Specifically, her position is with the National Identification Services (NIS) of the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) or what USDA officials refer to as "APHIS PPQ NIS." The Thysanoptera collection of the Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) is housed with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
“I love my work,” she said, “and I love my favorite insect, thrips.”
Thrips are tiny insects that cause billions worth of damage annually to U.S. agricultural crops. Barely visible to the naked eye, they heavily damage fruits, vegetable and horticultural crops, so much so that they can—and do--pose a biosecurity threat. In 1996, Cuba's Fidel Castro accused the United States of aerially releasing Thrips palmi over potato fields.
“Of the more than 5000 species of thrips known in the world, some are serious pests, and some are beneficial as pollinators and predators,” O'Donnell said. “Some thrips transmit plant diseases, such as the tomato spotted wilt virus and the Impatients necrotic spot viruses.”
“To monitor agricultural crops effectively, it's important to be able to identify them, but it's difficult to do so without understanding thrips taxonomy and identification,” O'Donnell said. “Thrips are so small—one millimeter long or less--that they're like a speck. Inspectors see larvae, eggs and adults on plant material coming in. It's difficult to separate species at the life stage of eggs, larvae and adult males.”
“There were many times I was doubtful that I could continue to meet the demands of my chosen field,” O'Donnell said, crediting her family, friends and UC Davis scientists with offering her the support she needed to complete her education.
O'Donnell holds three degrees from UC Davis: a bachelor's in agricultural systems and the environment (1997), a master's degree in plant protection and pest management (2000) and a doctorate in entomology (2007).
After receiving her doctorate, she joined the USDA as “the co-lateral Thysanoptera specialist, USDA-APHIS-PPQ,” west of the Mississippi. That is, she was a key thrips specialist for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Plant Protection and Quarantine Program. Her work involved detecting, identifying and intercepting thrips and other pests arriving at U.S. ports from around the world.
Her major professor Diane Ullman, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, describes her as "a tremendously talented biologist and she holds a real fascination for thrips, their classification, host relationships and biology."
"She will do a fantastic job in this position, which will be important to the global community studying thrips and trying to develop management strategies," Ullman told us.
Read more about Cheryle O'Donnell here. She offers good advice to prospective graduate students in encouraging them to follow their dreams: "Focus on your goals, never deviate from those goals, and never allow obstacles to get in the way,” she advises. "It is a difficult and challenging path you have chosen but it will be worth all the hard work. The UC Davis community, the ‘village' which supports you, is an experience you will never forget and the payoff will be great throughout your life.”
Meanwhile, O'Donnell is anticipating two mid-May thrips conferences at the Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove. One of the key organizers is Professor Ullman. See more information.
They're pests of fruits, vegetable and horticultural crops, including tomatoes, grapes, strawberries and soybeans. They're barely visible to the naked eye, but oh, how disastrous they can be. Some thrips transmit plant diseases, such as the tomato spotted wilt virus.
Kennedy, the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Agriculture at North Carolina State University. Raleigh, N.C., will speak on "Modeling the Epidemiology of Tomato Spotted Wilt: Understanding the Role of Thrips Population Dynamics and Virus Inoculum Sources" from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 1 in 122 Briggs Hall, as part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's winter seminar series.
Colleague/collaborator DianeUllman will introduce him.
"Effective management of this virus in commercial crop production systems requires an understanding of the factors that determine the timing and magnitude of virus spread. This seminar will discuss the ways in which seasonal weather events influence the dispersal dynamics of vector thrips populations, the abundance of virus inoculum sources in the landscape, and ultimately the timing and magnitude of TSWV spread into susceptible crops. It will further provide an illustration of how efforts to model these relationships improved understanding of the epidemiology of TSWV and led to the development of a TSWV risk prediction tool that is now being used in pest management decision making."
Kennedy, past president of the Entomological Society of America (ESA), holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from Oregon State University and a doctorate in entomology from Cornell University. See his biosketch on the ESA website.
Ullman and Kennedy are among those organizing two consecutive mid-May conferences at the Asilomar Conference Center, Pacific Grove. International scientists, Extension specialists, and agricultural industry professionals will target thrips and insect-vectored pathogens.
The second conference is the Xth International Symposium on Thysanoptera and Tospoviruses, to be held May 16-20. "This meeting is the tenth in a series of international symposia that, over 30 years, have grown to be the dominant vehicle and venue for information exchange between scientists investigating problems related to thrips and tospoviruses around the world," Ullman said. "These symposia have been instrumental in extending knowledge and producing new solutions and innovations in thrips and tospovirus management worldwide, by providing a forum for sharing research findings and integrating fundamental and applied knowledge.
And about those thrips...
The tiny insects pierce hundreds of species of plants, sucking the nutrients and causing billions of dollars in damage to U.S. agricultural crops. As mentioned, they transmit plant viruses in the genus Tospovirus, such as the tomato spotted wilt virus. Read more on the UC IPM website.
“There are 23 additional approved and emerging tospovirus genotypes transmitted by at least 14 thrips species (Thysanoptera: Thripidae),” said Ullman, who has been researching thrips and tospoviruses since 1987.
That's something to think about when you're planting your tomatoes this spring...
The two conferences will draw international scientists, Extension specialists, and agricultural industry professionals, among others.
