During the fourth year of the Environment and Development Career I have taken my professional practice in the biological control laboratory of Indian River Research and Education Center , which belongs to the University of Florida in Fort Pierce. Florida has many problems with invasive species, including air potatoes (Dioscorea bulbifera), destroying ecosystems. In 2009 a beetle (Lilioceris cheni) was collected in China that feeds on weeds and in 2012 it was released in Florida as a biocontrol agent. However, the insect is not able to adapt to certain cold areas in Florida. There is another biotype of this insect located in Nepal that could adapt to these cooler areas and it has been discussed whether this also should be released to help control the weeds.
The release of a new element into a habitat involves many previous studies to ensure the feasibility and the safety of the existing ecosystem. In addition, the economic aspect of raising enough adult individuals that could colonize the area is expensive. This project includes biocontrol research with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Florida (FDAC) and the University of Florida (UF).
My research focuses on the mating behavior between the two biotypes, Chinese (released in 2012) and Nepalese (under investigation), of Lilioceris cheni. I focused on quantifying the fertile offspring (number of eggs, larvae, pupae, adults and female adults) for each potential mating that can form between the two biotypes. Thus, statistically, one knows if both biotypes can coexist sexually in nature and how many adult females result from these mating. Once the results are obtained and put together with other research, it will be decided whether it is appropriate to release the species.
This experience resembles the work that students perform in Zamorano’s laboratories, so I adapted to the work quickly and effectively. This research is quite demanding and disciplined. As a Zamorano, I applied the Labor Omnia Vincit that I have developed in the previous three years.