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• Adwa receives her master’s

Adwa ABDOU ALI’s thesis has just been formally accepted by the university! Her research, culminating in her thesis titled Insects of the date palm in traditional and modern orchards of Djibouti, compared the abundance of several potential insect pests of date palms in modern, monocultural orchards, and in older, traditional, and polycultural orchards, the kind one might find growing around oases. Both orchard types harbored potential pests, but the modern ones had more pests specialist of date palm, whereas the traditional orchards had a greater abundance of generalist pests.

Adwa prepares her traps in a modern orchard

A traditional orchard

Here’s the abstract:

In recent years, food insecurity and poverty, especially among the rural populations of Djibouti, have been increasing due to population growth and rising world food prices.

As a result, the government of Djibouti seeks to develop sustainable agriculture through date farming. The cultivation of date palms adapts well to the difficult pedoclimatic conditions of the Republic of Djibouti. Massive introductions of date palm have taken place in recent years to restore the older traditional palm groves (polycultures) and to create and/or extend new palm groves oriented towards monoculture.

However, the country faces major phytosanitary challenges: poor infrastructure, insufficient knowledge and a lack of research on the pests of this crop.

With the ultimate aim of protecting and increasing Djibouti’s date yields, this present work seeks to assess the susceptibility of palm groves to insect pests. To achieve this objective, a comparison of the insect fauna of the two types of palm groves was carried out using composite traps placed within the crown of the date palm. The experiment was carried out from 20 June to 2 September 2018, in six orchards on three sites.

The samples documented the existence and diversity of insects in these palm groves, as well as the presence and abundance of specialist date palm pests in monocultural palm groves. Natural enemies were also particularly abundant in the traditional palm groves, but species-level diversity did not show any correlations with type of palm grove.

This study contributes to the knowledge of insect diversity and potential pest species in the palm groves of Djibouti. These pests can have an important impact on date yields depending on the type of palm grove and this study thus underlines the needs to develop adequate means of pest control.

Congratulations Adwa!

• Thomas receives his PhD

In April 2018, Thomas Théry successfully defended his doctoral dissertation. Almost a year later, his erstwhile advisor publicly celebrates the completion of his first PhD student’s studies. Entitled “Molecular systematics of the genus Essigella (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha)“, Thomas’s dissertation presented three published chapters.

Species of the aphid genus Essigella are found natively only in North America, feeding along the lengths of pine needles. The taxonomy of the genus was last treated by John Sorensen in 1994. He used difficult, time-consuming, but effective multi-variate morphometric methods to delineate the species. Thomas sought to corroborate or challenge Sorensen’s taxon concepts using molecular methods. In his first chapter, published in Insect Systematics and Diversity, Thomas used genes from the aphids’ nucleus, mitochondrion, and obligate nutritional symbiont Buchnera aphidicola and several molecular species delimitation methods. It was indeed a relief and a pleasure to find that, by and large, his results corroborated Sorensen’s.

Thomas did find a few additional species, however, and he proceeded to describe and name them formally in his follow-up publication in ZooKeys. Thomas’s species descriptions were innovative in that he used actual genetic nucleotide differences as diagnostic characters for his new species, something rarely done in animal taxonomy and never done before with aphids. Not to court too much controversy, Thomas made certain to include morphological diagnoses as well! The third chapter of Thomas’s dissertation was actually the first one published. We’ve already described that work on the Monterey pine needle aphid colonizing new geographic regions.

Thomas landed a full-time employment at the Insectarium of Montreal, just next door to the Biodiversity Centre, so we are pleased to see him regularly as he comes to work on his beetles at the Ouellet-Robert collection. Yes, that means that despite having worked on aphids for his PhD, we were unsuccessful at taking the histerid out of this coleopterist. We’re proud of you anyway, Dr Théry, congratulations!

Thomas and his thesis defence jury: Chris Cameron, Liliana Perez, Luc Brouillet, Colin, and Jade Savage.

Théry T, Kanturski M, Favret C. 2018. Molecular phylogenetic analysis and species delimitation in the pine needle-feeding aphid genus Essigella(Hemiptera, Sternorrhyncha, Aphididae). Insect Systematics and Diversity, 2(4):1;1-15. DOI: 10.1093/isd/ixy006

Théry T, Kanturski M, Favret C. 2018. Molecular data and species diagnosis in Essigella Del Guercio, 1909 (Sternorrhyncha, Aphididae, Lachninae). ZooKeys, 765: 103-122. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.765.24144

Théry T, Brockerhoff EG, Carnegie AJ, Chen Rui, Elms SR, Hullé M, Glatz R, Ortego J, Qiao Gexia, Turpeau É, Favret C. 2017. EF-1α DNA sequences indicate multiple origins of introduced populations of Essigella californica(Hemiptera, Aphididae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 110(3): 1269-1274. DOI: 10.1093/jee/tox026

• The lab is featured by the SEQ

The members of the lab were featured in the spring (2018) issue of Antennae, the Bulletin of the Quebec Entomology Society. Read it here in French.

• Anaïs wins best presentation at the departmental symposium

Best presentation in ecology and evolution at the 17th annual symposium. Congratulations Anaïs!

• Thomas Théry wins excellence in teaching award

Thomas won the University of Montreal’s President’s prize for excellence in teaching by a teaching assistant.

• Étienne Normandin: Collection manager

We have recruited Étienne Normandin to be the manager of the Ouellet-Robert collection. Welcome Étienne! Send him your congratulations: qmor.umontreal@gmail.com

• A nice exposé of the lab in the student journal

The «ARNmessager» is a biology student journal. They published a very nice exposé of the Favret Lab and the insect collection. (in French)

• Mylène wins the IRBV photo contest

Undergrad honors student Mylène Durant won first prize in the IRBV photo contest (December 2014). Her picture features some of the organisms in her study, the ant Formica glacialis tending the aphid Aphis fabae. In the photo they are located on Borago officinalis.