TEAM

Exotic Plant Invasion bio-Control Laboratory


Meet the faculty, staff, current and past students that belong to the EPIC laboratory below.



Mark Schwarzländer | Brad Harmon | Marijka Haverhals| Current Students| Past Students

Dr. MARK SCHWARZLÄNDER

Mark SchwarzlanderI received a M.S. and Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Kiel in Germany. I conduct research on biological control of weeds, insect-plant interactions, quantitative impact of specialist herbivore insect species on individual host plant and host plant population level, combined influence of insect herbivore and plant competition on weeds as part of integrated weed management strategies, and non-target effects of biological control agents. Areas of expertise include host-specificity evaluation and bionomics of herbivore insects, and foreign exploration for biological control agents for weeds.

My overall goal is to contribute to the discovery and applications of the principles of multitrophic interactions between invasive plant species, native plant communities and their specialist insect herbivores in order to improve the efficiency of biological weed control. The interdisciplinary and international nature of the research in combination with recently more readily available molecular tools offers fascinating research possibilities that excite me tremendously.

On campus courses that are taught in biological weed control include an Entomology Seminar (ENT 501).

Click here for complete Curriculum Vitae

Click here to view Mark's Google Scholar Profile

For more information on my research, please contact me at:

Mark Schwarzländer
606 Rayburn Street
PO Box 442339
Moscow, ID 83844-2339
Office: (208) 885-9319
Cell: (208) 301-4422
Fax: (208) 885-7760
Email: markschw@uidaho.edu


BRAD HARMON

Brad HarmonI am the Research Support Scientist for the Exotic Plant Invasion bio-Control (EPIC) program. I received a B.S. in Entomology from North Dakota State University and a M.S. in Entomology from the University of Idaho. Please feel free to contact me at bharmon@uidaho.edu

Examples of my duties include:

  • To coordinate research among various programs
  • Maintain the laboratory and greenhouses
  • Rear colonies of insects for ecological experimentation
  • Carry out experimental protocols in the field, laboratory and greenhouse experiments
  • Develop and implement research on the biological control, ecology, impact, and management of invasive plants
  • Write reports and scientific articles communicate research results to researchers, land managers and the public survey for biological control agents import agents into quarantine
  • Conduct host specificity testing

MARIJKA HAVERHALS

Marijka HaverhalsI received a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Montana.  I am an Outreach Specialist for the Center for Research on Invasive Species and Small Populations (CRISSP) and also assist with research projects in the EPIC Laboratory. For CRISSP, I coordinate the undergraduate REU Summer Internship Program, the website, and the newsletter. The EPIC laboratory research projects I am involved in include houndstongue biocontrol development, knotweed genetic diversity of the Pacific Northwest, rush skeletonweed genotyping, and Canada thistle monitoring in South Dakota.  I am also the chair of the Hawkweed Consortium and coordinate plant collections in the U.S. to support ongoing research on biocontrol insects at CABI Europe - Switzerland.

I am the current president of the Northern Rockies Invasive Plant Council (NRIPC) which became an official non-profit organization in 2009.  Our mission is to support the management of invasive exotic plants in the Northern Rocky Mountain states by providing a forum for the exchange of scientific, educational and technical information. The newly formed NRIPC hosts a regional Invasive Species in Natural Areas Conference with land managers of the Rocky Mountain States to discuss possibilities and problems specific to the management of invasive species in natural areas. This is a great opportunity to network with national researchers and regional land managers.

Please feel free to contact me at marijka@uidaho.edu

 

CURRENT STUDENTS

Rob GibsonRob Gibson

Email: gibs3228@vandals.uidaho.edu
M.S. Environmental Sciences
2009 to present

Educational Background
B.S. in Ecology and Conservation Biology from the University of Idaho.

