Global contest for students’ original insect research

UF’s Hulcr Coordinates Global Pest Research Paper Contest

Cyclorhipidion spurlinum

Like this (pictured right) bizarre Cyclorhipidion spurlinum, a newly discovered ambrosia beetle from Papua New Guinea, many insects belong to groups called “pests”, but the organisms themselves are a source of wonder to an observant entomologist.

University of Florida’s Jiri Hulcr is coordinating a global contest for students’ original insect research, and he recently announced the two winners for 2013.

A University of Florida entomology faculty member is coordinating a global contest for students’ original insect research, and he recently announced the two winners for 2013.

The contest encourages students to research the natural history of pests, said Jiri Hulcr, a UF assistant professor in forest entomology and a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For their research papers, Stephen Taerum, who attends the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Emily Meineke, a student at North Carolina State University, won the most recent contest, now in its second year, said. For winning, they shared the annual prize of  $500.

Faculty members from three land-grant universities – UF, Michigan State and N.C. State – received more than 20 entries for the annual Student Award for the Appreciation for the Biology of Insect Pests, Hulcr said.

The students’ papers have to be published or at least accepted in standard peer-reviewed scientific journals to qualify  for the contest.

Most of this year’s contest entries were published in high-impact scholarly journals, Hulcr said.

Contest entries are judged on originality, thinking outside-the-box and what he calls a “coolness” factor.
Hulcr described it as “the component that makes a lay person pay attention and say, ‘Wow, that’s cool that they’ve discovered that.’”

Hulcr said he started the contest because the entomological community is becoming divided into applied and basic-research scientists.

The contest is sponsored by the TREE Foundation in Sarasota, a nonprofit group that promotes research and education into botanical resources and ecosystems that depend on them.

Hulcr and his colleagues are now looking for contestants for this year’s contest. Visit http://www.ambrosiasymbiosis.org/2012/03/award-opportunity/ for more information. Entries must be received by Dec. 31, 2014.

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