Amara Dunn was hired for the new BioControl Specialist position just about three years ago.
Since then, she’s gone from focusing on ‘learning the ropes’ and creating goals for the position… to being in high demand by staff (and New Yorkers) on both the agricultural and community sides of our program!
Amara, how does your work here at the IPM Program fit the career you imagined when you entered college?
When I started college I really had no idea what I wanted to do, except that I liked biology but didn’t want to be a medical doctor. You could say that my work at NYSIPM (across a broad range of commodities and settings) is kind of the culmination of exploring and honing my interests through a variety of professional and volunteer experiences during and after college. My eclectic job responsibilities have also reminded me that we learn something from pretty much all of our experiences, even the ones that don’t ultimately lead to a career.
Who do you see as the main audience for your current work?
I am trying very hard to provide materials for a broad range of audiences. For example, I’m doing a lot of work currently on conservation biocontrol (protecting and feeding the “good bugs” you’ve already got) and pollinators like bees and butterflies. All of these beneficial insects need the same things, but taking care of beneficial insects looks different in a back yard than it does on a farm. I’m trying to provide cost and “how-to” information for both groups. I think on some level most people I’ve interacted with – farmers, home gardeners, people who enjoy spending time outdoors – have similar questions and goals. They want to know how to solve pest problems, and they care about protecting people and the environment while they do it.
What is most rewarding about your work in pest management?
Helping people. Hands down. Being able to answer questions or provide needed information that ultimately has a positive impact on peoples’ lives brings me so much joy.
What do you most enjoy doing in your non-work time?
Broadly speaking, I would say that I like creating. I have always loved growing plants, and I’m really enjoying planning and implementing new gardens around the house I just bought. And, yes, these gardens do include plants that support beneficial insects. I’m also using them as “virtual demonstration plots” to show how one might support beneficial insects around their homes (and some of the pitfalls when trying to do this). Over the past few years, I’ve been cultivating (pun intended) an interest in cut flowers. I love having fresh flowers in my home or office, and like being able to share them with others. But I also enjoy cooking and knitting/crocheting. And I like to mix my interests. There are a wealth of patterns out there for people wanting to knit or crochet arthropods. I’ve even tried making my own pattern when I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Given a month to travel or work on something you enjoy, where or what would it be?
Honestly, I’m pretty ambivalent about travel. I could take it or leave it. But when I do travel, I like to visit local gardens, parks, or museums and try delicious local food!
What biocontrol topic or pest problem do you anticipate on your horizon in the next year or so?
Sadly, I suspect it’s inevitable that spotted lanternfly will become established in NY. We’ve done a great job of delaying that inevitability (kudos to everyone – professionals and lay people – for all your hard work!), but it probably is an inevitability. One of the hoped-for benefits of delaying this pest’s establishment is that we’d have more tools (including biological tools) for managing it by the time it got here.
What biocontrol concern has captured your interest for future research?
I’m really interested in learning and documenting the efficacy of biocontrol strategies in the field so that we can give growers specific answers about how to use strategies to reduce risks to people and the environment. For example, how large an area of flowers, which flowers, and how close to the crop do you need to plant them to reduce pest damage? Or, which conventional pesticide sprays can be replaced with biopesticides to maintain good pest control while maintaining profitability. These are really big questions, and I certainly can’t answer them all by myself. There’s a lot of great research already being done on these questions here in NY and elsewhere.
Absolutely. Being part of the NYIPM Program lets us see so much of what’s going on regionally to reduce pest risks and help the environment! Thank you, Amara, for allowing us to share more about you and your role at the NYSIPM Program!
Amara’s office is on the Cornell AgriTech campus but you may have seen her or met her at a variety of conferences and workshops over the last three years. Follow her blog BIOCONTROL BYTES or her Twitter and professional Instagram accounts!
July 13, 2020
by Dan Olmstead Comments Off on Noteworthy rainfall across New York State this past weekend
Two major systems brought significant amounts of rain to all of New York State this past weekend. Tropical Storm Fay moved up the Hudson River Valley while a large front from the West hit western and central NY Saturday and Sunday.
7-day rainfall totals for New York State as of 12 July 2020.
Most counties and townships received a minimum half inch of rain across the state, which was timely given the fact that most of NY had transitioned to abnormally dry conditions, or moderate to severe drought in some areas, as of 10 July. Click here for additional drought status information.
More than 3 inches of rain were recorded in Catteraugus, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Oswego, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester Counties as well as all boroughs of New York City. Smaller areas of Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, and Yates Counties also received similar amounts.
