Ah, the joyous Christmas season! A time of festive celebrations - at work, at schools, at private homes and certainly at churches.
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Brittany Peterson is the featured graduate student in the current edition of Purdue Agriculture Graduate Ag Research Spotlight. Her write-up appears below.
As an insect scientist I have heard quite a number of unproven theories about the six-legged creatures I study. Some such theories originated long ago and are now considered folklore. That is the case of the earwig that is so named because of the ancient belief that the insect would enter human ears and chew through the eardrum. There is no truth to that assumption.
Some unsubstantiated beliefs today are associated with human efforts to control insects that are considered pests. For instance, I am sometimes told that placing hedge apples - the green, ball-shaped fruits of Osage orange trees - in closets will keep moths out of clothes. There is no scientific support for such a control approach, short of dropping the hedge apple on the offending moth. Also, some people believe that eating garlic will prevent mosquito bites. Again, scientific evidence does not support this contention.
Members of the department gathered Monday morning at 10:00 for a delicious brunch and to honor award winners for 2014. Eileen Luke was awarded the Outstanding Service Award, and received an engraved clock/plaque, as well as a monetary award.
In November, Dr. Jennifer Zaspel was awarded a Research and Exploration Grant from the National Geographic Society. The title of the project is "Phylogeographic history and the evolution of blood feeding in the vampire moth Calyptra minuticornis." Dr. Zaspel and colleagues will be using the funds to support a field expedition to Australia this spring!
PhD student Gina Angelella in the Ian Kaplan lab has been awarded a predoctoral fellowshp through USDA-NIFA. The RFA describes the fellowship as follows: "The FY 2014 AFRI NIFA Fellowship RFA focuses on developing the next generation of research, education and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences who will lead agriculture into the future by solving current and future challenges facing our society. The AFRI NIFA Fellowships Grant Program targets talented, highly-motivated doctoral candidates that demonstrate remarkable promise and the potential to become gifted education, extension and research professionals in the United States. The Program seeks to develop the technical and academic competence of doctoral candidates in the food, forestry and acricultural sciences, which are within NIFA's AFRI Challenge Areas, through well-developed and highly interactive mentoring and training activities."
The title of this Fellowship is: "Are crop virus dynamics influenced by aphid secondary endosymbionts?" Gina's sepcific fellowship will fund research examining the impact of aphid facultative endosymbionts on vector behavior and their ability to transmit non-persistent viruses that affect cucurbit production. The fellowship starts December 1, 2014 and runs for a full year. Dr. Jen White at the University of Kentucky is a collaborator on this work.
The Purdue Entomological Research Collection staff is hosting a "Labelpalooza" blitz on Friday, December 5th to facilitate digitization and imaging of the PERC pinned collection. Read all about it in today's Exponent at: Labelpalooza!
Taste is an important sense found in almost all species of animals. Taste is the dominant sense associated with food and eating, although smell certainly plays a role here as well. Eating and food acquisition are essential to animal survival.
The Entomological Society of America just wrapped up its 62nd annual meeting in Portland, Oregon this week. The meeting was hosted by President Frank Zalom with a near record 3,600 participants from all 50 states and scores of countries taking advantage of more than 100 symposia and 2,800 individual papers and posters.
In the world of insects, beetles rule. At least they do if the number of species is an indication of success. It is widely accepted that one of every four animal species that has been given a scientific name is a beetle.
That is the reason that British biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote in a 1940s essay, "The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other … ." A theologian once asked Haldane what inferences he could draw about the nature of the creator from the study of his creation. Haldane is purported to have replied, "An inordinate fondness for beetles."
Jeff Holland and his colleague in Forestry and Natural Resources, Rod Williams, have produced a podcast on wood-boring beetles. It is now available through your "Got Nature?" page or on iTunes at the following links:
Zachary Karl (PhD '13) has accepted the position as lead research scientist with POET, the largest biofuels company in the United States. He will head research and design in the cellulosic enzymology division. This was his top choice for employment and he is thrilled that his hard work has paid off!
Larry Murdock and his College of Agriculture team are working to fight hunger in Africa through their creation of Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags. The bags allow farmers an affordable means of protecting grains against devastating insect damage, and are paving the way for economic development across the continent. The PICS project has been featured in a video clip airing on the Big Ten Network in the past few weeks.
The Purdue Exponent recently interviewed campus faculty members, inviting them to describe their first post-graduation jobs and offer advice to upcoming graduates. Dr. Jonathan Neal was consulted, and his comments were included in the November 7, 2014 issue of the periodical, which can be read in its entirety by clicking faculty showcase.
Two vehicles carried graduate students and one visiting scientist to the OVEA (Ohio Valley Entomological Association) competition at Ohio State University in Columbus last weekend. Purdue was well-represented and came away with two wins: Brittany Peterson won a third place in the PhD category, and Bridget Blood took a third in the MS Category.
Tim Gibb was recently interviewed by wlfi.com to help homeowners find ways to keep insects from "bugging" them. To view the article and accompanying video, click Tim Gibb speaks.
