Portrait Wanwan Liang

Accomplishments From a Recent Graduate, Dr. Wanwan Liang

  Dr. Wanwan Liang (class of 2019 and former EPP graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Jerome Grant) recently published her fourth manuscript from her doctoral research conducted at the University of Tennessee. Her manuscripts were published in four prestigious journals: Biological Invasions, Ecological Modeling, Environmental Entomology, and Remote Sensing. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Center of Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University and can be contacted at wliang5@ncsu.edu. Dr. Liang was an amazing student during her time here at UT. She excelled academically and socially; she fit right at home here in our department. She even stopped by to help with last year’s Buggy Buffet! We are very proud of her. If you get…

New Paper on Relative Attractiveness of Ornamental Cultivars to Pollinators

Ornamental plants are generally considered to be less attractive to pollinating insects, but some varieties and cultivars are more attractive than others. Here we compare the relative attractiveness of different popular ornamental plants to flower-visiting insects and provide recommendations for more pollinator-friendly varieties. View the open-access article Please feel free to email Dr. Laura Russo with any questions concerning this project: lrusso@utk.edu

Closeup of the head to Solenopsis geminata (fire ant)

Joint Evolution of Asexuality and Queen Number in an Ant

A recent paper in Current Biology by DeWayne Shoemaker and colleagues from the University of Georgia describes a socially polymorphic population of the tropical fire ant, Solenopsis geminata, in which multi-queen colonies produce queens asexually but produce workers sexually via matings with males from the sexually reproducing single-queen social form. Two distinct asexual lineages from multi-queen colonies likely originated from the same sexual single-queen population. Multiple asexual/polygyne genomes are transmitted undiluted in this system, but sterile workers produced with sperm from a sexually-reproducing/monogyne population are necessary for the persistence of these lineages. The intersection of social polymorphism, facultative asexuality, and genetic caste determination marks this population of S. geminata as an embodiment of the diversity of ant reproductive systems and suggests previously…

Tomatoes and peppers in various sizes and colors on display

UTIA Scientists Publish Paper on Role of Citizen Science in Addressing Agricultural Challenges

Dr. Sean Ryan, a postdoctoral researcher in the EPP Department, Dr. DeWayne Shoemaker, and an international team of more than three dozen researchers published a paper highlighting the potential of citizen science to address pressing research challenges in agriculture and food systems. One key to capitalizing on such efforts, the researchers find, may be to build stronger ties between citizen science and agricultural extension efforts. A press article summarizing the article is here and a free copy (open access) of the original paper can be downloaded from the journal web site.

Fall armyworm voraciously feeding on plant tissue

Development of Novel DNA-Based Methods for Detection of Bt Resistant Fall Armyworms

During the past 22 years, pest control efficacy and the potential for higher net returns have driven a global increase in the adoption of transgenic crops which produce insecticidal proteins (Cry and Vip toxins) from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt crops). In the US alone, Bt corn and cotton adoption represent >80% of the national acreage devoted to the two commodities, which has unfortunately led to increasing selection pressure for evolution of Bt toxin resistant insect pests. One such devastating pest is the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) which has become a growing threat to the use of transgenic corn technology in the Western Hemisphere and more recently the African continent. The fall armyworm is the insect pest with the highest…

Close-up of a fire ant; note the large head and mandibles

Recent Article: Sociometry of Solenopsis Geminata Reveals Variation in Colony-Level Phenotypes in Fire Ants

Abstract: In social insects, natural selection operates at the level of the colony, rather than the individual, but our understanding of how colony-level phenotypes arise and vary between species is lacking. Here, we test how colony-level phenotypes vary within the fire ants by measuring the composition of colonies of the tropical fire ant, Solenopsis geminata, over a wide range of sizes at multiple times throughout the year. Similar to the well-studied fire ant species S. invicta, we find that S. geminata colony composition varies strongly with colony size, such that as colonies grow they produce increasingly large workers as well as queens and males. However, major production increases more rapidly with colony size in S. geminata than in S. invicta,…