Lumberland and Highland Townships in the southwest corner of Sullivan County may have experienced rainfall in excess of 8 inches.
In the future, visit the ThinkIPM Blog for summaries of severe weather events impacting IPM practices and agricultural production in NY.
iMapInvasives has put out a call for help and we’re happy to do our bit. Check out this citizen science project looking at increasing the amount of information regarding invasive species throughout New York. Written by Mitchell O’Neill, End User Support Specialist for iMapInvasives.
There is one more weekend in the 5th Annual Invasive Species Mapping Challenge – ending Wednesday July 15th! Join this citizen science effort to fill data gaps for four key invasive species in New York State’s official invasive species database, iMapInvasives. The species are jumping worm, tree-of-heaven, water chestnut, and European frogbit – which have wide-ranging impacts on land and water resources, agriculture, gardening, and recreation.
In this webinar, the iMapInvasive’s team cover the identification of these species and how you can participate.
Did we mention there are prizes for each species? Here is one example.
Great data has come in over the past 2 weeks, but it’s still very much anyone’s challenge! The top contributor for each of the four species wins a prize!
I encourage you to go out and search for invasives this weekend – remember to record not-detected records if you search for one of the species in its habitat but did not find it. View our webinar on identifying these species and reporting them to iMapInvasives here. Please email email@example.com with any questions!
Be sure to check the leaderboard to watch your name rise to the top as you record observations!
June 12, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on Our 2018-2019 Annual Report – Nematodes, Spotted Lanternfly… a last Look and Recap
Today we reach the end of our in-depth look at our most recent annual report from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. While many of you receive it in the mail, the large number of in-person sharing we generally do as we speak with people around the state was obviously limited. We continue to do our best to reduce risk from pests and treatments, and to reduce the risk of Covid-19.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO A RETURN TO THE MANY WORKSHOPS, PRESENTATIONS, ON-SITE EVALUATIONS and GATHERINGS THAT WE VALUE AS PART OF OUR FOCUS!
Steinernema-spp under magnification.
Nematodes Go to School
For decades, researchers and practitioners alike have played around with beneficial nematodes to control insect pests in turf and agricultural crops. These nematodes are microscopic worms that move through soil looking for host insects to infect. Once inside a grub or other insect, the nematode releases bacteria that feed and reproduce, eventually releasing a toxin that kills the host. As an added bonus, nematodes often persist for years in the soil after just one application—they’ve been shown to permanently establish in both alfalfa and corn. Nematodes are an ideal biological control agent because they occur naturally in soil and can be applied to boost pest control. Now these tiny but mighty native worms have been enlisted to help protect school playing fields from pests, and to help teach science, too. Dr. Kyle Wickings, a Cornell entomologist, has been using native New York beneficial nematodes on school playing fields to target grubs, and to reduce the need for pesticide sprays. NYSIPM staff teamed up with him to train teachers in four school districts to add nematode sampling to their science curriculums. In addition to student-collected data, the team inoculated eight playing fields at three schools and then sampled the fields in the fall for signs that the little worms were sticking around. To date, results have been too variable to make recommendations, but our researchers—as tenacious as these worms—will keep on testing.
(Above) Students learned that these beneficial nematodes (round worms) might be hard to see without a microscope, but are hard at work attacking grubs in the soil under the playing fields. David Chinery, Horticulture and Turf Educator at CCE Rensselaer County, helps this middle school teacher get her hands dirty.
Here, during our Nematodes in the Classroom Workshop, she sifts through soil for dead wax worms that indicate whether nematodes are present and successfully parasitizing insects.
The Spotted Lanternfly: They Get Around
Hailing from Asia, the spotted lanternfly (SLF) arrived in Pennsylvania in 2012 on landscaping stone. They’ve been ravaging vineyards and making a mess of backyards ever since. SLF are clumsy fliers but adept hitchhikers. They lay their eggs on practically any hard surface—wood, rusty metal, railroad cars, and shipping containers are all fair game. SLF has been called, “the worst invasive we’ve seen in 100 years.” Of their arrival here, New Yorkers now say, “It’s not a question of if, but when.” A bright spot is the incident command structure formed by New York’s Departments of Environmental Conservation, Agriculture and Markets, and Parks. They started preparing early, and asked NYSIPM to help with outreach and awareness. Our goal? Immediate identification and education to prevent SLF establishment for as long as possible. Delaying their imminent debut gives us more time to inform the public, while allowing researchers to expand the management toolkit—including the use of natural enemies. We’ve created pest alerts, online courses, identification guides, YouTube videos, slide sets, and webinars. NYSIPM talks about SLF a lot. In the first year our staff mentioned SLF in more than 60 presentations, alerting nearly 2,500 participants representing the grape, wine, apple, hops, ornamentals, vegetable, berry, turf, and landscape industries. The good news? The efforts seem to be working. At the time of printing, a few SLF have been sighted in New York, but no infestations found. We want to give a shout-out to our friends in Pennsylvania who have generously shared information, and to New York’s government agencies and extension educators for getting the word out.
