Wednesday, 13 October 2010

September Review for F1000

The paper we chose to review this month was a little different in that it demonstrates a method of surveying for pest-resistant specimens involving 'citizen science'.  The article is straightforward, clearly showing that there can be significant benefits to involving volunteers in biosecurity-related surveys where time is of the essence. In Australia, an example of where such an approach has been used is in surveys for fire ants in Queensland - read more about that here.

Using Citizen Science Programs to Identify Host Resistance in Pest-Invaded Forests.  
Ingwell LL, Preisser EL, Conservation Biology, article first published online: 23 AUG 2010 (Early View)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01567.x

Our Review:
Mark Lonsdale: Faculty of 1000 Biology, 12 Oct 2010
Copyright F1000

This paper gives a clear demonstration of the advantages of involving large numbers of volunteers in a survey for trees resistant to a pest. It highlights the possibility that the human population could be an important part of a resilient biosecurity system if sensitised to biosecurity risks.
The paper uses the case study of surveys for surviving Hemlock trees that have been exposed to the insect pest hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) to illustrate the value of enlisting volunteers for this kind of survey. Surveys took place in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The researchers provided brochures describing the pest, effects on the host and the likely phenotypic characteristics of resistant trees. This enabled the surveying of hundreds of hemlock forests for healthy trees in a relatively short time-frame -- time is often of the essence in such surveys, e.g. to counter pre-emptive logging. The cuttings obtained by the survey showed resistance to hemlock woolly adelgid and are to be used in breeding programmes. As this paper suggests, finding ways to engage 'citizen scientists' in biosecurity and invasion management programmes can have clear advantages and should be considered as a 'standard' response strategy.

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