To start, our on and off Assistant Research Scientist, Dr. Alina Avanesyan, moved on to a position with USDA-APHIS, located near College Park. We thank her for so much that she did with us, including 9 journal articles, 4 presentations, and 4 grants during her tenure in the lab 2018-20 and 2022. She focused on the invasive herbivore species such as spotted lanternfly, and how invasive species adapt to the mixture of introduced and native plants in their landscape. She used DNA barcoding to identify host plants of herbivores, and that has led to our continuing DNA barcoding in our teaching and research. I first met Alina as a member of her PhD Committee at the University of Cincinnati, and I have enjoyed her friendship and professional contributions along the way. Her publications are posted here.
We currently have 4 graduate students in the Lamp Lab, and the last one before I retire will start in August, 2023. Here is an update of 2022 for each of them:
- Maggie Hartman, a Masters student, started in 2019 and expects to graduate in 2024. She required a leave of absence for 2023 because of personal issues, but completed her research in 2022 on dragonflies as biological control agents on farms, ant the assessment of their prey using DNA. She found that certain species of Odonata disperse from their reproductive habitat to forage for prey above field crops. Analysis to date suggests dragonflies from crops largely consume insects in the order Diptera. Maggie received funding from the Dragonfly Society of the Americas as well as a USDA-SARE Graduate Student grant. Maggie also published a fact sheet on the alfalfa weevil for Maryland.
- Ali Shokoohi, a Masters student, started in 2020 and plans to graduate in fall, 2023. His thesis concerns the ecology of carabid beetles associated with agricultural drainage ditches. He asks: does ditch management enhance carabid populations? Do they move between ditches and adjacent crops? Are the carabids in ditches examples of beneficial species that can survive and reproduce in ditches, and then disperse into crops during the growing season? Ali served as TA for BSCI 467, Freshwater Biology, and BSCI 337, Biology of Insects, during 2022. He received the Teaching Achievement Award from the department in September, and received first place for his poster in the biological control session at the Entomological Society of America meeting in Vancouver, CA, in November. The title of his poster was, “Enhancing biological control by ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) through agricultural drainage ditch management practices.” He also gave an oral presentation at the Eastern Branch ESA meeting in April, 2022, by the same name. Congratulations, Ali!
- Fall, 2022 brought two new Masters student to the Lamp Lab. The first is Amanda Brucchieri, from Ohio and Miami University. Over the last 7 months, Amanda settled on investigating Odonata that live in farm ponds in southern Maryland, especially those that as adults forage into crops and pastures. The adults serve as conservation biological control agents, and may reduce fly pests of animals in pastures. Amanda served as a TA for BSCI 467, Freshwater Biology, during the fall.
- The second student starting in fall, 2022, was Robert Salerno from New York and SUNY Oswego. Robert is developing a thesis project on carabid beetles to complement Ali’s research. Using rubidium as a marker, he wants to document the movement of adults between ditches and crops. In addition, he plans to document life histories of species by sampling larval populations in ditches and crop during fall-spring. Robert served as TA for BSCI 161, Principles of Ecology and Evolution Lab during the fall.
- We look forward to the start of our final student, Helen Craig, who currently serves as our Lab Manager. She officially started as Lab Manager in June, 2022, and has achieved so much I would need to write an entire posting on her. To name a few accomplishments: Helen produced the first ever program for EntoQuest, a new summer meeting of the Eastern Branch ESA; she took over training students on DNA barcoding after Alina moved to USDA; she wrote and received funding for a proposal to the Sustainability Program at UMD on educating the campus on the benefits of insects in our landscape; she wrote an article on EntoQuest2022 for the American Entomologist; she coordinated diverse research and education projects, especially those related to our Resilience CAP grant. She ends her Lab Manager duties at the end of June, and will start as a student mid-August, 2023.
Our start with the Resilience CAP project, as well as our SARE agricultural drainage ditch project, required characterization of the functional diversity of insects from various sampling approaches (sweep net, sticky traps, pitfall traps). By identifying insects to family, we can usually determine their functional ecology. We recruited two post BS and an undergraduate student to help with this problem:
- Shane Windsor, BS degree in Math from UMD, has worked in our lab since 2021. An avid photographer of insects, Shane focused on processing sweep samples from the SARE project, where we focus on natural enemies and conservation biological control. Shane identified over 50 families of predators and parasitoids in the samples.
- Jillian Stewart, honors BS in Biology from McDaniel College, started in our lab in September, 2022. She is developing useful guides for identification of families with a focus on difficult groups. These guides are specifically targeted at sticky trap samples to be deployed on farms across the US as part of the Resilience CAP project.
- Anthony Righter started as a sophomore in early 2022. Long an avid collector and enthusiast of insects, Anthony is helping with processing of samples and with the protocol for our on-farm biodiversity project.
Most years, we have been fortunate to host excellent high school students in the apprenticeship program at the nearby Eleanor Roosevelt High School. During the 2021-22 academic year, Anya Wilkinson volunteered in our lab and presented a poster of her research at the Eastern Branch ESA meeting in Philadelphia, April 2022, entitled “Molecular gut analysis of Empoasca fabae for host plant identification.”
This year, 2022-23, we are hosting Eunice Lin, who started a project on host plants of potato leafhopper using DNA. Our lab has successfully used DNA to identify the leafhopper’s host plants in the past (see Avanesyan et al. 2021), but our DNA barcoding protocol ran into a problem in fall, 2022. Eunice turned the problem into a research project, and has systematically tested each step of the process to identify the problem, which involved a detailed analysis of possible issues. This work continues into 2023.
This concludes the story of our lab personnel in 2022. Now my news items can focus on events of 2023. Thank you for listening!