(Above) Dressed to kill. These beautiful yet destructive adult spotted lanternfly adults are out and about in the late summer and fall. Watch for them, but also for egg masses and nymphs the rest of the year.
In closing, our annual report is an important part of our program because it showcases our service to our stakeholders and justifies the trust of our collaborators and funders. Highlighting many, but not all, of our accomplishments takes time. Collecting the stories and photos–after narrowing down the list of ideas–and then writing concise and interesting stories is the work of our director and commodity directors. After the retirement of our lead staff writer, Science Writer Mary Woodsen, we want to thank Mariah C. Mottley for her contribution!
June 6, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on NYSIPM partners with The Tick App
The Tick App: Studying human behavior, tick exposure and the risk of Lyme disease using a citizen science approach via a smartphone application.
Concerned about ticks? Download The Tick App for free to join our research efforts and report your tick encounters.
If you have heard any NYS IPM Program staff talk about ticks, you have probably heard us mention that there is a lot we don’t know about ticks. Or exactly how our actions impact our risk of getting a tick-borne disease. So it is with great pleasure that we announce that we have partnered with the Diuk-Wasser lab at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison who created The Tick App.
By downloading the app through GooglePlay or the AppStore, you will have access to information about:
ticks biology and identification
tick activity in your area
how to remove a tick
It will also help you identify ticks that you find through the Report a Tick button.
That’s a lot of information at your fingertips. The most important part of the app, however, is the daily log where you share with the team how you spent your time, what steps you took to prevent tick encounters (if any), and if you found a tick on you, a family member, or a pet. Your information is confidential and will only be shared as aggregated data based on zip code.
I have been using the app for two years and have made entering my data a daily routine, along with my daily tick check. It takes only minutes to complete.
The more people entering data, the better the team will be able to connect the dots between what we do and how that brings us in contact with ticks. We will then be able to better create recommendations to keep New Yorkers safe.
And there’s no better time as The Tick App is launching the #BattleOfTheDailyLog this June, pitching NY against other northeast and midwest states. C’mon New York! We can do this!
Don’t worry. We’ll still continue to provide tick information through the Don’t Get Ticked NY Campaign via our website, blog posts, and presentations.
June 5, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on It’s New York Invasive Species Awareness Week
The mission of the New York Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) is to promote knowledge and understanding of invasive species and the harm they can cause by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state, and empowering them to take action to help stop the spread.
While we won’t be able to gather for invasive species identification walks, removal projects, or in-person presentations, there are plenty of online opportunities to increase awareness. And the good news is that you will have access to statewide opportunities. Presentation topics run from learning how to identify plants information and enter it into iMapInvasives to the more specific info on beech leaf disease, crayfish, “murder hornets”, how climate change, and deer, impact native plants and pave the way for invasives, and more. For a full list of virtual events, visit https://nyisaw.org/events/.
And there are numerous challenges offered this year. Be sure to use the hashtag #NYISAW! ISAW Social Media Challenges, many suited for the kids, include:
Sunday – learn about your local invasive species and share a selfie
Monday – create some Invasive Species Art!
Tuesday – use the Agents of Discovery app to learn about invasive species
Wednesday – increase others’ awareness by creating a banner and hanging it in your window
Thursday – help track invasive species in NYS through iMapInvasives. New to iMap? There will be an online training at 1:00
So download the Seek app, head to the backyard and identify some invasive species. Upload the information to iMapInvasives. And then feel free to remove them. This weekend I’ll be CAREFULLY digging up wild parsnip along my roadside. How about you?
May 20, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on World BEE Day 2020
Protecting bees and other pollinators has become an important social issue. But beekeeping, and the 20,000 species of bees worldwide, have been providing livelihoods, much of our food supply, and important biodiversity for thousands of years. Today, we help celebrate the first official World Bee Day as proclaimed by the U.N. through their food and agriculture organization.