As reported on October 7, 2014, Dr. Gary Bennett won the Faculty of the Year Award from the Indiana Council for Continuing Education. The award was presented to him at the October 15th ICCE Fall Conference in Indianapolis. Here Dr. Bennett is flanked by Robin Cunningham (left), Associate Dean for Distance Learning at Purdue; and Kauhla Murtada (right), Vice Provost for IUPUI.
The award recognizes his contributions to the Pest programs offered through Continuing Education
Stephen Kells, an associate professor and extension entomologist at the University of Minnesota, is one of four recipients of the 2014 PCT/Syngenta Crown Leadership Award. Crown Leadership recognition honors a life-long pursuit of excellence in the structural pest management industry and an investment in building relationships with business and the community on the local level. To read the entire article, click Crown Leadership Award.
The October 27, 2014 issue of the Purdue Exponent includes an article on the Forensic Science area of the Entomology Department. Trevor Stamper, Serena Gross and Elizabeth Went are all quoted in the article, which you can read in its entirety by clicking on Turning Fear into Facts.
The Thomas Say Society for undergraduate students in Entomology has announced their executive board for 2014-2015. We congratulate (left to right) Emily Justus (President); Hannah Quellhorst (Treasurer); Ben Savage (Vice President); and Krissy Morgan (Secretary).
At the Faculty and Staff meeting on October 22nd, Steve Yaninek announced the 2014 Bravo Award recipients and presented each winner with a Bravo Award certificate.
The Bravo Award seeks to recognize and reward employees who have excelled in at least one of the following categories:
To view the award winners and their nomination statements, go to:
One thing that I have discovered over the years is that when people find out you are an entomologist, there is a good chance you will get asked a question about an insect. Many times the question relates to a problem insect, and the person wants to know what it is and what to do about it. But sometimes people are just curious about an insect they have seen. That was the reason I was asked about an insect recently.
A friend of mine called and wanted to know if I had any of those snoopy butterflies around my house this fall. I had never heard of butterflies with the name "snoopy," so I asked what they looked like. I was told the butterflies he had seen were a dark brownish color and a little bit smaller than a monarch. That information eliminated a number of butterflies but still left quite a few possibilities.
Ten Entomology Department members - faculty, staff and students - traveled to The Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis on Saturday, October 4th, for the 2014 Celebrate Science Indiana, or CSI. Jon Neal and Tom Turpin were ably assisted by Carly Morris, Emily Justus, Ben Savage, Hannah Quellhorst, Stephanie Russell, Emily Mroczkiewicz, Danielle Craig, and Julie Speelman.
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to name the winners of the 2014 Monsanto Research Grant Awards. The research grants will provide funds to outstanding ESA student members who are undertaking research projects. The funds may be used for salaries, equipment, supplies, or travel to initiate, accelerate, augment, or expand a research project. Purdue Entomology's own Brittany Peterson is one of the award recipients. Her ESA write-up is listed below.
Dr. Gary Bennett was notified on October 6, 2014, that he has won the Faculty of the Year Award from the Indiana Council for Continuing Education. The award recognizes his contributions to the Pest programs offered through Continuing Education.
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce that ten entomology students are recipients of travel grants awarded by the USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The grants will provide financial support to graduate students for new networking, presentation, and research opportunities at Entomology 2014, ESA's 62nd Annual Meeting this November in Portland, Oregon. Purdue Entomology's own Mike Garvey is one of the grant recipients. His ESA write-up is listed below.
Michael Garvey is originally from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, located at the southern part of the Pocono Mountains. He completed his BS in entomology, cum laude with distinction in research, in 2012 at Cornell University. During his undergraduate career at Cornell, he assisted with research pertaining to insect pathology, specifically focusing on how to apply insect pathogens to facilitate biological control of Asian longhorned beetles (Anoplophora glabripennis), gypsy moths, and Sirex noctilio in the laboratory of Dr. Ann Hajek for three years. He then conducted independent research on immune activity in fruit flies with and without their gut microbiota, and on the pea aphid under Dr. Angela Douglas, which culminated in an undergraduate thesis. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD at Purdue University as part of Dr. Ian Kaplan’s laboratory group. His research interests include plant-insect and host-parasite interactions. His dissertation focuses on examining tritrophic interactions and biological control in solanaceous crops using the tobacco hornworm and its specialist parasitic wasp, Cotesia congregata. Specifically, he has a keen interest in plant-mediated effects on the immune response, and he aims to elucidate how food plant toxins influence susceptibility to parasites from an ecological and immunological perspective. He was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. After receiving his doctorate, he hopes to continue doing research in academia focusing on parasitoid biological control and how altered nutritional hosts’ states affect the immune response to parasitoids.
One of the rites of fall in my backyard orchard is the dropping of the fruit from the old pear tree. My Bartlett pear seems to provide a bumper crop of fruit each year. And each year I can't seem to figure out when it is time to harvest the pears so that they don't end up on the ground.
Over the years, I have come to believe that the pear tree harbors an evil streak. That tree seems to know when I am out of town for a day or two and takes the opportunity to drop its fruit en masse. Of course, I try to predict when most of the pears will be ripe for the picking. I squeeze the pears. I taste the pears. I look at the color of the ripening fruit. I check the ground for dropped fruit. All to no avail, it seems.