Department of Entomology Strategic Plan
The Strategic Plan for Entomology has four major goals:
1) to maintain and enhance strength in integrated pest management;
2) to enhance existing strength in urban pest management;
3) to develop a nationally recognized program in systematics, conservation, and environmentally oriented studies; and
4) to attract and train quality graduate students.
Goal I. Maintain and enhance strength in Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Integrated pest management is a traditional strength of the Department, and Entomology faculty has remained extremely active in the generation and dissemination of commodity-related research. Commodity-related research within the Department of Entomology was highlighted in more than 100 presentations per year at meetings attended by growers, consultants, and representatives of the agrochemical industry. The breadth of training in IPM research has been increased through collaboration with scientists from outside the Department of Entomology. Efforts have been made to increase the number of non-Entomology faculty who serve on Entomology graduate student committees. Membership from outside the Department for service on Entomology graduate student committees is encouraged. Recently, the Department has increased its offering of graduate- level courses in IPM.
Perhaps the most dramatic progress relating to Goal I has been increased collaboration between LCES (extension) and LAES (research) scientists within the Department. The two units were merged and held their first joint faculty meeting during June 2002. As a result of this merger, considerable consolidation of responsibilities has occurred, and the overall efficiency of Department operations has increased as a result. Faculty with appointments in Extension have been appointed to the Graduate Faculty and now serve on graduate student committees, and increasingly are being integrated into the teaching component of the Department. In addition, the departmental webpage has been updated to describe areas of expertise of all Entomology faculty.
Finally, an interdepartmental concentration in agricultural pest management was created within the existing curriculum of Plant and Soil Systems in the College of Agriculture.
Goal II. Enhance existing strength in Urban Pest Management
Since the inception of the Unit Plan, the Department has placed increased emphasis on addressing problems associated with urban pests. Within Entomology, three research and four extension faculty are in place with responsibilities that involve urban pests. In addition, the Department aggressively recruits students into these programs. The Head sends letters to high school students who visit during Tiger Day and Fall Fest and to Science Fair entrants with entomological projects. In addition, the Head contacts entomologists at neighboring universities (i.e., LSU-Shreveport, ULL, UNO and Tulane) to encourage graduate applicants. Finally, opportunities for graduate students have been posted on the website of the Entomological Society of America as well as employment board at national meetings. With the completion of the Life Science Annex, all UPM research programs are now located in adjacent space.
Goal III. Develop a nationally-recognized program in systematics, conservation, and environmentally oriented studies, and inventory Louisiana insects:
A major step in the direction of unifying all natural history collections on campus was accomplished with the formation of the Louisiana Natural History Museum as a result of legislation passed during the 2000 legislative session. An immediate impact was the acquisition of computer hardware and software necessary to initiate computerization of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum (LSAM). Also, with support from the LSU AgCenter and the College of Agriculture, we were able to initiate a major expansion and renovation of the LSAM to meet the increased demands of an expanding graduate student and research program.
Several projects were initiated with the cooperation and funding of the Louisiana Nature Conservancy to conduct insect diversity and inventory studies on their preserves and on state wildlife areas as well as other public and private lands. Long-term studies are being conducted on a variety of arthropod groups, primarily in two ecoregions, longleaf pine savannas and mesophytic hardwood forests. Comprehensive species lists have been generated for ants, bees, spiders and macrolepidoptera. Three new species of beetles and one previously unknown beetle larva have been described from Louisiana and surrounding states as a result of these efforts. Research in forensic entomology provided a complete faunistic survey of high-profile wildlife carcasses in south Louisiana.
A regional project was initiated to document beetle diversity in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN and NC. The LSAM serves as a taxonomic center to coordinate the beetle portion of the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory at the park. With funding from the National Science Foundation and the non-profit organization Discover Life in America, Inc., several group collecting events (“Beetle Blitzes”) have been undertaken, a project was developed to track progress in documenting beetle diversity of the park (www.entomology.lsu.edu/lsam/smokybeetles.htm).
