2016 Scholarship Recipient
Austin Baker graduated from Oregon State University (OSU) with a B.S. in Zoology. He first gained an interest in insects while studying abroad at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, where he made his first insect collection. Upon returning to OSU, he began his work in beetle systematics with Dr. David Maddison. He started his Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside in 2013. The focus of his research has been revising the genus Orasema (Hymenoptera: Eucharitidae), a group of parasitoids that specialize on ants. The groups of ants that are targeted by these wasps include some of the most invasive genera: Pheidole (big headed ants), Solenopsis (fire ants), and Wasmannia (electric ants).
Orasema is a diverse genus, and distinguishing one species from another can be very difficult. Austin has spent the last few years trying to organize these species using a variety of approaches, including molecular sequencing, morphological studies, and behavioral observations. Next-generation DNA sequencing has enabled the use of massive quantities of genetic information to better understand evolutionary relationships. Austin will be applying these new techniques to investigate and delimit the species of Orasema. Gaining a good understanding of the taxonomy and host preferences of this group is a necessary first step before assessing their potential for biological control of invasive ant species. Austin is developing a pipeline of procedures to increase the efficiency of species discovery and delimitation that will be applicable across the superfamily Chalcidoidea.
Austin will present the current results of his research at the International Congress of Entomology in Orlando and attend a bioinformatics workshop at Florida State University with the funding provided by the Harry Scott Smith Biological Control Scholarship. This will allow him to learn from other’s research and learn the techniques that will be essential for processing massive quantities of genetic sequencing data.
Austin's scholarship is made possible in part by these 2016 donations
A special thanks to Robert and Carol Hardison, Ed Clarke and Jane Delahoyde, Mera Gaut, Dr. Marshall Johnson and Dr. Lynn LeBeck, California Avocado Commission, Jim Finch, Carol and Wayne Elder, Durling Nursery, Ed Traynor, CAPCA San Diego, Glenn Rees at Rees Agricultural Services Inc., Gary Veeh, Leavens Family Ranches, Jim Pardee, Dwight Tate, Carol and Logan Hardison, Dr. Betsy Boyd and Dr. Justin Nay, Scott Van Der Kar at Pinehill Ranch, Mr. John Grether at Grether Farming Company Inc., Rachel Levin, Dr. Nora Hackett, Barton and Merla Gaut, Steve and Robin Smith at Mud Creek Ranch, James Llyod Butler at Lloyd Butler Ranch, Peter Butler at Famly Growers LLC, Patrick Butler at PL-B Ranch, Reetha Keenan, Dorcas Thille at J.K. Thille Ranches, John and Pamela Pavela, Tim Spann, Joe Barcinas at FAR Inc., John Orr at Oro del Norte LLC., California Organic Gardening Club, Jim Davis at American Insectaries Inc., Colleen Klapproth, Oscar and Minda Suguitan, James Mickey, Leffingwell at Ag. Sales Company, Lindsay California, Ruth Wilson, Allen and Cynthia King at King and King Ranch, Richard Pidduck at Santa Paula Creek Ranch, George McEwen at McEwen Nursery, Dr. Fred and Mrs. Suzanne Legner, Marjie Bartels at Bartels Ranch, Warren Nishimura at Nishimura Farms, California Avocado Development Organization, Dr. Richard Goeden and Mrs Joan Goeden, Nora Hackett, Joe Barcinas F.A.R. Inc., Kouichi and Grace Tanaka, Limoneira Ranch, Robert and Marth Orth, Roger and Patricia Essick, Dr. John and Mrs. Janet Kabashima, Sinthya Penn at Beneficial Insectary, Dan and Carolyn Cahn, William (Bill) Hahlbohm at Sundance Natural Foods Co, William Carleton at Las Palmitas Ranch, Devin and Claire Carroll, James McMurty, Scott Van Der Kar, Susan and Donald Deardorff, Carl Stucky, Phil and Robin Tognazzini, Glenna Horton, Carolyn Louise, Villines, Leffingwell Ag. Sales Co, Lindsay California and Lorraine Forster.