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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Shirk, Paul D
Research Leader
Paul.Shirk@ars.usda.gov
(352) 374-5720
MEDICAL, AGRIC & VETRY ENTOM
1700 S.W. 23RD DRIVE
Gainesville FL 32608

Mission:
The mission of the Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit is to provide alternative methods to conventional pesticides for control of insect and plant pests of crops, vegetables and fruits. Environmentally friendly control methods are based on the description, analysis and manipulation of the genetics, behaviors and environments of pest and beneficial insects. These methods are intended to be scaled into programs for small and organic farmers as well as for area-wide tactics for managing native and invasive dipteran, lepidopterous, whitefly, psyllid or weed pests utilizing natural enemies, molecular manipulations, or altered behavioral cues. Our research focuses on the fundamentals and applications of insect genetics, reproductive physiology, ecology and foraging behaviors. These basic principles are applied to 1) establishing novel and environmentally safe procedures of genetically transforming insects for production of superior strains for use in Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) and related area-wide control methods; 2) describing the ecological and genetic structure of pest populations in order provide targeted and area-wide control techniques; 3) developing protocols for economically mass-rearing superior strains of natural-enemies and sterile males for area-wide release; 4) formulating new insect attractants and monitoring devices utilizing integrated acoustic, light and semiochemical cues to determine the scope and measure the impact and efficacy of area-wide control programs; and 5) augmenting the practices of sustainable biologically-based control of insect pests and invasive plants that are applicable to small and organic agriculture as well as area-wide programs.

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