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Sees Fellows: A Bio-Economic Study Of An Introduced Biological Control Agent: Ecological, Evolutionary, And Economic Factors In Sustainable Agricultural Systems


<p>This interdisciplinary project will use advanced genomic sequencing techniques to investigate how biological control agents are established, undergo genetic variation, and adapt to novel environments. The genetic evaluation will use a globally distributed species of ladybeetle, Coccinella septempunctata, to study the relationship between human introduction efforts and demographic processes that affect the establishment and spread of this predator in the United States. The study will also include an ex-post benefit-cost analysis to assess the economic value of using C. septempunctata as a biological control agent. Biological control, the introduction of natural enemies to control pests and weeds in agricultural systems, can promote sustainable agriculture and environment, and enhance biodiversity, food safety, and human health, by reducing the need for pesticides. Despite a long history, classical biological control has not developed as a predictive science, frequently resulting in unexpected ecological and economic costs. To improve the sustainable use of biological control agents, decision makers need better tools to understand biological control programs as multidisciplinary efforts that require integrated knowledge of ecology, evolutionary biology, and economics. This project will study a widely distributed ladybeetle as a model control agent with the intent of improving current methods and procedures for the introduction of beneficial insects for biological control applications. The principal investigator on this project will also be an active participant in an international biological control working group, and will work with teachers and students on the design of sustainability science courses at a local middle school. This project is supported under the NSF Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability Fellows (SEES Fellows) program, with the goal of helping to enable discoveries needed to inform actions that lead to environmental, energy and societal sustainability while creating the necessary workforce to address these challenges. With SEES Fellows support, this project will enable a promising early career researcher to establish themselves in an independent research career related to sustainability.</p>

Kajita, Yukie
University of Kentucky
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