UCF Biologists Swarm Insect Conference


A conference attendee at the UCF Bug Closet.

Thousands of scholars from all over the world gathered in Orlando with one thing in common: A love for bugs.

The 2016 International Congress of Entomology conference was held at the Orange County Convention Center from Sept. 25 – 30.

Faculty and students from the University of Central Florida’s Department of Biology played a large role in the conference; presenting their research and contributing to exhibits.

Biology doctoral candidate Miles Zhang won second place in the student oral presentation competition for his paper titled “From Population to Speciation: Evolution of the Peristenus pallipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) complex.” The paper analyzed genetic differences among insects and the evolution of a certain species.


Erin Barbeau leads visitors around UCF’s bug closet.

Associate professor Barbara Sharanowski, Ph.D., authored a paper entitled “Mobile-IPM: Real-time pest management in the digital age,” which was also presented. UCF graduate student Amber Bass was on the team that conducted the experiments described in the paper.  The paper detailed the research team’s use of mobile phone apps to control pest populations in the Canadian prairie area. Additionally she authored a paper on the evolution of parasitic wasps in the super-family Ichenuonoidea based on genomic data.

Associate professor in the UCF Department of Biology Joshua King, Ph.D., was also at the conference. He was one of four organizers of a symposium about invasive ants, at which he presented a paper about competition between ant species. Associate professor Ken Fedorka, Ph.D., also presented his paper on climate change and its effect on insect immunity.

There were many other presentations by students, as well as events coordinated both onsite and off-site involving UCF.

Conference attendees had the opportunity to tour the University of Central Florida’s Collection of Arthropods, also known as the “bug closet” as an official conference event on Sept. 28.

Undergraduate biology students Erin Barbeau and Shawn Kelly led the guests, many of whom had traveled very far to attend the conference. Professors from Russia, Italy, India and Nigeria were present, among others. Barbeau is outreach coordinator of the Bug Closet and Shawn Kelly the collections manager.

Visitors to the bug closet are generally students or locals interested in insects. Barbeau was excited to share UCF’s collection with scholars across the globe.


One of the specimen drawers at the UCF Bug Closet.

“A tour like this allows us to share our collection on an international level and form new connections,” Barbeau said.

Barbeau said that the tour group was very excited to see some of the specimens that are native only to America. She thinks that the guests enjoyed their time in the bug closet.

“It’s easy to forget that some species are not widespread across the globe and to take them for granted,” Barbeau said. “To see the reactions of these researchers finally getting to see some of these iconic North American species they had only seen in books was priceless.”

Barbeau said an international professor who toured the facility donated a collection of foreign ant specimens to the bug closet – adding to UCF’s extensive collection.

See below a list of all the UCF-related exhibits at the ICE Conference.

* = presenter

Presentation Title: Ichneumonoidea Phylogenomics: A lot of genes gets at the big picture, but sampling will take a village
Authors Barbara J. Sharanowski* (UCF), Patrick Piekarski (UCF), Emily M. Lemmon, Alan R. Lemmon, Andrew R. Deans, Heather M. Hines

Presentation Title: Mobile-IPM: Real-time pest management in the digital age
Authors: Barbara J. Sharanowski* (Associate Professor, UCF), Ana Dal Molin, Amber Bass (MS student, UCF), Douglas Cattani, John Gavloski, Robert Gulden, Leah Irwin, Kale McKay, Julia Leeson, Scott Meers, Owen Olfert, Jennifer Otani, Kelly Turkington, Ross Weiss, and Leanne Peixoto

Symposium Title: Entomology in the Digital Age
Organizers: Barbara J. Sharanowski (Associate Professor, UCF), Miles Zhang (PhD student, UCF), Ana Dal Molin, and Leanne Peixoto

Presentation Title: From population to speciation: Evolution of the Peristenus pallipes (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) complex
Authors: Miles Zhang* (PhD student, UCF), Diana Catalina Fernandez, and Barbara Sharanowski (Associate Professor, UCF)
Student Competition Oral Presentation: Second Place Award Winner

Presentation Title: Vespidae phylogenomics and the origins of eusociality
Authors: Patrick Piekarski* (MS student, UCF), J. M. carpenter, Alan Lemmon, Emily Lemmon, and Barbara Sharanowski (Associate Professor, UCF)

Presentation Title: Does the Y-chromosome facilitate sexual dimorphic evolution in insects or constrain autosomal evolution?
Authors: Ian Kutch* (PhD student, UCF) and Ken Fedorka (Associate Professor, UCF)

Presentation Title: Climate change and the evolution of insect immunity
Author: Ken Fedorka* (Associate Professor)

Presentation Title: Competition between invasive and native ants
Author: Joshua King* (Associate Professor, UCF)

Symposium Title: Invasive Ants: Biology and Control
Organizers: Joshua King (Associate Professor, UCF), Sanford Porter (USDA), David Oi (USDA), Robert Vander Meer (USDA)

Poster Title: Incipient colony growth in the red fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)
Authors: Hester Dingle* (MS graduate, UCF) and Joshua King (Associate Professor, UCF)

Poster Title: Scope of University of Central Florida Collection of Arthropods: A growing collection
Authors: Erin Barbeau*(BS student, UCF), Shiala Naranjo (BS student, UCF), Sandor Kelly (Collection Manager, UCF), Brian Silverman (MS Student, UCF), and Ryan Ridenbaugh (BS graduate, UCF)



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