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Graduate Assistantship — Virginia Tech, Entomology Department

Expiration Date: 

Graduate Assistantship — Virginia Tech, Entomology Department

Changes in aquatic ecosystem structure and function from broadcast aerial applications of SPLAT GM-Organic

Dr. Sally Entrekin (Entomology, Virginia Tech) is seeking applications for a paid graduate student position as part of a collaborative project on the environmental safety of the aerial mating disruption treatments against spongy moth, an invasive forest pest in the eastern U.S. The selected MSc or PhD student will be co-advised by Sally Entrekin and Dr. Ksenia Onufrieva (Department of Entomology and Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture (CAIA)); the student's degree program will be through the Entrekin Lab in Virginia Tech's Entomology Department. The student funded on this project will need to be available to start their degree program in August 2024 or January 2025.

About the research project
This project is funded through the U.S. Forest Service as part of the National Slow the Spread of the spongy moth research program (STS) and it addresses FS-PIAP national program priorities (1) Advancement in proper use of pesticides and (2) Environmental toxicity. The goal of this project is to ensure environmental safety of the aerial mating disruption treatments against spongy moth, which continues to be one of the most devastating forest pests in the eastern US. Mating disruption is known to be the most bening method of pest control, as it does not affect non-target organisms, and even the target organism is not killed. It is very effective against low- to moderate-density populations of spongy moth. Approximately 300,000 acres are treated annually with SPLAT GM-Organic formulation of spongy moth sex pheromone for mating disruption. Although large bodies of water are being excluded, small bodies of open water beneath the hardwood foliage are often included in the treatments. We will assess the short- and long-term impacts of aerial pheromone treatments on aquatic ecosystems with an experimental treatment that supports a before-after-control-impact design in 6 streams. Insect communities and stream functions will be assessed before, right after and a year following pheromone applications. Since the SPLAT matrix is used in a number of formulations, the results of this project will provide insights for similar studies to ensure safety of control products applied against other pests. The selected student will have considerable flexibility in leveraging the study design so ask other questions related to the primary project goals.

Student support and collaboration team
The student will receive at least three academic years (fall and spring semesters) and three summers of salary support as a Graduate Research Assistant on our USFS-funded collaborative project. The starting graduate student stipend for both MSc and PhD students in Entomology is currently ~$32,000 USD per year and does not cover student fees. Additional years of funding, if needed, will be supported by student fellowships, teaching assistantships, and/or other lab-funded projects. The project team also includes the National Slow the Spread (STS) Program that houses data and GIS support that can be leveraged to support student interests.

Contact Sally Entrekin at (Open Positions – Aquatic Entomology ( for more information. Review of applications will begin July 15, 2024 until the position is filled.