonies in the United States; Maria Cramer, PhD student & Dr. Torsten Schöneberg (Hamby lab) spoke to the students about the important relationship between lady beetles (predator) and aphids (prey); Alexander Forde, Ph.D.student (Gruner lab) and Todd Waters, Agricultural Technician Supervisor and caretaker of the department’s Insect Zoo, gave the students an opportunity to look at and hold native and exotic arthropods. Nancy Harding, Research Assistant, (Shrewsbury lab) and Todd Waters set up and coordinated the visit from Pocomoke Middle School. Feedback from the students and teachers was extremely positive (see Pocomoke Middle School facebook page).
written by: Dylan Kutz, MS student, Lamp Lab
Whenever we see the words “genetically modified” in the news these days, they’re usually followed by two things: the word “crops” and a lot of controversy. Genetically modified crops or “GM” crops are crops that have had their DNA altered through genetic engineering to gain a desirable trait, such as pest suppression. While some fear the effects of genetically modified crops on human health, numerous studies have thoroughly debunked the myth that GM crops are dangerous to humans. Still, much remains unknown about whether insect-resistant GMO crops affect non-target insects after harvest, or even how they degrade after crops are harvested. Veronica Yurchak, a Ph.D. student working in the Hooks Lab at the University of Maryland’s Department of Entomology got to the bottom of these after-harvest mysteries in her master’s thesis.
Written by: Anna Noreuil, PhD student, Fritz Lab and Maggie Yuan, MS student, College of Edu
Shaded headwater streams are often overlooked by the average hiker, who may only fleetingly consider how they might leap across them to avoid wet feet. However, these streams are critical to aquatic and terrestrial ecological food webs and shouldn’t be simply ‘jumped’ over in terms of research. These food webs illustrate the connections and interactions that can exist between many different species in a natural community. In these illustrations, we can describe the transfer of ‘food energy’ in a system from one group of organisms to another. For example, plants and algae use energy from the sun to grow, which is eaten by herbivores, who will, in turn, be consumed by carnivores. When the sun provides the initial source of energy for the food web, it is said to be a green food web. In contrast, if the system receives little energy input from the sun, and is instead sustained by dead organic debris (utilized by decomposers), it is a brown food web. One common example of a brown food web here in Maryland is a shaded stream in a forest ecosystem.
Written by: Maggie Lewis, PhD Student, Hamby Lab and Tais Ribeiro, PhD student, Espindola Lab
Do you know the bitter taste of kale? Or the spicy flavor of mustard greens? These flavors are created by the plants often for defending against herbivory. These chemicals are non-essential to the plant’s growth, with diverse properties and classes, such as alkaloids and terpenoids. Herbivores might find the taste too bitter – and they have no salad dressing to mitigate that – and avoid to feed on it, being the plant protected against their attacks. These compounds could be even deadly! But, just like the bitter tea you drink when you have a stomach ache, they can also have positive and medicinal properties, including anti-fungal and anti-parasitic effects. Although secondary metabolites are synthesized throughout the plant, they exist at different concentrations in different tissues. They can even be present in nectar and pollen, which could affect pollinator visitation and behavior.
written by: Ted Striegel (MS student, Hawthorne lab) and Graham Stewart (MS student, Palmer lab)
Dr. Joe Russell is a senior scientist at MRIGlobal, a nonprofit contract research institute that conducts research on a wide array of topics (including chemical and biological surveillance, biosafety and security). The institute receives much of its funding from contracts with the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Defense. Dr. Russell had a circuitous academic path to MRIGlobal, including time spent studying astrophysics and analysing marine sediment samples. His talk centered on a new technology developed by the institute - the Mercury Lab.
Gussie Maccracken (PhD student, Shultz Lab) co-authors paper published in Science looking at the recovery of ecosystems after the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction. The publication was featured in The NY Times and a corresponding NOVA special.
Dermestes maculatus, a species of flesh-eating beetles dine on the dead and help scientists preserve skeletal remains. At least, most of time, says Peter Coffey, an agriculture educator at the University of Maryland and UMD Alum (MS, 18’, Hooks Lab). He tells Mental Floss “there has to be a perfect storm of good environmental conditions and poor food availability before they’ll resort to bone, which would explain why it’s not more commonly observed.”
Check out full article:
ENTM Alum, Dr. Akito Kawahara, uses DNA to piece together the evolutionary history of moths and butterflies
Written by: Huiyu Sheng (MS student, St. Leger Lab) & Zac Lamas (PhD student, vanEngelsdorp Lab)
Fungi are more than decomposers. They can infect many different organisms, including insects. It is due to the fact that fungi have the ability to infect insects that humans have a long history of using them for the biological control of pests. For instance, Beauveria bassiana was first identified as a silkworm pathogen in 1815. In 1879, Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian zoologist suggested using Metarhizium anisopliae to control beetles of agricultural crops.
Written by: Margaret Hartman (M.S. student, Lamp Lab) and Demian Nunez (M.S. student, Hooks Lab)
In recent years the public has become increasingly aware of the devastating impact humans are having on wildlife across the globe. Insect declines have received a lot of attention in the news lately with stories about the decline of pollinators inspiring people across the country to find ways to “save the bees,” including planting flowers in their yards, and some state and local governments are even taking steps to restrict or ban certain pesticides that are known to be harmful to pollinators. While honeybees (Apis mellifera) are among the most recognizable and charismatic of these pollinators, the real crisis is the even greater loss of native pollinator abundance and diversity across much of North America and other parts of the world. But pesticide usage isn’t the only factor contributing to the loss of our native bees and other insects. Diseases, parasites, and especially habitat loss have all contributed to native bee decline, and efforts to maintain and restore the health of our pollinator ecosystems will require a broad approach to making our expanding urban landscapes suitable for preserving our pollinator communities.