Mentor: Dr. Jim Cuda
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
"I was introduced to involvement in research through the Honors Program. I became even more involved after meeting with Dr. Cuda at Entomology and Nematology Department and seeing the enthusiasm that he had for biological control agents. After meeting with Dr. Cuda and Dr. Weeks, I had designed my own project working with a biological control agent of a highly invasive weed found throughout Florida. It is exciting and useful!"
Soil and Water Science
- Biological Control
- Agricultural Pests
- Aquatic Weeds
Weed Science Society of America
University Scholars Program
Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels
Hobbies and Interests
- Camping/Outdoor Fun
- Beach/Water Sports
- Motorcycle Riding
Improvements for Mass Rearing C. Lebetis for Biocontrol of Hydrilla
Hydrilla is an invasive weed found throughout Florida. It was introduced in the 1950s as an aquarium plant and has since impacted Florida waterways negatively. Cricotopus lebetis is a chironomid midge that has been found to damage the apical meristem of the plant altering it's vertical growth and therefore keeping it below the water surface. My project focuses specifically on enhancing the rearing and release of the midge for the purpose of hydrilla biocontrol. To do this, I have designed three objectives involving the hydrilla midge rearing. I will determine a suitable concentration of BTK (which naturally produces toxic proteins specific to lepidopteran pests) to help rear the midges in colony setting by eliminating moth competition in the colony cages. I will also evaluate cold tolerance of midge eggs to determine how long eggs can be refrigerated for storage or transportation purposes without any negative effects. Finally, I will determine the effect of species interactions, specifically the influence of competition and predation on the hydrilla midge as a biocontrol agent by assessing the midge in a model ecosystem with hydrilla moths and mosquitofish. By accomplishing these objectives, we expect to improve mass rearing and release of C. lebetis as an augmentative biocontrol agent of hydrilla. More effective mass rearing C. lebetis is expected to improve prospects for hydrilla integrated pest management (IPM).