Interactions with non crop hosts
While invasive pests by definition are a problem for economic and aesthetic interests, insects can also play large roles in non-crop areas, like parks and forests. Will a crop pest be just as likely to infest non-agricultural areas near or far from crop hosts?
I investigated the federal wilderness areas of North Carolina this summer (2017). My research says yes D. suzukii is everywhere, so what does that mean? And do these insects that reproduce in forests part of the same population that infest local crops? Hopefully, we will have those answers soon!
Anticipating the impacts from new pest control technologies
The spotted wing drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii, is an important, dangerous pest for many fruit growers worldwide. Unless controlled, these flies infest (and thus make unsalable) ripening fruit before it is ready to be sold at market. This is a serious pest for farmers and households that grow strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and blackberries (there are other affected fruit too, but these are the main ones). Many scientists are trying to develop new pest management strategies that don't rely as heavily on insecticides (current practice). Today's technological capabilities can allow scientists to alter the food they eat or the pests themselves to help control them. Many of these technologies are being researched in laboratories but have never been field tested - what sort of impacts might they have? What kinds of information do we need to know before we think about releasing them? I'm asking a bunch of different people involved in research, government and food production (i.e., an expert elicitation) their thoughts about what the impacts might be and how important they are.
Factors impacting non-crop host use and population dynamics of an invasive fly
While working as a research technician for Cornell University, I investigated the potential impact from the infestation of wild-growing plants nearby berry crop plantings on spotted wing drosophila population levels. Over two years, we collected berries from all species growing nearby commercial berry farms beginning in the spring and continuing until late November to get a better sense of how SWD use these non-crop hosts and how that might influence local population dynamics. By studying host plants that were unmanaged, we were able to determine how seasonal temperature and host availability affect SWD populations.
Citation: Elsensohn, J.E. and G.M. Loeb. 2018. Non-crop host sampling yields insights into small-scale population dynamics of Drosophila suzukii (Matsumura). Insects. 9(1), 5
Usage analysis of species richness estimator software
In 2011, I was dead set against getting a PhD so I decided to go for a non-thesis MS degree. As part of my time at the University of Connecticut, my advisor Dr. Robert Colwell asked me to help him evaluate the impact and usage patterns of one of his signature packages, EstimateS, a software program that helps people estimate species richness on the basis of the number of single and double occurrences within a sample.
Citation: Colwell, R.K., and J.E. Elsensohn. 2014. EstimateS turns 20: statistical estimation of species richness and shared species from samples, with non-parametric extrapolation. Ecography. 37(6), 609-613. DOI: 10.1111/ecog.00814.