Laboratory of Insect Ecology
The Walter-Furlong Laboratory approaches ecological research as an interactive process between theory development and empirical investigation. The Laboratory provides a collaborative environment that promotes a combination of ecological approaches to research in insect ecology, biological control and other components of applied ecology.
Our research focuses on the requirements of individuals and species (autecology) as a basis for understanding the adaptations of organisms and their distribution and abundance, as well as for interpreting local diversity. Mostly we deal with interactions between herbivorous insects and their host plants, but also have interests in natural enemies of insects (pathogens, parasitoids and predators) and have, at times, worked on the ecology of plants, aquatic snails, fish and birds. Our understanding of the interactions between organisms and their environment (including their hosts) is then used to inform applications in pest management, conservation and so on.
Specific problems currently being tackled, through externally funded research projects, include (amongst others):
Clarification of the host relationships of phytophagous insects (including crop pests).
Development of strategies with which to manipulate natural enemies and enhance their impact on pest populations, including; the integration of biological stressors and fungal entomopathogens for improved control of insect pests, utilizing inducible plant defences to manipulate pests and improve the effectiveness of natural enemies.
Development of sustainable pest management strategies for insect pests in developing countries to promote the production of high-value crops, in several Pacific Island countries including Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands.