2021 Scholarship Recipient
Rob Straser is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Entomology Department at UC Riverside. After completing his B.S. in Biology at Humboldt State University, he later went on to earn his M.S. in Biodiversity, Evolution & Conservation from University College London. Rob’s interest in agricultural entomology was sparked during his graduate studies abroad where he explored the role remanent forests patches play in supporting cocoa pollinators and enhancing crop yield in Ghana.
Rob’s research at UC Riverside evaluates the prospects of biocontrol as a management tactic for the western leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus zonatus), a prominent pest of tree nut crops in California. In pistachio, these insects have the potential to cause significant damage to nuts, reducing both crop quality and yield. Unfortunately, given the lack of effective monitoring tools, along with grower aversion to risk, broad-spectrum insecticides remain the primary control tactic for leaffooted bug.
The egg parasitoid, Gryon pennsylvanicum (Hymnoptera: Platygasteridae), is a key natural enemy of leaffooted bug. Though Gryon attacks leaffooted bug eggs in California, parasitism rates in orchards have shown to be highly variable. As a synovigenic parasitoid, Gryon requires access to suitable diets to continuously produce eggs for parasitizing their hosts. Therefore, egg-limitation may be a major constraint to the parasitoid, of which may result in reduced biocontrol in orchards that lack floral resources. Here, Rob’s research aims to work with growers to identify where, and under what conditions on-farm nectar provisions may enhance biocontrol of leaffooted bug.
Funding provided by the Harry Scott Smith Scholarship will help support Rob’s research in biocontrol of leaffooted bug in California and allow him to disseminate his research findings at professional conferences, such as the Entomological Society of America. Furthermore, this scholarship will provide salary support for a summer research technician, who will assist with data collections while gaining valuable experience in both lab- and field-based biocontrol research.
Robert's scholarship is made possible in part by these 2021 donations
A special thanks to Robert and Carol Hardison and Retha Keenan.