Dr. May Berenbaum has had an unparalleled impact on the environmental sciences through a rare combination of path-breaking scientific discovery and influential public engagement. Berenbaum’s research transformed the field of chemical ecology with discoveries that provided a genetic basis for the theory of coevolution. Her investigations have encompassed elegant ecological experiments, elucidated proximate physiological mechanisms, included chemical and genetic analyses, and clearly showed the evolutionary consequences of an “arms war” that exists between plants and insect herbivores. Her research has also provided a clear paradigm for understanding the evolution of insect resistance to insecticides. Her work gives a vivid example of how studies in the basic realm of chemical ecology can inform agricultural practices.
Berenbaum has also had a major impact on the environmental sciences through her public engagement work. She is the leading public intellectual for information on insects in the country. She has taken leadership roles in dealing with major insect-related problems that confront us: insects and GM crops, pollinator declines, invasive species, pesticides and resistance, and insect conservation. Her preeminent status in this realm derives in part from her extensive service to the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
Berenbaum’s writing for the public is prolific and highly acclaimed. Berenbaum has written a torrent of lively magazine articles, columns, and three books about insects. Berenbaum is also a very popular and innovative teacher, for which she was recognized by ESA. Berenbaum is a person of remarkable scientific accomplishment, boundless energy, brilliant creativity, and passionate dedication to public understanding of science. She is also inspirational up close as a charismatic, warm, and accessible public figure.
Dr. Oliver Niehuis is head of the section Biodiversity Genomics and of the Molecular Laboratory at the Center for Molecular Biodiversity Research (zmb) of the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn (ZFMK), Germany.
Dr. Niehuis’ research interests are focused on insects and in particular on parasitoid and cleptoparasitic Hymenoptera. He is interested in the evolutionary history of insects, in characters that are related to mate or host finding and recognition (e.g., cuticular hydrocarbons, sexual pheromones), and in the evolution of reproductive isolation (e.g., evolution of genic incompatibilities). Dr. Niehuis’ research has a strong molecular component, and he has used genome, transcriptome and exome sequencing as well as QTL mapping to sample suitable markers for phylogenetic inference or to identify genes of traits of major interest.
Dr Niehuis earned his PhD in 2005 at the University of Bonn for his research on the evolutionary history and biogeography of burnet moths (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae). As a Feodor Lynen research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, he worked for almost four years at the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University (USA) on the genetics of reproductive isolation in Nasonia parasitoid wasps. During a second postdoc at the University of Osnabrück, he gained expertise in target DNA enrichment techniques. Since 2010, Dr Niehuis is head of the Molecular Laboratory at the ZFMK and of the section Biodiversity Genomics. He was major contributor in the Nasonia parasitoid wasp genome sequencing project and coordinated the twisted-wing parasite (Strepsiptera) genome sequencing project that set a new standard in the field of phylogenomics. Dr Niehuis is member of the i5K coordinating group, an assemblage of scientists who are united by their aim in fostering the sequencing of non-model arthropod genomes. He also is coordinator of orthology prediction and of the subproject Hymenoptera in the international 1KITE project that seeks to infer reliable insect backbone tree of life.
Research Interests: The study of insect abundance and distribution.
Myron Zalucki is an insect ecologist by “bent” who works, including with students, on various applied and basic research areas. He generally takes an individuals-process based approach to the study of insect abundance and distribution. Zalucki uses various “model” systems to ask questions ranging from the effect of host chemistry on oviposition behaviour and early stage caterpillar survival, to the effects of learning on oviposition behaviour at a landscape level and the effects of climate on insect abundance. He prefers to work on Butterfly-plant interactions, particularly Monarchs and milkweeds.
A substantial amount of his applied research has been on the ecology and biology of Helicoverpa spp, the major pest of Australian field crops, and more recently Diamondback moth, a key pest of horticulture.
Dr Andy Sheppard is the Research Director of the Biosecurity Flagship Program: Managing Invasive Species Impacts, which undertakes research on pest, weed and disease invasions and on new and innovative approaches to reduce the potential and realised impacts of invasive alien pests, weeds and diseases. Minimising the impact of invasive alien species is critical for Australia’s ongoing agricultural sustainability, environmental and human health.
Dr Sheppard joined CSIRO in 1986 at the CSIRO European Laboratory in France, where he built a science career around the population management ecology and plant-insect interactions of several genera of plants that had become significant weeds in Australia.
Since 1991 he has been Australian based in the Australian Capital Territory, as a research scientist and project leader in the research group responsible for the ecological management of several national priority weeds using biological control. This included:
- nodding and Onopordum thistles
- Paterson’s curse
- common heliotrope
- Scotch and Cape broom.
Since 2002 he has also been Officer-in-charge at CSIRO’s European laboratory. From 2010-2014 he also lead the CSIRO research Theme on terrestrial biodiversity which included oversight of the Five National Biological Collections and the Atlas of Living Australia which CSIRO manages for the nation.
Dr Sheppard’s experimental research has focused on comparative native and exotic range studies between Europe and Australia on the plants and habitats they invaded. His research has included the use of population management evolutionary models that have advanced theory on biological invasions. More recently he has published on risk analysis and in other areas of biosecurity research.
Dr Schellhorn leads the Spatial Ecology team at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences in Brisbane, QLD Australia, which focuses on landscape scale pest management.
Increasing food productivity while reducing our impact on the natural resource base is one of the biggest challenges of our time and Dr Schellhorn has made several important contributions to this area.
Dr Schellhorn and her collaborators have developed and advanced the concept of Pest Suppressive Landscapes (PSL) after establishing a good understanding of how native vegetation can help with pest management in agricultural landscapes
PSL provides a way of measuring, designing and managing agricultural landscape mosaics for productivity and biodiversity. This work has led to guidelines that incorporate research findings on managing farm native vegetation to capture ecosystem services.
Underpinning the concept of PSL are complexities dealing with insect movement and dynamics at multiple spatial and temporal scales.
In addition, Dr Schellhorn has translated the principles of PSL into the urban environment to influence the development of the CSIRO Vector Ecology & Human Health Initiative.
With her colleagues in CSIRO ICT, Dr Schellhorn has led the development of an insect monitoring invention to better understand insect movement, one of the most poorly understood, yet fundamentally important biological processes.
Deployment of the device advances our understanding of insect habitat use, and has wide reaching application for bio-security.
In addition, Dr Schellhorn currently leads the following National multi-agency Grain Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) projects:
- Pest Suppressive Landscapes
- The National Invertebrate Pest Initiative (NIPI)
Dr Shellhorn also co-leads with Dr Cate Paull, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) project, Area-wide suppression in transgenic landscapes: Implications for resistance management.
Dr Schellhorn first joined CSIRO in July 1999 as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cotton Research Unit, working on Helicoverpa and Bt cotton.
From 2001 – 2004, Dr Schellhorn worked with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) in Adelaide, South Australia as a Senior Entomologist. While there, her activities included:
- integrating natural resources and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and
- the National Diamondback Moth Project.
In 2004, Dr Schellhorn rejoined CSIRO as a Research Scientist based in Brisbane.
Ryszard Maleszka received his MSc and a PhD from the Department of Genetics, University of Warsaw and has done postdoctoral work at the National Research Council of Canada before moving to Australia in 1987. Since 1998 he has been spearheading a research theme called ‘From Molecules to Memory’ that uses invertebrate model systems to study the genotype to phenotype link, and to understand how epigenetic modifications contribute to environmentally-driven phenotypic plasticity and the maintenance of memory. He is a member of several genomic consortia and advisor to genomic databases. He has published over 100 papers including research and popular articles, reviews and book chapters.