Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Pat on the Back

Alright folks, I don’t usually toot my own horn but here it is.  I stumbled across someone else’s blog post about me.  Hah.  I won an award for being an awesome entomology graduate student (this isn’t news to me).  Neat!

Elaine Fok named 2013 Asa Fitch Recipient | Jugatae.


Oviposition, oviposition, oviposition

Sunday night dinner was a celebration of Greek food, Greek movies, a farewell to a great housemate, and an unexpected event.

In the beginning, it was a fairly normal evening.  A wasp was flying around, doing it’s wasp thing, and landed on a chair.  Fear not, soon to be Doctor Princess Marie!  This wasp is mostly harmless, unlike the pesky yellow jackets and hornets that would like to join you for a picnic.  So we let it be and eventually it flew off.

But alas! Minutes later it returned and reared its pesky, large and beautifully blue iridescent head.  After a few closer observations of its strange motions and careful examination of its back end, I realized it was ovipositing on the chair!  You can see the egg on the arm rest just below the tip of the ovipositor below.

What excitement and discussion of host choice and explanation of oviposition, the process of laying eggs.  Go figure, the entomologist of the house would get excited.  But the others appreciated the natural event as well.  I’m pretty sure that we used “oviposition” in practically every sentence afterwards. In true entomologist fashion, I collected and froze the wasp for identification and for my collection.  If only all my pinned insects had a story to go with them…

Special thanks to Jason for his fortuitous photography, Marie for diligent attention to insects on the porch, and Trevor for the delicious reason we were outside to witness this event.  Still working to ID the little thing, but I will let you know when I figure it out.

Why Science?

I think one of my main motivations of this blog is to check back every so often, and think about the context of my work within a greater body of knowledge.  That, and considering the importance of my work and the potential impact it has.

As I was getting an oil change the other day,  I came across a Scientific American article about scientific perception, the title: Trust Me, I’m a Scientist.  It made me think of another science-y article, The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science, on Mother Jones.  One short article, one long article, both valuable in trying to understand the battles I may face as a scientist.

There is truly a great deal of value in the work in which my colleagues are involved.  My focus is in the applied sector and problem solving with growers.  In this regard, it is important to understand and recognize the preconceptions and notions based on cultural and experiential knowledge that people may have.


Blogging about

I know I’m not the only one blogging goings on in Entomology or Sustainable Agriculture.  But I was surprised, and quite pleased, to find that the New York Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) is in the blog world too!  The blog is updated by students, faculty, technicians, anyone affiliated with the station.  It’s a great way for me to keep up with my academic community and the news is inspiring.  A recent post included a link to a piece in the New York Times with notes for aspiring wine makers from one of Cornell’s own.

I’d love to see what what things you’re writing about.  Feel free to leave links in the comments!

Who’s Who #3

Germany’s got it, Sweden’s got it, Belgium’s got it.  And no one is admitting responsibility for the Escherichia coli outbreak, not surprising.  Fingers point quickly to Spain, but the original source is still to be determined.  E. coli, the mystery organism from Wednesday, has a new strain that is sweeping Europe and wrecking havoc.  So far, it has only been cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes that have been reported as potential sources of contamination.  But many are shying away from any raw fruits or vegetables just to be cautious.

Such outbreaks are a major concern for the agricultural industry.  Produce contamination is a serious health concern and often results in a recall of particular meat products or certain kinds of produce.  In such cases, traceability is key to finding the source of contamination, which can occur at any point from farm to table.  Once identified, steps are taken to minimize further distribution and spread.

More benign sources of E. coli are found in the intestine of warm blooded animals, like humans, and can be beneficial to its host by producing vitamin K.  With all the bad rap, it’s important to note that this bacteria is naturally occurring in a non-virulent form.

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management, or IPM, relies on biological, cultural, and chemical methods to manage pests in agriculture and in your community.  It is neither conventional pest management, nor organic management.  Instead, it draws on the best of both, and uses many other tools and resources available.

Biological control focuses on using living organisms to suppress the population of a pest organism in an effort to reduce damage below a threshold. Such control organisms may be other insects which include predatory insects or parasitoids.  Other biological control agents might be bacteria, fungi, or nematodes.

These control efforts include physical barriers like mosquito nets or row covers as well as traditional practices such as crop rotation or intercropping. Field sanitation, the removal of diseased plants or pest refuge, is also considered under cultural control.

Chemical control includes using pesticides judiciously to manage pest, but also manage for pesticide resistance. Considering the mode of action, or how the pesticide kills the pest, is an important aspect of chemical control.

IPM is an ecological approach to pest prevention, observation, and intervention.  It is a tool that can be tailored to grower needs and resources for practical pest management while reflecting biological, social, and economic understandings of the system.

There was some buzz a while back about the funding and future of the New York State IPM program.  Thanks to public support, the state budget has allocated monies to continue supporting the agricultural and community programs.  The power of people is incredible.

Eat, Corn, Love

Days are getting longer and warmer in Ithaca, and I’m getting antsy for the food of summer.  Especially fresh delicious corn!  The United States is the largest producer and exporter of corn, with about 80 million acres planted. But only about 12% is for “food, seed and industrial uses.”  About 45% is used for “feed and residual uses” while 43% goes toward “alcohol for fuel use.”  Let’s break that down.

I’m assuming that fresh market corn that I can buy at the food co-op or at the farmer’s market is part of the “feed, seed and industrial uses.” And “industrial uses” refers to the processing of corn for high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), beverage alcohol, corn cereal, and corn meal.  Processing is not inherently bad, I would never get Flax Plus granola cereal without some kind of food processing plant.  But when HFCS starts showing up in foods that might not need it (spinach dip) I get a little more than just concerned.  Especially because research shows that HFCS is linked to our current obesity epidemic.  Countering the debate, are the silly little clips revealing the extremely biased “facts” about HFCS.  They make me want to tear my eyes out.

How does corn go from being this:

to this:

For more information, which is definitely biased in my direction, I would recommend watching King Corn.  It’s a cute, informative documentary about two friends who are trying to understand where our food comes from.

And to top if all off, even these bees are as inundated with HFCS as we are!