Eyes on the Forest: Outreach to Build Awareness of Current and Potential Invasive Forest Pests in Michigan

Deb McCullough, a professor in the Department of Entomology, built awareness of new forest pests and pathogens with landowners, municipalities, industries and forest management agencies.

Researcher: Deb McCullough
Awarded: $9,000
Leveraged: Proposals have been submitted for federal funding opportunities.

Michigan forests and urban forests continue to be negatively affected by an array of invasive and destructive forest insects and pathogens, including emerald ash borer (EAB), gypsy moth, beech bark disease, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) and oak wilt. These invaders alter species composition, reduce forest productivity, wildlife habitat and many ecological services, and affect the quality of life for affected residents. Moreover, economic costs of dealing with invasive pests are largely sustained by private and public landowners, municipalities, regulatory and resource management agencies, and plant-based industries.

Deb McCullough, a professor in the MSU Department of Entomology, worked to build awareness surrounding these challenges. Michigan remains at a notably high risk of adverse consequences from new introductions or expanding populations of invasive forest pests, given the diverse and extensive forest resources, the amount and variety of commodities imported by manufacturers from international and domestic sources, major plant-based industries, and busy international border crossings.

Despite regulatory efforts to exclude non-native forest pests, invasive insects and pathogens continue to arrive, establish and subsequently spread via human transport of infested materials, along with natural dispersal mechanisms. Detection of new or expanding populations of invaders is critical for mitigating damage and slowing further spread.

The team’s goals included raising general awareness of invasive forest pests, engaging citizen scientists and providing information to natural resource or urban forest professionals related to specific invasive pests of concern. They also sought to distribute recent research results and provide up-to-date management recommendations for specific pests. The outreach activities provided Michigan residents, citizen scientists and professionals with objective, science-based information to identify major invasive pests, understand their impacts and develop sound management strategies to reduce damage.

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