My approach to the study of insects is colored by an abiding interest in behavior and an appreciation for the constraints physiology can impose on behavior. In my experience, direct observation of insects is necessary to truly understand their impact on our world; knowing what happened to produce a result is all the more valuable when we know how it happened as well.
My current research focuses on the behavioral, physiological, and ecological mechanisms that underlie western corn rootworm (WCR) resistance to crop rotation. I am particularly interested in the role of diet and reproductive behavior on short and long-distance movement of WCR adults within and between fields. These studies currently focus on assessing movement of mate-seeking WCR males from refuges into transgenic portions of cornfields and the likelihood than refuge males actually mate with potentially resistant WCR females that emerged from transgenic corn. Testing assumptions about the design and functioning of refuges for insect resistance management (IRM) in transgenic crops contributes to their improved design and sustainable deployment.
I am also currently evaluating a method to measure and study rotation-resistant WCR activity that uses evidence of soybean herbivory. This project is testing a new method to monitor rotation-resistant WCR activity. If successful, it could be adapted for grower use as a quick tool to measure the local risk of WCR economic larval injury in rotated corn.
I remain fascinated by the synergy between host specific chemical stimuli and other features like epicuticular waxes and physical characteristics which stimulate host-oriented behaviors of many insects.
I believe that a willingness to sometimes let your insect subject lead the way is a trait which all behaviorists share, and that it is a prerequisite for discovery. If we are patient enough to listen, insects will not fail to tell us amazing stories.