In addition to work in Louisiana and the southeast region, revisionary systematic work has been conducted on beetle and butterfly groups on a global scale. An obscure group of wood nymph butterflies, the Euptychiini, that occurs mainly in Central and South America was revised using a total evidence approach that combined morphological and molecular data. The exclusively ant and termite-associated hister beetle genus Mesynodites, also from Central and South America, was revised, resulting in seven new genera, and this work formed the nucleus for revision of the entire subfamily of beetles, the Hetaeriinae. A monograph of the pselaphine staphylinid genus Reichenbachia included descriptions of 12 new species from eastern North America (including Reichenbachia louisiana). Three shorter papers included descriptions of a new species of handsome fungus beetle from Louisiana and four new species of sap beetles from Mexico and South America.
Since the inception of this program about twelve years ago, 14 graduate students have participated in the program, including numerous outstanding students and award winners. Two received LSU fellowships, one had an Environmental Protection Agency Star Fellowship, two received ESA Comstock Awards, and two have been awarded National Science Foundation research grants. Participation at national conferences has been strong, and during that last seven years, ~60 refereed research articles have been published in a variety of entomology journals as well as broader journals such as Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Evolution, Systematic Entomology, and American Naturalist. Over 70 presentations have been given at regional and national meetings, as well as seminars at universities. Approximately $1.1 million in external funds from National Science Foundation, Louisiana Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Discover Life in America, and the Louisiana Board of Regents have supported the research.
The Louisiana State Arthropod Museum's website (www.entomology.lsu.edu/lsam) continues to function as the major public access point for general information about our research programs and taxonomic services provided by the Museum. It is also becoming increasingly important as a rapid outlet for technical information generated by various research projects. Recently, pages explaining how to submit specimens for identification and diagnosis have been posted on both the LSAM and the departmental website.
Goal IV. Attract and train quality graduate students
The Department strives to recruit high caliber graduate students, and these efforts have paid dividends. The quality of our students is reflected in the number of refereed journal publications they author, as well as their performance in competitions at the local, regional, and national levels. The visibility of the Department has been increased significantly. The faculty is especially proud of student performance at regional and national meetings of the Entomological Society of America, where their excellence in research and speaking skills have been recognized and rewarded. In addition, for the past three years student teams from LSU have participated (and performed exceptionally well) in student debates at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America.
A number of steps have been taken to increase the visibility of the Department to prospective graduate students. First, the Entomology webpage has been redesigned and now includes the Department handbook for graduate study such that students can identify faculty interest areas and review requirements for degrees that we offer. More important, graduate student stipends are being increased to more competitive levels. In the past two years, stipends have increased from $13000 to $14000 for M.S. students, and from $13,500 to $16,000 for Ph.D. students. Full-time graduate students also receive a 100% tuition waiver.
The Department also is increasing efforts to attract undergraduate and graduate students from local pools (e.g., Biological Sciences Department or the Master of Natural Sciences Program), as well as national and international pools. Efforts to increase enrollment by students from outside the Department have begun with the first offering of an interdepartmental concentration in Agricultural Pest Management during Fall 2000. In addition, we now offer three courses (Insect Ecology, Insect Taxonomy, and Conservation Biology) that are attended by substantial numbers of Biology undergraduates. Finally, a new course (“Insect Biology” ENTM 4002) was offered for the first time during Fall 2005. This course is cross-listed as BIOL 4002, and is designed specifically to increase interest in entomology among upper-level Biology majors.
In addition to improving our recruiting stance, a major priority of the Department has been to modify our existing curriculum to enhance potential for success of the students we train. The Entomology curriculum was discussed extensively in a Department retreat held during October 2003, and was the sole topic of a subsequent retreat (December 2004). This goal has been approached in two ways. First, we have added courses to the curriculum, such as Insect Ecology, Advanced IPM, and General Entomology, which were deemed essential for current students. The breadth of course offerings was also increased through addition of “Special Topics” courses, which cover subjects that are of general interest or are “in the news.” These courses have been popular with students, and discussions are underway to formalize them as a part of our curriculum.
The Department has also endeavored to improve the quality of our existing courses by increasing the use of current PowerPoint and web technology in our courses, and improving the quality of space allocated for teaching. Our primary teaching classroom was recently equipped with a complete computer-linked audiovisual system, including a dedicated projection microscope.
We continue to request support for an Aquatic Entomologist and an Insect Physiologist to provide targeted expertise in these areas. These two highest priority positions reflect departmental concerns about our limited ability to advise on aquatic resource management issues and to train students in the full range of core entomological subdisciplines. Physiology is fundamental to understanding insect responses to environmental changes, and to developing novel, better-targeted strategies for insect management and resistance management.