Project Title
Plant population dynamics of dyer's woad (Istatis tinctoria)

Research
Dyer's woad infestation. Photo by Jed Dewey. My current research is a preliminary comparative study of plant population dynamics of the invasive dyer’s woad (Isatis tinctoria) between its native (Europe) and invasive range (Western United States), in search for potential biological control agents and treatments. To evaluate population dynamics, I am testing presence and absence of interspecific competition and dyer’s woad rust (Puccinia thlaspeos). In Europe, they are testing presence and absence of interspecific competition and herbivory. Lastly, I will assess both data sets through matrix modeling.

Ikju ParkIkju Park

Email: park0563@vandals.uidaho.edu
Ph.D. candidate in Entomology
2010 to present

Educational Background

B.S. in Agricultural Biology at Chungbuk National University, South Korea, and M.S. in Agricultural Biology at New Mexico State University (minor in Experimental Statistics)

Project Title

The use of chemical ecology to improve pre-release and post-release host range predictions for potential and released biological control agents of Cynoglossum officinale

Research

Mogulonis borraginisMy current research aims to improve the accuracy of host specificity tests for the seed feeding weevil, Mogulones borraginis, which is used as a biological control agent for controlling the invasive plant, Cynoglossum officinale (Boraginaceae).  Specially, I will be focusing on 1) reducing the incidences of false positives in pre-release assessments and 2) identifying various cures that attract M. borraginis to its host plants.  In a pre-release test, a false positive, acceptance of test plants in experiments but not field conditions, may arise because the host location behavior of the agent may differ in testing conditions.  Such false positives may over-estimate the likelihood of a biological control agent attacking unintended targets.  In order to minimize undesirable false positive results, combined GC-EAD/FID with GC-MS and four arm olfactometers will be used to better understand host selection behavior of M. borraginis.  This method will be also applied to understanding the potential threat to native and endangered plant species posed by releasing Mogulones cruciger as a biological agent.  First released in Canada in 1997, M. cruciger is now found in Northern Idaho and Washington where endangered native confamials and congeners are present.

Joel Price Joel Price

Email: pric4169@vandals.uidaho.edu
M.S. Entomology
2011 to present

Educational Background
B.S. in Ecology, Wildlife and Fisheries from Bringham Young University-Idaho

Project Title
Biocontrol of Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense) using the Stem Gall Fly (Urophora carduii) and the Stem-mining Weevil (Hadrophlonus litura).

Research
Canada thistleMy current research is a continuation of a five year project on Canada thistle biocontrol in the western U.S.  This includes monitoring invertebrate populations and thistle stand growth at predetermined study field sites.  I will expand on the project by collecting data on water availability, doing a comparison of grazed vs. un-grazed sites, and collecting the field agents to rear out parasitoids.  With the addition of these variables we will have a better idea of biocontrol agent mortality factors.

Jessica RendonJessica Rendon

Email: rend7973@vandals.uidaho.edu
M.S. Entomology
2011 to present

Educational Background
B.S. in Environmental Science from Humboldt State University

Project Title
The use of chemical ecology to test host specificity of Ceutorhynchus cardariae, a potential biological control agent for Lepidium draba

Research
Hoary cress infestation. Photo by MSU bugwood.org. For my research project, I will work with Lepidum draba (hoary cress), an invasive mustard native to Eurasia, and it's potential biocontrol agend Ceutorhynchus cardariae, a leaf petiole gall forming weevil.  My research will focus on the host selection behavior and preference of C. cardariae to provide supporting data that ensures its environmental safety and to avoid any potential unwarranted non-target effects.  For this, I will use several methodological approaches:

 

1)    In a first approach I will collect the volatiles of L. draba and several related, and threatened/endangered North American Brassicaceae species.  These volatiles will then be used in a y-tube olfactory meter bioassay to observe C. cardariae's host selection behavior and volatiles will be analyzed using GC-MS to identify individual compounds and compound composition;

2)    In a second approach, I will use EAGs (electroantennagram) to record the antennal responses of C. cardariae to the stored scents of these plant species.  The EAGs are coupled with simultaneous analysis of the volatiles through a GC-MS (mass spectrum gas-chromatography), which will allow me to identify those compounds that trigger a response of the weevil antennae.


