CONSERVATION ASSOCIATES PERFORM ONGOING RESEARCH AT THE USDA/ARS INVASIVE PLANT RESEARCH LAB
Invasive Plant Research Laboratory
2009 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
To utilize Student Conservation Association members to assist in research related to development of weed biological control of invasive weeds.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Student Conservation Association participants are assigned a variety of projects depending on their Student Conservation Program experience, interests and arrival dates. Participants will gain experience with scientists and technicians and will be exposed to various environmental problems and potential solutions.
This project relates to the objective of the inhouse project: Prioritizing and evaluating suitable target species for control; conducting surveys to discover natural enemies; studying the ecology of target species and determining the impact of their suppression on ecosystems; conducting risk analysis of potential biological control organisms; and releasing, establishing, evaluating, and transferring biological control agents against target species. Invasive weeds have invaded the Everglades ecosystem decreasing its biodiversity. Biological controls of these weeds will be developed by the introduction of safe insects that reduce weed vigor. Student interns assisted in laboratory tasks that supported quarantine risk assessment of prospective biological control agents of the invasive weed Brazilian pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius. Specifically their duties include maintaining laboratory colonies of quarantine biological control candidates, propagation of host plants for raising insects and test plants for conducting the experiments. Additionally, the interns assist in the collection of experimental data and in the data entry of the results. The interns also assist in laboratory research analyzing the chemical nature of host selection and utilization by these insects. These analyses are presently underway and include nitrogen, amino acid, terpenoid, and carbohydrate characterization of plant samples. These interns assisted in the recovery of a new species of Bruchid from South American Anacardiaceae species. Tentatively it is assigned to the species Lithraeus mutatus (Coleoptera: Bruchidae) from Chile or an unknown sister species. However, this group of beetles is currently under revisionat the Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville, FL. These biological controls will reduce the health and vigor of these invasive weeds and reduce their damage to natural areas and agriculture. Project monitored through a site visit, regular emails, and phone calls.