We’ve collected some of our blog posts supporting pollinator protection (see below). First, here’s some facts from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization:
HONEY: Honey is a nutritious, healthy and natural food produced by the bees. Its benefits go beyond its use as a sweetener as it contains several minerals, enzymes, vitamins and proteins that confer unique nutritious and organoleptic properties. Honey can be monofloral if one specific plant nectar and pollen content prevails in pre-defined percentages or polyfloral if it contains an unspecified mix of different nectars and pollens. Due to environmental, geographical and climatic conditions honey may vary in pollen content and relative humidity. Honey is produced in all five continents and its consumption varies from country to country also due to cultural reasons and eating habits.
HIVE PRODUCTS: Honey bees may provide livelihood or a source of income for many beekeepers all over the world. This could happen through the services provided by the bees (mainly pollination service, apitherapy and apitourism), or directly through the bee products. The last include: alive bees to guarantee always new queen bees or bee packs, honey, pollen, wax, propolis, royal jelly and venom. Bee products may be used as food for humans, feed for animals, cosmetics, medicines used in conventional medicine (mainly vaccination), or in apitherapy, or other like manifold products, carpentry, attractant, sweeteners, etc.
POLLINATORS: Disappearing pollinators can mean losing some of the nutritious food we need for a healthy diet. The decline of pollinators could have disastrous effects for our future of food. Their absence would jeopardize the three-quarters of the world’s crops that depend at least in part on pollination, including apples, avocadoes, pears and pumpkins. And enhancing pollination isn’t just about mitigating disaster – with improved management, pollination has the potential to increase agricultural yields and quality. Pollinators also play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing biodiversity thus improving the resilience of plants to climate change and other environmental threats.
THE NYS IPM Program is proud to consider POLLINATOR PROTECTION part of our focus. Visit these topics on this blog, the Think IPM Blog:
All crops have pests. Managing them on certified organic farms is firmly rooted in IPM practices such as crop rotation, sanitation, and the use of pest-resistant varieties. In fact, it’s written into the regulations. But despite the best IPM prevention practices, pesticides are still needed for certain stubborn pests. With organic vegetable production gaining in importance in New York—a 28% increase in the number of farms from 2011 to 2016—growers have an even greater need for objective information about allowed pest management products.
To provide that info, we teamed up with Cornell AgriTech faculty members Chris Smart, Brian Nault, and Tony Shelton to conduct trials. At the end of nine years, we have many successes that are effective options for cucurbit powdery mildew, squash vine borer, worms on brassicas, potato leafhopper, and others.
Alas, some pests still have us stymied, namely striped cucumber beetle and cucurbit downy mildew, so pesticide testing will continue. Next up, we focus on pests, beneficials, and weed IPM in organic squash production systems. And, to accommodate the increasing number of researchers working in organic systems, we’re helping Cornell AgriTech transition 24 acres of research fields into certified organic production. IPM and organic: natural partners.
(Above) Double damage. The sharp-dressed striped cucumber beetle causes direct damage, massing on newly emerged or transplanted seedlings and sometimes chewing them to the ground, while also transmitting a sometimes-fatal bacterial wilt.
Don’t Get Ticked NY!
(Above) Ticks prefer moist, warm places. Teach children to make tick-checks a personal habit—the last defense against disease transmission. Knowing the spots and bumps on their skin helps them recognize new ones—new ones that happen to have legs.
Ticks are really ticking off New Yorkers worried about Lyme disease, the United States’ number one vector-borne pathogen. It’s transmitted by the blacklegged tick found abundantly throughout our state. This particular pest can also spread diseases like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan virus. Unfortunately, additional tick species abound, and together, the many illnesses they can cause are serious threats to human health. That’s why NYSIPM is committed to reducing the impact of these little blood-suckers.
Recognizing our ability to effectively convey key risk-reducing strategies, the NYS Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases joined the fight by funding our Don’t Get Ticked NY campaign. We provide easy-to-understand information at the website, and distribute ID cards, infographics and tick removal kits to educators and the public statewide through community events, extension offices and BOCES. Last year we handed out almost 50,000 tick ID cards, a few thousand tick removal kits, and directly reached over 5,000 people.
“Tick-educated” New Yorkers now recognize tick habitats, and—rather than avoid the outdoors—now know how to look and feel for ticks during their daily tick check. While threats from ticks continue to increase, so does New Yorkers’ awareness of how to stave them off. So please … don’t get ticked, New York.
(Above) Get the pointy. Our Don’t Get Ticked New York Tick Kits are popular handouts at events across the state. You can make your own by gathering pointy tweezers, a magnifier, a mirror, alcohol wipes, and a vial or plastic bag to store the offender. But kits won’t help you if you don’t have them nearby. Our tick cards are the perfect resource to have on hand, and you can print out the same graphics from our website at www.DontGetTickedNY.org.