2011 Scholarship Recipient
I am a second-year Ph. D. student, working with a tiny egg parasitoid in the genus Trichogramma. These parasitoids attack the eggs of many insects, and are especially useful in controlling caterpillar pests in field and greenhouse crops. Before introduction in to the field, Trichogramma species are commonly mass-reared in insectaries. I am investigating the impact of mass-rearing, which results in inbred populations, on the field fitness of these natural enemies, particularly T. pretiosum.
I am currently testing life-history traits in many lab-reared lines of T. pretiosum. Eventually, these lines will be mixed to introduce genetic diversity, mass-reared for varying periods of time and then released into the field. I will later re-collect these parasitoids from release areas after they have had a chance to reproduce, and determine how long their parents were mass-reared for by testing their DNA for a particular mitochondrial marker.
Based on the numbers of offspring I find surviving from populations that were mass-reared for short vs. long periods of time, I will be able to infer field fitness and determine whether long periods of mass-rearing are really the best strategy for producing natural enemies for augmentative and inundative biological control. Hopefully, this research will help us to improve rearing practices and also improve the quality of Trichogramma (and possibly other natural enemies too) being used for biological control.
I will be using the funds provided by the Harry Scott Smith Biological Control Scholarship fund to cover registration and travel expenses to the 2011 Entomological Society of America meeting that is being held November in Reno, Nevada.