PAST MEMBERS

Lorena BrownLorena Brown

Email: lorenasuebrown@gmail.com
M.S. Environmental Sciences 
2006 - 2008

Educational Background
B.S. in Environmental and Plant Biology and an Environmental Studies Certificate (equivalent to a minor) from Ohio University

Project Title
Genetic variation of the invasive Linaria dalmatica in its introduced range in Western North America and the impact of its predominant biological control agent, Mecinus janthinus

Research Project
The first aspect of this project was to determine the correct taxonomic position of the invasive Dalmatian toadflax, often referred to as Linaria dalmatica, in Western North America. Dalmatian toadflax has a number of scientific names, or synonyms, ascribed to it within the body of literature. Plants were sampled throughout Oregon, northern California, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado, taking morphological measurements and collecting leaf material for genetic analysis. The sampling protocol was also completed in Europe for populations of Linaria dalmatica and other closely related species. Leaf material from Europe and North America was analyzed using AFLP-markers. The data for one season of collecting produced inconclusive results and the correct taxonomic position of Dalmatian toadflax cannot be determined at this time, but work on the project continues.

Dalmatian toadflax monitoring siteThe second aspect of this project was to establish a long-term monitoring program for the stem-mining weevil, Mecinus janthinus, the predominant biological control agent for Dalmatian toadflax. Fifteen sites with Dalmatian toadflax infestations were selected throughout Idaho as permanent monitoring locations. At each site, a twenty meter transect was established and ten 0.125 m² plots (25 cm x 50 cm frame) were placed along the transect. The percent cover of Dalmatian toadflax, number of stems and height of the tallest stem was determined within each plot. The number of weevils present in the Dalmatian toadflax infestation was determined using 3-minute visual scans. Sites were divided into herbivory levels (high, moderate or low) based on the number of weevils present. With only two years of data, not statistical differences in the structure of the Dalmatian toadflax infestation based on herbivory level were found.

Student Update
Following graduation in December 2008, I returned to my home state of Ohio to be near family. Since, I have been substitute teaching at area elementary and high schools.

Joey MilanJoey Milan

Email: Joseph_Milan@blm.gov
M.S. Entomology
2003-2005

Educational Background
B.S. in Biology from the College of Idaho

Project Title
Control efficacy of the biological control agents Eriophyes chondrillae and Puccinia chondrillina on rush skeletonweed, Chondrilla juncea, L.

Research Project
Boise, Idaho, field site Rush skeletonweed, Chondrilla juncea L., is an invasive, rhizomatous, perennial Asteraceae indigenous to the Mediterranean area and to central Asia. To date, four rush skeletonweed biological control agents have been released in North America and Australia to control the weed. Three of the agents are widely established in North America but their control success is limited. Here, we examine the winter biology and survivorship of Eriophyes chondrillae as well as the impact of E. chondrillae and Puccinia chondrillina on rush skeletonweed at two field sites in southwestern Idaho. Our data suggests that E. chondrillae strongly prefers or requires petiole bases of fall rosettes for successful overwintering of these fall rosettes are likely to be found on southern exposures. An exclosure experiment in which E. chondrillae and P. chondrillina were removed from the system revealed that these biological agents have a limited impact in the field on rush skeletonweed, reducing flower production at one field site but having no significant effect at the other site. Additionally, aboveground biomass was not significantly different in the absence of the biological control agents.

Student Update
Biocontrol monitoring plotUpon completion of my M.S., I was hired as a Biological Control Specialist - an interagency position shared by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and the Idaho Bureau of Land Management. At my present post, I serve as the interagency coordinator for biological control, assisting weed control practitioners in their Integrated Weed Management approach by providing technical assistance and monitoring of past releases to determine impact and agent efficacy as well as organizing new collections and additional potential release sites.

