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Agricultural and Biological Risk Assessment, Plant Stress Ecophysiology, and Integrated Pest Management


plan to continue to focus my research program on comparative agricultural and biological risk assessment. Estimating and comparing risks among contemporaneous risk factors (i.e., risk-risk tradeoffs) is an important and growing subdiscipline within environmental risk assessment. My laboratory has contributed to this area in the past 5 years by publishing numerous scientific articles on approaches to understand comparative risk assessment. I will focus research in four primary areas: (1) pesticide risk assessment, (2) invasive species risk assessment, (3) mortality risk estimation for insect pest populations, and (4) risk and IPM. In the area of pesticide risk assessment, my focus since 2005 primarily has been on human-health and ecological risk assessment of insect vector-borne diseases and associated management tactics. With continued funding, this work will continue because I have the chance to complete a very comprehensive analysis of multiple aspects of this issue. In the area of invasive species risk assessment, I primarily have been working on ecological risk assessment of invasive weeds and associated weed management tactics. The research area concerned with mortality risk estimation for insect pest populations is new and will be discussed below.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Risk assessment is an important discipline in which to better understand ecological and human-health risks from a variety of sources. The project focuses on comparative biological and agricultural risk assessment from biotechnology crops, pesticides, and invasive species.

APPROACH: Work to date has involved baseline research and publications for human-health and ecological risks associated with West Nile Virus and mosquito insecticides. Current and future work will involve more refined assessments of risk, including experimental approaches to generate detailed data on environmental fate and efficacy of insecticides. Novel risk assessments using Bayesian statistics and game theory also will be used. Additionally, ecotoxicology studies will be conducted on non-target insects. Because the work is currently supported by the Department of Defense Deployed War Fighter Protection Program, other research includes risk assessment research for insect repellents, insecticide-impregnated bednetting and uniforms, and diseases such as plague, dengue, malaria, and Rift Valley fever. Continued funding in these areas will result in comprehensive risk assessments. The primary focus of this work will be on invasive weeds and associated weed management tactics (e.g., herbicides and biological control). There is considerable interest in Montana and in the weed control community in general regarding the risks associated with noxious weeds and weed control technologies, including biological control. One aspect of this work is to evaluate not only the environmental risks associated with invasive weeds, but also to assess the efficacy of biological control agents using novel criteria, such as plant-physiological impact and other cost-benefit analyses. Future work will involve qualitative and quantitative approaches to risk assessment of invasive species. Most of this work will focus on weeds, but we have recently worked on a novel assessment to estimate the risks of establishment for western mosquitofish in Montana. Our initial work analyzing nearly all of the life tables over the past 50 years has resulted in a currently submitted manuscript. I would like to conduct extensive field research over the next few years to investigate in a single insect species how irreplaceable mortalities from multiple mortality factors change in different populations over large geographic areas. I would like to target the alfalfa weevil (Hypera postica) for the initial effort and engage in a multi-institutional project determining and examining life tables for this insect pest across North America. I also would like to target the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) and generate life tables in a multi-country, multi-institutional project spanning South and North America. This work potentially has tremendous consequences for population dynamics and, I believe, may necessitate a rethinking of fundamental perceptions and actions in both basic and applied ecology, including classical biological control.

Peterson, Robert
Montana State University
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