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IRES Track I: Tephritid fruit fly Multidisciplinary Australian Research Collaboration for Biosecurity


Tephritid fruit fly Multidisciplinary Australian Research Collaboration for Biosecurity (T-MARC-BIO), a Track I IRES project at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), will engage 18 undergraduate students from the state of Virginia to gain multidisciplinary research experience in Australia that will advance basic science and address internationally significant challenges in ensuring biosecurity and a robust global food supply chain. Students will be recruited from EMU and neighboring institutions to conduct research on fruit flies (Tephritidae), which are among the most damaging horticultural insect pests worldwide, constituting pest management issues, trade barriers, and invasion threats for Australia, the U.S., and throughout the tropics and subtropics. The results of this research will have an impact on integrated pest management, which is a critical component of sustainable agro-ecological systems in the U.S. and worldwide. With good cause, the public is becoming increasingly concerned about the health and environmental impacts of synthetic pesticides, and their use is becoming highly restricted. The T-MARC-BIO program will add to the toolkit of effective, long-term strategies for both pest control and monitoring of invasive species, while minimizing the impacts of pesticides on human and environmental health. American students will gain valuable research experience through conducting projects in the multidisciplinary settings in Australia, as well as the life-changing learning, interpersonal skills, empathy, and global awareness that come from living and working in a foreign country. T-MARC-BIO will contribute to developing a diverse, globally engaged scientific workforce pipeline by recruiting highly qualified female, low-income, and minority students, who are underrepresented in the sciences.<br/><br/>Through T-MARC-BIO, students will (1) participate in a semester-long pre-travel research preparation and cross-cultural program, (2) conduct rigorous individual research projects on tephritid fruit flies during a seven-week period in Australia, (3) immerse themselves in Australian culture as they participate in research fields with global interest and impact, and (4) communicate their research through scientific journals and presentations, and in the local community. The U.S. and Australia make significant research investments to both enhance control of existing pest fly populations and improve interdiction of invasive flies entering the respective countries. The results of T-MARC-BIO student-assisted research will advance knowledge in three areas: tephritid fruit fly physiology and behavior, organic analysis and synthesis of fruit fly lures, and field ecology and management techniques. Collectively, these results will address gaps in understanding of how fruit flies metabolize secondary plant compounds, what they smell and what attracts them, how they move in the environment, and how to develop more effective control techniques, such as attractant fruit fly lures. Evaluation findings about the T-MARC-BIO project will be applicable to small (two- and four-year) colleges, their administrators, and STEM faculty. T-MARC-BIO students will share the benefits of enriched, multidisciplinary academic research training and participating in publishable research that advances STEM fields, as well as basic and applied science.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Matthew Siderhurst
Eastern Mennonite University
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