My lab focuses on developing, implementing and monitoring biological control of invasive weed and insect pests. My research integrates contemporary ecological and evolutionary theory with the aim to increase the success and safety of biological control programs by better understanding how to collect, rear and release biological control agents to maximize their establishment success, population growth, and potential to adapt and spread in novel environments. Experimental approaches in the lab range from laboratory and greenhouse studies to large scale common garden and field experiments, and molecular methods. I am the director of the BSL-2Ag quarantine facility of the department which provides the opportunity to study potential biological control agents that are not yet cleared for field release, or recent invasive species whose movement is regulated.
Current assignment: Research 60% | Teaching 25% | Extension 15%
I want students to succeed in my classes and enjoy the learning process. I promote and appreciate critical thinking and encourage students to speak up and actively engage in the class room. I thrive to present and discuss the latest research, novel concepts and ideas in ecology and evolution as they relate to biological control and invasive species management. I teach a course on biological control in odd spring semesters alternating in even years with a 1-3 credit course on eco-evolutionary dynamics in insect and plant populations.
Biological control is one of the only long-term solutions to problems with invasive species and crop pests, and thus it is crucial to understand the processes that lead to success or failure. We study the role of rapid evolutionary processes and reciprocal interactions between ecology and evolution in biological control agents and their targets. Research areas of particular interest include: the effects of hybridization on fitness, efficacy and host-specificity of biological control agents; the importance of genetic diversity and its interaction with demography in mediating agent and pest establishment and persistence; and the mechanisms that enable biological control agents and pests to adapt to novel environments.
I provide leadership in implementing new biological control programs across Michigan and expert advice to growers, natural area managers, landowners and the general public on best practices to release, redistribute and monitor agents.
2018-present – Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology, Michigan State University
2014-2017 – Research Scientist, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University
2011-2014 –Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University
2005-2010 – Graduate student, Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho
Szűcs M†, M Vahsen†, C Hoover, C Weiss-Lehman, and BA Melbourne, RA Hufbauer. 2018. Rapid adaptive evolution in novel environments acts as an architect of population range expansion. Accepted to PNAS. †Co-first authors
Stewart GS*, MR Morris*, AB Genis*, M Szűcs, BA Melbourne, SJ Tavener, and RA Hufbauer. 2017. The power of evolutionary rescue is constrained by genetic load. Evolutionary Applications. 10 (7): 731- 741 *Undergraduate co-authors
Szűcs M, BA Melbourne, T Tuff, C Weiss-Lehman, and RA Hufbauer. 2017. Genetic and demographic founder effects have long-term fitness consequences for colonising populations. Ecology Letters. 20 (4):436-444
Hufbauer RA, M Szűcs, E Kasyon*, C Youngberg*, M Koontz, C Richards, T Tuff, BA Melbourne. 2015. Reply to Wootton and Pfister: The search for general context should include synthesis with laboratory model systems. PNAS. 112: E5904 *Undergraduate co-authors
Hufbauer RA, M Szűcs, E Kasyon*, C Youngberg*, M Koontz, C Richards, T Tuff, BA Melbourne. 2015. Three types of rescue can avert extinction in a changing environment. PNAS. 112:10557-10562 *Undergraduate co-authors
Szűcs M, BA Melbourne, T Tuff, and RA Hufbauer. 2014. The roles of demography and genetics in the early stages of colonization. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences. 281. 20141073
Szűcs M, U Schaffner, WJ Price and M Schwarzländer. 2012. Post-introduction evolution in the biological control agent Longitarsus jacobaeae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Evolutionary Applications 5: 858-868
Szűcs M, SD Eigenbrode, M Schwarzländer, and U Schaffner. 2012. Hybrid vigor in the biological control agent, Longitarsus jacobaeae. Evolutionary Applications 5: 489-497
Szűcs M, M Schwarzländer, and JF Gaskin. 2011. Reevaluating establishment and potential hybridization of different biotypes of the biological control agent Longitarsus jacobaeae using molecular tools. Biological Control 58: 44-52
Marsico TD, JW Burt, EK Espeland, G Gilchrist, MA Jamieson, L Lindström, S Swope, G Roderick, M Szűcs, and N Tsutsui. 2010. Underutilized resources for studying the evolution of invasive species during their introduction, establishment, and lag phases. Evolutionary Applications. 3: 203-219.