Students will engage in research and extension opportunities focused on beneficial arthropods in agroecosystems (bees, butterflies, beetles), pest control (natural enemies), nutrient cycling (dung beetles, soil dwellers), and biological indicators (aquatic insects) of the quality of our environmental surroundings.
The goal of our REU program is: (1) teach and nurture interest in science (2) to teach the students how to communicate science to scientists and the public through training and hands-on experiences, (3) foster skills in students for developing extension education materials including innovative uses of online apps, social media, and other technological tools to reach broad audiences, and (4) to significantly impact the career decisions of these students by providing academic research experiences and field trips to businesses and organization engaged in research and extension around beneficial insects.
This program plans to conduct an on-campus (in-person) experience in summer 2021. However, accommodations to go virtual will be made if required.
Competitive stipend: $5,000
Suite-style room and meal plan
Travel expenses to and from Lincoln
Campus parking and/or bus pass
Full access to the Campus Recreation Center and campus library system
Pollinator Health and Protection, Integrated Physiology, Biology, and Toxicology
Dr. Anderson’s research focuses on the broader aspects of physiology and biochemistry that integrates toxicological, pharmacological, molecular, and genomic approaches to address fundamental questions for pollinator health protection and arthropod pest management. Dr. Anderson will assist with the initiation, development, synthesis, and interpretation of research activities that focus on pesticide and medicinal chemistries that affect parasite infestations and pathogen infections of pollinating insects.
Students working with Dr. Brewer will study biological control strategies on stable flies. Stable flies are important pests of farm animals and humans. They also vector blood-borne zoonotic diseases. Students will work on a novel approach to managing stable flies in this project. Work will be conducted in both lab and field settings.
Science Communication, Human Dimensions of Science Literacy
Dr. Dauer conducts educational research in the course to determine if student practices around decision-making, such as evaluation of tradeoffs and application of scientific and technical information to decisions, are increased as a result of instructional practices. Undergraduate student research under her mentoring will investigate questions around student understanding of pollinator health and conservation, or student understanding of big data and how to apply results of big data analyses to socioscientific problems.
Human Dimensions of Insect Conservation, Science Communication, Extension
Dr. Golick’s research focus is on science learning in informal and formal learning environments and the human dimensions of pollinator conservation. Students with Dr. Golick will work on survey and interview approaches to investigating questions around the human dimensions of insect conservation. Golick also serves as the program’s professional development experience coordinator along with co-PI Brewer.
Dr. Louis’s research focuses on understanding endogenous plant defense mechanisms and to better understand the behavior and chemical ecology of multi-trophic interactions between plants, pests, or beneficial species. Undergraduate students under his mentorship will be given a specific project to complete that will require them to become familiar with feeding behavior analysis, RNA techniques, and to identify and quantify the different defense-related phytohormones or blends of volatile organic compounds (VOC) that can attract natural enemies of the attacking herbivores.
Field Crops Entomology, Plant-Insect-Virus Relationships, Extension
Dr. McMechan’s research and extension efforts are focused across a wide range of topics such as emerging insect pests of cover crop systems, hail damage to row crops, and ear development issues in corn. Unexpected pest outbreaks have often resulted in over application of insecticides to mitigate risk. As a result, an emphasis is placed on collecting beneficial arthropods in research studies. Methods for data collection utilize traditional sampling techniques (pitfall traps, sweep nets, and D-Vac) as well as cutting edge technologies such as time-lapse and GoPro cameras. These digital technologies are post-processed within the lab to create standalone products for communicating with clientele.
Field Crops Entomology, Beneficial Insects, Extension Development
Dr. Peterson’s research involves applications for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and resistance management in field crops. Peterson will facilitate REEU student extension projects so that they can see the translation of research into real-world recommendations for farmers, agricultural professionals, and other stakeholders.
Dr. Smart’s research examines interactions between plants and pollinators and bee health within the context of land use and habitat. The student will be responsible for conducting research within this framework and/or analyzing previously-collected datasets. Further, s/he will assist graduate students in the UNL bee lab with field work pertaining to their individual projects, thus affording the REEU student a broad range of experiences related to pollinator ecology and bee health studies.
Dr. Velez’s research focuses on understanding how insects respond and adapt to chemical stressors and spreads across three different levels of biological organization: molecular, organismal and population, to evaluate the safety of insect control products.
Dr. Weissling will mentor students in research at two different UNL field locations; Nine-Mile Prairie located NW of Lincoln, NE and at the Eastern Nebraska Research ENREC near Mead. Milkweed and other flowering plants at these locations will be sampled for pollinators and other beneficial insects. The goal is to have even sampling in agriculturally intensive (ENREC), and in areas where crops production is reduced or absent (Nine-Mile Prairie). Data will be used to look for correlations between beneficial insect diversity and abundance, with proximity to agricultural fields. Dr. Weissling will mentor students, helping them to establish sampling locations, identifying insects, and analyzing data.
Dr. Wu-Smart’s research explores different ways to promote sustainability and resilience in pollinator ecosystems. Research experiments will be co-designed with student input and may cover areas of interest such as pest/disease management, social behaviors, ecology, pollinator-plant interactions, social immunity and detoxification in bees.