Professor Ullman of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a former associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is a key organizer, along with George Kennedy of the North Carolina State University Department of Entomology, Neil McRoberts of the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology and Robert Kemerait of University of Georgia.
The first conference, to take place May 14-16, is “Enhancing Risk Index-Driven Decision Tools for Managing Insect-Transmitted Plant Pathogens,” sponsored by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA NIFA/AFRI). Ullman is co-principal investigator of the five-year, $3.75 million grant awarded in 2012 from the USDA AFRI/NIFA to develop and implement a national scientific and educational network to limit thrips-caused crop losses. This conference will convene experts in modelling, risk assessment, and innovative IPM technology in an intimate setting to discuss the latest breakthroughs in modelling insect vectored plant pathogen threats and mobile applications for risk assessment and management strategy assessment. Early bird registration and poster abstract submission ends March 15t and can be accessed at registration and poster abstract submission ends March 15 and can be accessed at http://ucanr.edu/sites/tospo/Registration/ and http://ucanr.edu/sites/tospo/Participate/ respectively.
The second conference is the Xth International Symposium on Thysanoptera and Tospoviruses, to be held May 16-20. "This meeting is the tenth in a series of international symposia that, over 30 years, have grown to be the dominant vehicle and venue for information exchange between scientists investigating problems related to thrips and tospoviruses around the world," Ullman said. "These symposia have been instrumental in extending knowledge and producing new solutions and innovations in thrips and tospovirus management worldwide, by providing a forum for sharing research findings and integrating fundamental and applied knowledge."
Thrips are tiny insects that pierce and suck fluids from hundreds of species of plants, including tomatoes, grapes, strawberries and soybeans. The pests cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. agricultural crops as direct pests and in transmitting plant viruses in the genus Tospovirus, such as Tomato spotted wilt virus. “There are 23 additional approved and emerging tospovirus genotypes transmitted by at least 14 thrips species (Thysanoptera: Thripidae),” said Ullman, who has been researching thrips and tospoviruses since 1987.
The May 14-16 workshop will feature speakers and discussions focused on development and deployment of risk index-driven tools for the management of vector-borne diseases, including modelling, epidemiology, risk assessment and user interfaces. Researchers will discuss decision tools, risk assessment in managing insect vectors and pathogens in crops, and accomplishments, challenges and gaps. Early registration is underway. Scientists are invited to submit abstracts (see http://ucanr.edu/sites/tospo/Participate/)
The May 16-20 symposium will feature presentations of common interest to both insect and virus research areas during morning sessions and a poster session. It will also include specialized discussions, and contributed presentations in the afternoon and evening.
“This is a unique opportunity to convene leading international scientists, extension specialists, and individuals in the agricultural industry to share and discuss the latest findings in thrips and tospovirus biology, ecology and management,” said Ullman. Registration is now underway. Scientists who seek to participate are invited to submit poster and contributed talk abstracts, Ullman said. The deadline to submit abstracts is March 15 (http://ucanr.edu/sites/ISTT10/Participate/).
It's going to be a busy seven days--May 14-20--at the Asilomar Conference Center...
The result was a good one: more damselflies.
Damselflies lay their eggs in water, whether it be a pond, underwater vegetation, or in water-filled cavities in trees. If they lay their eggs in a fish pond, fish feast on the eggs and larvae.
But not this year, not in our pond. One egret. No fish. And now damselflies are no longer in distress.
On any given day, 20 to 25 damselflies flit around our bee garden, searching for food as they land on the stems of the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), catmint (Nepata), and oregano (Origanum).
They also search for mates and occasionally collide with a bee or butterfly.
Most of the damselflies we see carry the parasitic water mites (Hydracarina), which look like red caviar.
Damselfles and dragonflies belong to the same order, Odonata. Damselflies, however, are typically much smaller than their dragonfly cousins. Wikipedia tells us that damselflies, suborder Zygoptera, can be distinguished from dragonflies "by the fact that the wings of most damselflies are held along, and parallel to, the body when at rest. Furthermore, the hindwing of the damselfly is essentially similar to the forewing, while the hindwing of the dragonfly broadens near the base.
We've never seen a damselfly eat anything or anything eat the damselfly, although our resident praying mantis seemed quite interested--or perturbed--when a damselfly bumped into him.
They're under attack by entomologist Diane Ullman of UC Davis and her team of eight other investigators.
Ullman just received a five-year, $3.75 million grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to develop and implement a national scientific and educational network to limit thrips-caused crop losses.
Yes, you've seen thrips or the damage they've caused. Probably on your tomato or red pepper plants, for example. They pierce a wide variety of agricultural crops, ranging from tomatoes and grapes to strawberries and soybeans. They're direct pests. And they transmit plant viruses in the genus Tospovirus, such as Tomato spotted wilt virus.
She's been researching thrips and tospoviruses since 1987.
Ullman and co-principal investigator John Sherwood, head of the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., will alternate years as program directors. Sherwood, a past president of the American Phytopathological Society (APS), is a former program leader of the Plant Biosecurity Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Services (CSREES) and the USDA program leader for the joint Microbial Observatories Program with the National Science Foundation.
Read more about the grant on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website and who's involved.
This is massive nationwide effort against pests that cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. agricultural crops. Let the grant begin!