Ken PuliaficoDr. Ken Puliafico

Email: puliafico@gmail.com
Ph.D.  Entomology
2004-2008

Educational Background
B.S. in Biology and M.S. in Entomology from
Montana State University

Project Title
Influence of insect herbivory, plant competition and plant defense on the invastion success of hoary cress (Lepidium draba L. (Brassicaceae))

Research Project
I investigated the invasion success of the exotic mustard hoary cress (Lepidium draba) by testing three ecological hypotheses: biotic resistance of plant communities, natural enemy release, and evolution of increased competitive abilities (EICA).  These hypotheses were suggested from the results of an intercontinental survey of hoary cress populations conducted by the EPIC lap-group.  To investigate the biotic resistance that hoary cress experiences in its invaded range I compared the competitive ability of 11 native North American and introduced grass species grown with hoary cress in the greenhouse.  My findings indicate that hoary cress was suppressed more effectively by sod-forming Poa species than by native Festuca grasses under disturbed and riparian-like conditions.

Ceutorhynchus weevil cagesI next examined the degree of natural enemy release by hoary cress in the invaded range by testing the plant tolerance to four common insect pests with different feeding habits.  Hoary cress was tolerant of high levels of generalist herbivore feeding but was susceptible to low levels of stem mining by Ceutorhynchus weevils.  Three of the pest species caused significant damage to the plants at high densities which suggests that hoary cress has not completely been released from natural enemies within the invaded range. 


Ken in greenhouseFinally, I made several comparisons of plants from native and introduced populations to investigate the possibility of evolutionary changes in hoary cress.  My examinations of the phenological attributes of hoary cress revealed significant differences in the vegetative growth potential of root cuttings between ranges despite the high levels of genetic similarity of European and North American populations.  These observations lead to further studies of plants grown from these root cuttings to determine if there were similar differences in chemical defenses that might lead to herbivore resistance.  I found no differences in the induction of glucosinolate defenses in plants from either range when exposed to insect herbivores 60 days after transplant.  These results were counter to the predictions of a relaxation of chemical defense traits in the introduced range expected from the EICA hypothesis.  The combined study of these ecological hypotheses allows us to better understand the interactions of hoary cress with biotic stressors that have led to its dominance in a variety of habitats in North America.  Further these results have helped to guide the continuing survey of potential biological control insects to find the most effective agents for North America.

Student Update
I am currently working at The Natural History Museum of Denmark - Zoological Museum in Copenhagen with the Curator of Coleoptera.  I am primarily working with the Danish National Type Digitalization Project which includes recording the original Fabricius Coleoptera type series.

Dr. Marianna SzücsMarianna Szucs

Email:
szucsmarianna@yahoo.com
Ph.D. Entomology
2005-2010

Educational Background
B.S. in Geography and M.S. in Geology from the University of Szeged, Hungary.

Project Title
Evolution, hybridization, landscape genetics and climatic associations of biotypes of the biological control agent Longitarsus jacobaeae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)

Research
Longitarsus jacobaeaeI am working with several biotypes of the successful biological control agent, Longitarsus jacobaeae, which was introduced to control the invasive weed, tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaeae). This system provides great opportunity to address several evolutionary and ecological questions since the introduction and spread of an organism into a new environment is well documented.

Marianna SzucsI am conducting reciprocal transplant, common garden and laboratory experiments to study the life history characteristics of different L. jacobaeae biotypes. I am testing whether observed life history changes in a population released to high elevations are a result of phenotypic plasticity or rapid evolution. I am also using molecular methods to characterize native and introduced populations of L. jacobaeae to determine which biotypes have established in the U.S., whether they hybridized and if certain lineages are associated with particular climatic regimes. In addition, I am studying intraspecific hybrids of different L. jacobaeae biotypes to assess their viability and potential utility as biocontrol agents for new infestations of tansy ragwort. Lastly, I am monitoring the establishment of a cold adapted biotype of L. jacobaeae in the intermountain West on a recent tansy ragwort infestation.

