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.
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, and 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. This summer students may instead examine over 20 years of bumble bee observations in NE comparing presence of species to changes in ecosystems.
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 on a wide range of topics, such as arthropods in cover crop systems, insect-hail interactions, and a new species in soybean, the soybean gall midge. Unexpected pest outbreaks often result in an over-application of insecticides to mitigate risk. As a result, his lab’s research is directed toward understanding the interactions between insects and managed environments. Methods for data collection utilize traditional sampling techniques (pitfall traps, plant collections, sweep nets, and brine extractions) along with cutting-edge technologies such as UAV, time-lapse and GoPro cameras. These digital technologies are 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.
Milkweed-Insect Interactions, Monarch Butterflies, Other Pollinators
Dr. Weissling will mentor REEU student research at prairie and urban/suburban garden field sites. Milkweed and other flowering plants at these locations will be sampled for pollinators. Data will be used to exam correlations between pollinator diversity and abundance and habitat type. REEU students research tasks will include the establishment of sampling protocols, identification of insects, data analysis, and research poster creation.
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.