Evolution of Insect Pests In a Connected World
ESA Member Symposium, 2013
I’m very happy to announce that I will be co-organizing a member symposium at the 2013 Entomological Society of America’s annual conference this Fall. My co-host is Gabriel Zilnik, a graduate student in the Genetic Engineering and Society program and IGERT Fellow at NCSU. The symposium is entitled, “Evolution of Insect Pests In a Connected and Changing World.” I’ll introduce the speakers in a subsequent post but first I’d like to explain the motivations and rationale behind the symposium—the reasons Gabe and I decided this was a symposium that needed to happen.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the publication of the book, The Evolution of Insect Pests: Patterns of Variation. This excellent book is an edited volume of papers that explore the biological and management implications of within-species genetic variation. Ke Chung Kim wrote, “Although no direct experimental evidence exists as yet, insect pests are forced to evolve rapidly to counter anthropogenic stresses, such as pesticides, temperature, and habitat degradation.” That was 1993. In the following 20 years biology has undergone a genomic revolution, making the tools to study evolution of insect populations more numerous and powerful than ever before. Entomologists now have direct experimental evidence for rapid evolution in response to anthropogenic stressors. We thought the topic could use an update and we hope our symposium offers a glimpse into just how far we’ve come since 1993.
Our goal for the symposium is to learn about recent advances in understanding how insect pests adapt to anthropogenic stressors. We deliberately left this open to interpretation by our invited speakers and we’ll be covering such issues as pesticides, GMOs, the built environment, and climate change. From each of these stressors, we’ll explore recent theoretical and empirical developments in the search for the genetic basis of adaptation. In particular, the growing importance of biological invasions associated with climate change and global trade, the rise of genetically modified organisms in agriculture, and the new insights being gained from next-generation sequencing technologies make this an ideal time to revisit the issues raised by The Evolution of Insect Pests. More than ever, we live in a connected world and insect pests have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to human-associated changes. By studying the genetic basis of these adaptations we hope to come to a new understanding of agroecosystem resiliency.