In Class Research

December 4, 2019 at 2:04 pm

OHIO Undergraduate Researchers Rock the Insect World

Group photo at Entomological Society of America

OHIO delegation at teh Entomological Society of America

Like moths to a flame, entomologists swarmed to the annual Entomological Society of America (ESA) conference to communicate what they have learned about the insects they study.  This year the conference was held Nov. 16-20 in St. Louis.

Ohio University undergraduate research students Madeline Sudnick, Evelyn Blakeman, and Mitch Duffner—compelled by their Biological Sciences faculty mentors Dr. Bekka S. Brodie and Dr. Kelly Williamsjoined their colleague entomologists in their annual migration to discuss their research, network with peers and potential advisers, and learn and develop new skills.

Maddie Sudnick on a rope bridge

Maddie Sudnick on a rope bridge

Sudnick, a third-year Honors Tutorial College student majoring in Biological Sciences, presented “Identification of oviposition resources by bird blow flies (Protocalliphora spp)” and won first place oral presentation—Presidents Prize, $75 plus 2020 ESA Membership—in her symposium Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology.

Bird blow fly maggots are obligate, bloodsucking ectoparasites often leading to anemia, reduced growth rates, and death in baby birds. Sudnick’s research provides strategies for management and conservation of all birds affected.

“The scientists in attendance were interested in the topic and eager to ask questions about my research,” she said. “Everyone at the conference was happy to chat with students about all things insect!”

Evelyn Blakeman at work in the lab

Evelyn Blakeman at work in the lab

Blakeman, a second-year student double majoring in Plant Biology and Marine, Freshwater, and Environmental Biology, presented “Are flies ‘pollen’ their weight? Data mining social media for information on fly (Diptera) pollinators.” She also won first place oral presentation—Presidents Prize, $75 and 2020 ESA Membership—in her symposium Plant-Insect Ecosystems.

Blakeman’s presentation highlighted work using photographs online and citizen science to determine how many and what type of flies are important pollinators and highlighted the areas for future pollinator ecology work. Her talk was a hit and went viral (within the conference, #EntSoc19).

“I tweeted about my talk to get a bigger audience, it worked and then some…. Within minutes I was meeting and chatting with entomologists from the U.S. and abroad,” she said.

Honors Tutorial College student Mitch Duffner with bioassaying flashing LED lights, mimicking midge wingbeat frequencies at Alum Creek Water Reclamation Facility.

Honors Tutorial College student Mitch Duffner with bioassaying flashing LED lights, mimicking midge wingbeat frequencies at Alum Creek Water Reclamation Facility.

Duffner, a fourth-year Honors Tutorial Student majoring in Biological Sciences, presented “Flash-mobbing and polarized pickiness: exploring novel visual cues for the control of nuisance non-biting midges.”

Duffner’s research highlights new methods for identifying flashing wingbeat frequencies (a sex and species-specific mode of communication) and harnesses it, along with polarized light (an egg-laying cue), for sustainable pest management.  His research grabbed the attention of top researchers within the field of insect communication.

“It was a great experience and allowed me to network with like-minded people in academia, government, and industry, and my peers,” he said.

OHIO students at St. Louis Arch

OHIO students at the St. Louis Arch

It was not all work at the ESA conference, as the group took a much-deserved afternoon off to explore St. Louis, and the famous Gateway Arch. Later, Sudnick, Blakeman and Duffner attended the student mixer to meet other students and celebrate a job well done.

Conferences are a great way to learn something new, network, see old friends and make new ones. But, just like moths to a flame, once the fame is out, or when the conference comes to an end, they return home. The only difference is that these OHIO students will apply their newly gained knowledge to their research, write Honors theses, and emerge as successful young scholars and be on the lookout for the next flame.

Follow these up and coming scientists on Twitter (@BugswithBekka) for LIVE research updates, #OHIOinsects, #VampireMaggots, #BeyondBees, #OHMidgeManagement.

The Brodie Lab: Insect Ecology & Conservation

The Brodie Lab: Insect Ecology & ConservationThe Brodie Lab

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