New UF/IFAS Entomologist to Focus on Invasive Pests

Josh McGill Pests, Research

Nicole Quinn recently joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) as an assistant professor of entomology. She’ll specialize in the biocontrol of invasive pests, insects and mites at the Hayslip Biological Control Research and Containment Laboratory. The lab is at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) in Fort Pierce.

Invasive Pests
Nicole Quinn (Photo by Robin Koestoyo, UF/IFAS)

Quinn will begin her research with Nipaecoccus viridis, also known as the lebbeck mealybug. In Florida, the invasive pests cause fruit drop in citrus groves. Her program will enhance and contribute to existing efforts by UF/IFAS researchers with this species.

“In Jordan, an effective parasitoid of the mealybug was identified and subsequently released to control the mealybug. I hope that this parasitoid will be helpful in Florida,” Quinn said. “And I will do due diligence to ensure its safety prior to approval for introduction into Florida’s environment.”

Quinn has a doctorate from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree from Michigan State University, both in entomology.

“Dr. Nicole Quinn is an exceptional entomologist, due to her expertise with classical biological control, parasitoids, novel research design techniques and teaching capabilities,” said Ronald D. Cave, director of the IRREC.

Invasive Pests
Quinn is studying a parasitoid of the lebbeck mealybug in an effort to control the pest in citrus groves. (Photo by Tonya Weeks, UF/IFAS)

Quinn’s expertise is in studying and introducing an invasive species’ natural enemies from its native range to control it in a nonnative environment, where the species causes loss. Biocontrol agents studied at the lab have already been released into Florida’s environment to manage super-spreading plants that interfere with native vegetation, animals and human activities.

The UF containment laboratory is one of only two facilities in Florida where scientists lead biological control research in a quarantine setting. The facility is the final step to gaining federal approval to release new insect control agents into the state’s ranchlands, croplands and natural landscapes.

“I will focus on ecologically and economically significant species in Florida,” Quinn said. “My mission will be to identify invasive species that are good candidates for biological control and find biological control agents to manage them.”

Quinn previously worked with parasitoids released for biological control of the emerald ash borer. As a postdoctoral researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Massachusetts, she studied the effectiveness of the parasitoids released against the ash borer, their dispersal, cyclical changes and biology.

“What’s interesting about working on the biological control of a tree pest is that it takes a little longer to see the impact,” Quinn said. “The long-term sustainability of a successful program is the payoff. Biological control can allow for sustainable, long-term and cost-effective mitigation of invasive species impacts.”

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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