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Harper Adams researchers reflect on the 26th International Congress of Entomology

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23 August 2022

With the return of in-person academic conferences, Harper Adams academics have been presenting papers across the globe once more this summer.

Members of a group of seven Harper Adams entomologists here reflect on their experiences at the International Congress of Entomology – and how it felt to finally be taking part in person.

 

Harper Adams Reader in Entomology Dr Tom Pope was among the group of seven.

He said: “Having registered for the 26th International Congress of Entomology back in 2019, it is hard to believe that three years later and we have only just returned from the conference in Helsinki.

“While this delay has been frustrating, during the postponements to the conference there has actually been continued growth in entomology research at Harper Adams and so the number of researchers attending is higher now in 2022 than it would have been back in 2020.” 

Among these researchers is Claire Hoarau, who had been set to present in 2020 Conference in the first year of her PhD, funded by AHDB, AFCP and Certis.

She said: “This conference was a great opportunity to share my research findings on cabbage stem flea beetle control with biopesticides face to face to an international audience for the first time.

“I am very grateful for the chance I had to attend such an important event within the global entomological community. The conference also provided an opportunity to meet former colleagues who I had not seen for several years and so it was very interesting to see how their work had progressed.”

Dr Joe Roberts is another who had been set to present in 2020 – when he was employed at another university. In 2022, Joe is a lecturer in Entomology and Integrated Pest Management at Harper Adams and, with Tom Pope, supervises several of the PhD student projects presented at the conference.

He said: “It’s been a very busy two years adapting to changing working practices whilst at the same time trying to increase entomology research at Harper Adams.

“This conference provided a great opportunity to showcase the many and varied projects underway at the university.”

Eugenia Fezza’s Teagasc funded PhD only started in 2020 and so the postponements to the conference meant that there was, unexpectedly, an opportunity to present her work on vine weevil.

She added: “It was exciting to be able to participate in my first international congress of entomology and to speak to a larger audience of entomologists about the results from my project on improving vine weevil monitoring tool design, some of which was published earlier this year.

“The conference also provided an important opportunity to meet researchers from around the world with the same passion that I have for insects. This included the chance to speak with people whose papers I have read. Hearing different opinions, ideas and research approaches certainly increased my knowledge and provided motivation to achieve my own professional goals.”

Similarly, Maria Damascena started her AHDB funded PhD in late 2020 and so, again unexpectedly, had the opportunity to present at the event.

She said “I talked about my PhD project on the integrated pest management (IPM) of aphid BYDV vectors in cereal crops and to share my latest results on aphid performance in different wheat varieties.

“It was an amazing opportunity, both to be able to share my project with fellow researchers, and to hear about what they have been doing. It really makes a difference to participate at events like this in person as opposed to online.

“To put faces to all those names we already know well makes us feel connected with our research community and inspired me to keep working. In particular I had the opportunity to meet a PhD student from Rothamsted Research and from this meeting we are looking forward to collaborating on some work over the coming months. I’ve also met some researchers I have been working with on a publication that I had never met in person before!

The most recent addition to the team in Helsinki was Laura Martinez who started her PhD in 2021 working on a BBSRC CTP-FCR funded project.

She said: “I took the opportunity to present results in a poster format from the first-year of my project investigating aphid resistance to parasitoid wasps commonly used as biological controls in strawberry crops.

“Presenting will always be a little bit daunting. My poster received lots of attention and I was able to discuss my project with entomologists who I look up to and received positive feedback on the first results of my PhD. Overall, it was a good experience and I felt encouraged to continue my research. 

“By attending interesting symposia and presenting my poster I gathered new and useful information on the subject of my project and made new contacts in the entomology world.”

For all of the Harper Adams entomologists, the conference provided a first chance to visit Finland, and an opportunity to explore Helsinki and its surroundings.

This included a trip to Nuuksio National Park, with its beautiful lakes and forests. All of this was done with plenty of good food and wonderful weather!

Tom added: “Travelling as a group and representing the Harper Adams entomology laboratory and wider university was an added benefit of this conference. With so many of us present and at times all wearing our entomology clothing we are sure that we were very evident throughout the conference.”

 

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