Featured Entomology graduate student Toby Petrice

To Toby Petrice, insects are more than just fascinating creatures—they’re important to agriculture and ecosystem health, and there’s always something new to learn about them.

Toby Pretrice

Name: Toby Petrice

Home state: West Virginia

Previous education: BS in Biology, Fairmont State University; MS in Entomology, West Virginia University.

Major professor: Forrest W. Ravlin

What are you researching? I am studying factors that affect the establishment of the egg parasitoid, Oobius agrili (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae). Oobius agrili is native to China and is currently being released in North America as a biological control agent against emerald ash borer. Emerald ash borer has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees since it was introduced into North America and threatens to extirpate numerous native ash species.

Why study entomology? Insects are not only important to agriculture and ecosystem health, but are also fascinating creatures. Their highly evolved and specialized morphology and behaviors make them intriguing subjects for study. No matter how much a person studies them, there is always something new to learn.

What or who inspired your interest in entomology? I became inspired to pursue a career in entomology while taking a field biology course during my undergraduate studies. A large portion of this course focused on entomology and required preparing an extensive insect collection. This is when I really became interested in learning more about insects.

What is your favorite activity or responsibility as part of your graduate studies? Field work. My field research takes place in Michigan forests where I am able to take in the joys of nature, except for mosquitos, while collecting data needed for my project.

What is your favorite thing about MSU? MSU has a beautiful campus that is well maintained, and unlike many other universities, the campus is mostly contiguous and includes several research properties.

What is your favorite insect? I have many favorite insects, but one of my favorites is antlion larvae. It is amazing how they are able to construct pitfall traps with side walls that slope perfectly to funnel insect prey to them as they wait patiently at the bottom of the trap. It is also exciting to watch them capture an unlucky victim.

What is your favorite way to spend your time outside of your studies? Some of my favorite activities include fly fishing, crafting bows for archery hunting and foraging for mushrooms and edible plants.

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