Notes from the Field: Deanna Zembrzuski in the Western US

ASU student wearing sweater with a few locusts on her arm
Deanna Zembrzuski in the field. Photo © Lonnie Black, USDA-APHIS, 2018

At the Global Locust Initiative (GLI) at Arizona State University, we are fortunate to work with many fantastic partners globally, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). In Phoenix, APHIS houses a Center for Plant Health Science and Technology laboratory, with a section specifically focused on rangeland grasshoppers and Mormon crickets. The dedicated scientists on this team, led by Larry Jech and Derek Woller, spend long hours in the field during the summer to further identify management practices that ranchers and others may use to protect their fields from orthopteran pests.

ASU School of Life Sciences doctoral student and GLI member, Deanna Zembrzuski, spent the summer with the APHIS team. Following is a summary that Zembrzuski wrote about her experience:

"While the United States does not have a locust problem per se, the U.S. rangelands are often subject to numerous grasshopper and cricket outbreaks. Rangelands are important agricultural resources and the the USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine department has a special team of scientists who specialize in rangeland grasshoppers and Mormon crickets to develop new methods of management.

"This summer I had the pleasure of working with the Phoenix rangeland grasshopper and Mormon cricket team to conduct field research for my dissertation and help with their field season. We spent 40 days traveling through several states in the western U.S., including New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota and Idaho, looking for ideal conditions to establish a field site.

"Ultimately, we did not find the right conditions to do the large-scale pesticide application research the USDA had planned with grasshoppers, so they switched their focus to smaller scale field cage experiments with Mormon crickets. I was still able to find appropriate populations of grasshoppers for my research. The major aim of my research was to identify an abundant species of grasshopper in an area, determine the nutritional landscape available to them, and then determine the nutritional intake target (IT) for that species of grasshopper.

"I worked with two species of grasshoppers (adult and fifth instar Aeropedellus clavatus in South Dakota and fifth instar Melanoplus sanguinipes in Idaho). I collected grasshoppers from three distinct populations and conducted several IT experiments that gave grasshoppers a choice between two complimentary diets (high protein and high carbohydrate diets), and I conducted vegetation surveys of each population's habitat to determine the nutritional landscape available.

"Nutritional ecology and physiology are important aspects of grasshopper research, helping us to better understand the organism's immune function and other physiological systems. The results of such research can help us find ways to potentially exploit the grasshopper’s biology to develop appropriate control methods. I hope to further expand my research in future field seasons to tie grasshopper nutritional requirements and what’s nutritionally available to them to how this affects their response to pesticide and biopesticide treatments."

Stay tuned for more information about Zembrzuski's work, and learn more on APHIS' webpage!

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