Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Return of our student team!

 We're really pleased to welcome back our student team for the 2021 field season! These folks are coming soon to a field (and field plots) near you!!  Well, that's true ONLY if you're fortunate to be in the Peace River region!

Learn more about Maiya, Aarika and Donovan.  They join Shelby, Amanda, and me and we're the IPM Team for the summer of 2021!

Coming back to work in the IPM program

Hi, my name is Aarika and I am more than excited to be coming back to work in the IPM program again this summer!

About Me

I am going into my fourth year of Bachelor’s of Science specializing in Psychology at the University of Alberta. I am interested in pursuing medicine, specifically neurology or psychiatry. Although my studies are a bit different from agricultural entomology research, I have become very passionate in this area of agriculture from working at the Beaverlodge Research Farm last year. I was THRILLED when I knew I would be coming back to work here this summer. I grew up on a grain farm near Valhalla Centre and have been eager to become more involved. I have been helping out in the field when I get the chance to and learning to drive more of the equipment.

Last year I learned so much valuable information in the IPM program including starting to monitor insects in fields. I was able to review various pieces of scientific literature and take online courses to expand my knowledge on insect predators, pests, economic thresholds, insecticides, and more. 

Figure 1. Aarika rolling canola in her family’s fields.

What I Look Forward to... This year, I am excited to have the opportunity to do more fieldwork in different areas and on a wider variety of insects. I look forward to continuing learning about insect monitoring, scouting, and gaining more practical experience. This job has given me a greater awareness of what isgoing on in a smaller scale (insect scale) in those large fields! I have scouted some of my family's fields already and have seen insects already working away! I am eager to see how this year is in comparison to previous years as I have seen a lot of fluctuation with the weather.

Anyways, I am very excited to be working with the wonderful team for my second year here in the IPM program! They are truly incredible people to work with and are passionate about what they do.

Back for the 2021 field season!

Hello everyone! My name is Maiya and I am a returning student in the Insect Pest Management (IPM) Program at the Beaverlodge Research Farm. I worked with the IPM team last year, but this is my first year both returning to the program and working in-person. I will be at the Farm for the 2021 summer from May to August. 

I recently completed my third year at the University of Alberta pursuing an undergraduate degree in Science, majoring in Biological Sciences and Psychology. Though I have not focused on insects in my studies, I have taken a few ecology and zoology courses that often use entomological examples. I am looking forward to applying my school-based knowledge to the job and gaining more practical experience in biology this summer. 

Previous work with the IPM program brought me a new appreciation for the wide range of insects with which producers must cope to grow a successful crop. Last summer I was only able to do fieldwork on my family’s farm in the Peace region (Fig. 1) and performed several online tasks and training while working from home. Therefore, I am eager to spend more time outside getting some hands-on experience with pest monitoring and laboratory techniques this summer. 

Figure 1. Maiya holding a sweep-net used for monitoring Lygus bugs and other insects in her family’s canola field.

Back for the 2021 field season!

Hi there! I’m Donovan, a returning student in the Insect Pest Management Program at the Beaverlodge Research Farm. Last summer, I worked remotely with the IPM team, mainly performing online insect-related tasks and research. This year, however, I’m working on-site from May to August, and I can’t wait to get that true pest monitoring experience!

I am a third-year student at Carleton University pursuing a BSc in Ecology while minoring in Statistics. Growing up, animals of all shapes and sizes intrigued me (Fig.1). Whenever I went to zoos, I never wanted to leave until I had the chance to see every animal, much to my parent’s occasional discontent. Later in my educational career, I realized I loved translating my ecological research into numbers (or vice versa), which prompted me to incorporate statistics into my studies.

I have a deep passion for entomology since working for the Canadian National Collection of Insects housed at AAFC-Ottawa. While working there, I marveled over the sheer diversity of insects and all the weird and wacky forms they possess. When I worked remotely for the Beaverlodge Research Farm, I was fascinated by how much of an impact insects have on agriculture, whether beneficial or detrimental, and I’m looking forward to expanding my knowledge on these compelling arthropods with the IPM team this summer!

Figure 1. Donovan celebrating the 12th birthday of his miniature labradoodle, Keegan.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Interested in joining us as a Student Assistant?

The Beaverlodge Research Farm employs continuing high school and post-secondary students to support research and train new agricultural professionals.  We use three student hiring streams:
  1. Federal Student Work Employment Program (FSWEP) – an online application process (have resume ready to attach) that all federal departments use to seek students. Access that link here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-service-commission/jobs/services/recruitment/students/federal-student-work-program.html
  2. COOP/Internship Student Programs – Universities often have COOP or Internship programs. Students enrolled with a nationally accredited program should contact us directly with a resume.
  3. Research Affiliate Program – also an online application process specific to our site but applicants must complete an online application as seasonal Government of Canada job postings become available.  It's best to contact us directly with a resume. 
Students interested in working in a specific research program at AAFC-Beaverlodge are encouraged to e-mail a resume and an expression of interest to:
     Insect Pest Management Program - Jennifer.Otani@canada.ca
     Agronomy & Crop Adaptation Program - Greg.Semach@canada.ca

Important – Dates to keep in mind: Candidate lists can be pulled for screening at any point. Because field research is our focus, most students are hired for May start dates. Here are the important dates to target if you are applying:  
     December 15 - Complete FSWEP application and send resume if seeking a May start date.
     September 15 - Complete FSWEP application and send resume if seeking a January start date.
     May 15 - Complete FSWEP application and send resume if seeking a September start date.

