Featured Entomology graduate student Rob Morrison

Interview with featured Entomology graduate student Rob Morrison


Name: Rob Morrison

Hometown: Mesa, Arizona

Major professor/advisor: Zsofia Szendrei

What are you researching? I’m interested in sustainable, long-term solutions that lessen agriculture’s footprint on the landscape and allow it to fulfill multiple ecosystem services. I am researching integrated pest management of the asparagus miner through developing a degree-day model to predict important phenology; creating a foundation for a conservation biological control program; investigating the­­ spatial distribution of the pest and elucidating the semiochemicals emitted by asparagus and how those may alter interactions with arthropods.

Future career plans: My ultimate goal is to be a faculty member with a research and teaching or extension appointment. I have a post-doctoral research position with the USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV, where I will work on an attract-and-kill approach for controlling brown marmorated stink bugs in apples and peaches using the BMSB aggregation pheromone.

If you could be an insect, which would you be? I would undoubtedly be an ant as they are eusocial insects that are highly efficient in monopolizing resources through complex chemical communication, and are the numerically dominant organism in most ecosystems.

Is there any particular arthropod you do not like? Definitely bed bugs. A single female can lay up to 500 eggs. If one fertilized individual makes it to a new home, the infestation can quickly get out of control. In addition, traveling to hotels and different countries increases risk, and nothing is quite as horrifying as having bed bugs infest one’s suitcase or suck one’s blood during the night. Combined with the fact that eradication is difficult, it’s the perfect combination of “ick factor” and insidiousness.

What is your favorite activity outside of entomology? My two favorites are cooking and photography. They are very different ways of thinking from how I usually have to think in science: cooking is loose, improvisational and intuitive, while photography is intuition-based and focuses mostly on aesthetics and beauty in the world, an aspect that some scientists forget to incorporate in their work.

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