PhD Research: Pears, pests and natural enemies: modelling tri-trophic interactions in a changing climate
I’m a PhD student at the University of Reading and am really excited to be involved in the Waitrose CTP programme. I have a keen interest in ecology and climate change and enjoy drawing nature, rock climbing and walking in my spare time. I recently completed my Masters at the University of Bristol, focusing on pollinator behaviour in respect to rainfall and climate change. I have also worked on the invasive species Himalayan Balsam during a summer internship at the University of Bristol. Monitoring if the transport of Himalayan Balsam pollen by bumblebees can lead to pollen clogging in native plant species. However, I have switched from pollinators to pest species for my PhD.
My research project focuses on the pear psyllid Cacopsylla pyri. C. pyri is a pear pest that causes significant economic costs to the UK pear industry; downgrading the quality of pears through fruit russet, as honeydew can drip onto the pear fruit, encouraging growth of black sooty mould. Pear psyllids at high densities can lead to psylla shock, resulting in defoliation due to a toxin produced in their saliva. Psyllids are also vectors of pear decline disease, which can reduce nutrient transport within the roots of pear trees. I’ll be looking at tri-trophic interactions of these pests with pear trees and natural enemies including earwigs, anthocorid bugs and ladybirds and if these interactions are disrupted by climate change. I am looking forward to working with NIAB EMR and my industry partner Worldwide Fruit for this project and hope that this research will contribute towards predicting and mitigating future impacts of pear psyllids.