Find more information here About the Farm and see the types of activities IPM Students do.

Sweep-net monitoring in canola grown in the Peace River region in 2019.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Meet our term technician - Introducing Megan!

Hello! My name is Megan Atcheynum. I completed my diploma in Agronomy from the University of Saskatchewan in April 2020. In the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to work as a student with the Agronomy & Crop Adaptation program here at the Beaverlodge Research Farm. This experience inspired me to become more involved in research that focuses on improving agricultural practices with consideration for the environment. 

As of May 2020, I am working as a research assistant on a three-year term at the Beaverlodge Research Farm. This job allows me to apply the knowledge gained in my studies on a daily basis. My position is unique as I work with Agronomy & Crop Adaptation program from May to October then move to support the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program from November to April. Working in both programs allows me to further my knowledge of agronomic practices and broaden my understanding of the influence insects have on agriculture.  

Figure 1. Megan standing in a faba bean plot grown in 2020 at Beaverlodge Research Farm.

Working with the IPM team will enable me to gain experience identifying a variety of insects and learn about different collection techniques. Currently, I am familiarizing myself with Families of insects within the Order Coleoptera (beetles). I’m developing and using insect handling techniques and identification skills while processing pea leaf weevil pitfall samples collected by cooperators and the data will contribute to a Alberta Agriculture and Forestry-funded arthropod biodiversity project. I am excited to learn about the impact of insects on agriculture and about the species that inhabit field crops grown in the Peace River region.


Monday, 31 August 2020

An Unconventional IPM Student Experience

Over the course of the summer, I encountered practical applications of many concepts introduced during my university biology classes. While working from home, I completed online courses, attended webinars, and engaged in numerous video calls to discuss blog posts and scientific papers. These opportunities enabled me to learn about species distribution, insect life cycles, symbiotic relationships, parasitism, genetic modification, and the evolution of insecticide resistance. After studying these topics, it was interesting to read about field research studies performed on farms far different from my own family’s in terms of size, location, and practices. For example, we discussed many studies performed in Europe where the field sizes are MUCH smaller than in Alberta. Though many crops and pests are similar between regions, I had to think critically about how applicable the results were to Canadian farms. Moreover, I learned to think more about insect sampling techniques and their applications in Alberta and other areas. I am eager to continue applying these new skills as I return to school this fall.

During weekly paper and blog discussions, the IPM team discussed economic thresholds and how they are applied to make control decisions. Prior to this, I had little knowledge on how farmers make chemical control decisions or how often insecticides are actually applied to fields. I thought insecticides were used more frequently but, in the Peace River region, natural enemies and weather conditions can help to regulate pest populations. Exploring biological and cultural pest management options has enlightened me to the reality of sustainable farming and the landscape-level practices required to maintain it.

I also learned a variety of pest monitoring techniques and how to apply economic thresholds in the field. I was lucky enough to monitor insects in two fields on my family’s farm, even with COVID-19 restrictions in place. I learned how to set traps in canola for flea beetles (Fig. 1a), diamondback moth (Fig. 1b), and bertha armyworm (Figure 1c), as well as how to use a sweep-net to scout for lygus bugs and cabbage seedpod weevil in the crop canopy. In field peas, I set up pitfall traps adjacent to the field to monitor pea leaf weevil. Managing only a few traps on my own has given me a greater appreciation of the massive amount of effort and materials required to conduct more complex and large-scale studies in entomology.

Figure 1. Traps set adjacent to a canola field near Sexsmith, AB on June 19, 2020, used to monitor flea beetles (a), diamondback moths (b), and bertha armyworm moths (c). Photos: M. Sears 2020.

Prior to this experience, I only knew of a few general insect groups (eg. grasshoppers, moths, aphids) that affected my family’s crops. Early in my term, I learned the characteristics that differentiate insect orders through the  “Bugs 101” course (offered through the University of Alberta). While monitoring, I was introduced to pest and beneficial species of arthropods in the Peace River region and the unexpected ecological niches they can occupy. For instance, I discovered flies are among the most important pollinators in agricultural ecosystems (Fig. 2). Finally, while creating scouting charts for oat, sunflower, and mustard, I encountered and began to recognize similarities in pest species across crop types. Now when I glance at an insect in a field, I have a good idea of the group to which it belongs and how it may affect the crop — or at least I now know where to find resources to help me identify it.

Figure 2. Fly species found on canola flowers growing in the field on July 2, 2020, near Sexsmith, AB. Photo: M. Sears 2020

Furthermore, I have come to better understand the tough control decisions farmers struggle to make on a regular basis and the impact management decisions can have on both pest and non-target insects in field crops.

- Maiya Sears

Thanks to Aarika Harpe, Shelby Dufton and J. Otani for reviewing this Post.

Read more about the 2020 students working in the IPM Program.