Student Update
I am currently a Post-doctoral Fellow at Colorado State University.  I am working with the model beetle, Tribolium castaneum, to test the relative importance of demography and genetics in the founding of new populations and adaption to a novel environment.

Rachel WinstonRachel Winston

Email: rachel@getmia.net
M.S. Environmental Sciences
2004-2007

Educational Background
B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Botany from Idaho State University

Project Title
Are seed-feeding insects adequately controlling yellow starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis L., in the western U.S.?

Research Project
Yellow starthistle infestation in Hells CanyonThe project sought to analyze the impacts of classical biological control agents on the invasive yellow starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis L. Top-down regulations of herbivore insects attacking non-reproductive parts of plants has been documented in the literature, but the role of seed-feeding insects in the regulation of invasive plant populations is still debated. A classical biological weed control program initiated against yellow starthistle in the 1960s has resulted in the establishment of six Eurasian seed-feeding insects in North America. Because of the number of seed-feeding herbivores introduced, and the fact that no insects attacking other plant parts were introduced, yellow starthistle offered a unique opportunity to study the potential of individual or multiple seed-feeding herbivores to regulate populations of this herbaceous, seed-unlimited, and annual Asteraceae. A two-year insect enclosure study was conducted to evaluate the individual and combined attack efficacy and control potential of yellow starthistle seed-feeding insect herbivores. Despite combined larval attack rates of up to 94% of available capitula, approximately 9 seeds per attacked capitula escaped herbivory. A combination of adult and larval feeding resulted in a total maximum seed reduction of 70.9% per capitulum. This rate of seed reduction will not regulate yellow starthistle populations because this plant species is not seed-limited. Because of the already high rate of available capitula, it is also unlikely that overall seed reduction can be increased. Instead, competitive interactions between insect larvae presently established are likely to increase. In concordance with earlier findings, it is proposed that seed-feeding insect herbivores alone are not likely to provide top-down regulation necessary to control non-seed limited invasive plants in their invaded range.

Student Update
Since graduating in 2007, I have worked as a contractor with my own small consulting company, MIA Consulting, LLC. My work focuses primarily on invasive species issues, encompassing ecological studies, the development of education and awareness material, native and invasive plant identification and mapping, and compilations of invasive species data and information into geo-databases.

Dr. Aaron Weed

Aaron WeedI have been a postdoctoral fellow working in the EPIC lab since March 2010 and have since moved onto another postdoctoral opportunity at Dartmouth College.  I received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Maine, M.S. in Entomology from the University of Florida, and Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Rhode Island.  My research focuses on insect-plant interactions with emphasis on behavioral ecology, the pre- and post-release evaluation of weed biological control agents, and understanding how space, time, and environmental factors affect herbivore population dynamics and their impact on host plant populations.  I use a combination of approaches (field and laboratory) and tools (statistical modeling and GIS) to explore these topics.  Other interests include biological control of insects and insect taxonomy and conservation.

Since 2007, a Standardized Impact Monitoring Protocol (SIMP) has been implemented in Idaho to assess long-term, area-wide weed biocontrol impact of select systems.  I am currently analyzing data generated using this protocol to assess biological control impact of Dalmatian toadflax, leafy spurge, and spotted knapweed in Idaho.  Our goal is to assess how site characteristics affect long-term dynamics of weed and biocontrol abundance and contribute to spatial variation in biocontrol success.  I am also interested in how plant, patch size, and local spatial structure of weed populations affect biocontrol agent behavior and efficacy.  I am evaluating these questions in the Dalmatian toadflax system with its biocontrol agent Mecinus janthinus across the Pacific Northeast.

My overall research goals are to improve our basic understanding of what drives herbivore population dynamics at various spatial scales and use these results to improve the development and effectiveness of weed biological control programs.  I also strive to resolve challenging invasive species management issues amongst multiple stakeholder groups whose goals vary across landscapes.

Please feel free to contact me at asweed@uidaho.edu
Download Aaron Weed's CV here