invasive Management of Forest Pests

As a postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University, my current research focuses on applying a macroecological perspective to the study of issues regarding the invasive management of a high-profile pest— Lymantria dispar (also known as the spongy moth)

The invasion of L. dispar is among one of the best documented in the United States. Despite the extensive amount of spatial and temporal distributional data that is currently available for this species, our understanding of spatial and temporal patterns at broad scales needs to be expanded. 

Identifying drivers of L. dispar invasive spread 

We explored rangewide patterns across decades regarding the effects of habitat characteristics and anthropogenic factors on the local invasive spread of L. dispar of 5x5km quadrats across the U.S. invasive range. To achieve this, we used an innovative methodological approach, including Bayesian models and a “waiting times” framework, to assess the effects of environmental and anthropogenic factors on the rate in which 8,010 quadrats across the L. dispar U.S. range have become established from 1985 to 2015. Our results describe a hierarchy of factors that influence local range dynamics of a high-profile pest, in which seasonal temperatures, primarily winter temperatures, were found to be the primary drivers.

For the full story, please stay tuned! Manuscript is currently in press at Ecological Applications.

Assessing potential conflicts between invasive management of L. dispar and monarch butterfly conservation

Conflicting conservation goals that lead to management tradeoffs are not an uncommon occurrence in conservation practice, as activities supporting one goal may inadvertently harm another. In this project, we examined a potential conflict between the use of Btk (a Lepidoptera-specific larvicidal) for invasive management of L. dispar and conservation of declining monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) populations. Using 30 years of georeferenced citizen-science data on first sightings of monarch butterflies, we produced a high-resolution surface of estimated arrival dates of monarch butterflies to the North Central region of the United States, where L. dispar and monarch breeding grounds coincide. We used these and other data to quantify potential spatial and temporal overlap between aerial applications of Btk and the presence of vulnerable monarch butterflies. 

For the full story, check out our article in Conservation Science and Practice.