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News and Updates

News and Updates

News and Updates

Comparing media coverage of desert locust outbreaks

May 4, 2021

Student Focus Post: Written by students from the Global Locust Initiative Lab to share their research and experience.

My name is Maddie Magrino and I am a senior at ASU studying Earth and Environmental Studies with a minor in Sustainability. I was first introduced to the Global Locust Initiative (GLI) upon taking Dr. Arianne Cease’s Sustainable Ecosystems course in Fall of 2019. I was immediately interested in the projects Dr. Cease was working on and was eager to join the GLI team to help their research. I was fortunate enough to be offered to work on a remote project comparing the media coverage of the desert locust outbreak in 2004/2005 and the outbreak in 2019/2020 alongside Clara Therville and Marie Chandelier.

Understanding the differences in media coverage over time is essential to determining how the media is able to influence the public’s perception of current events. The coverage of desert locust outbreaks in 2004/2005 and 2019/2020 differed immensely in numbers (see figure 1), but did it differ in content, verbiage and tone? Using a research database, Factiva, we collected about 150 articles from the New York Times, BBC and The Guardian, from the time periods 2000-2009 and 2010-2020.

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New online community for the Global Locust Network reaches 100 members

April 20, 2021

At the beginning of 2021, the Global Locust Network launched an online professional community using a software called Mobilize. The platform functions like a “LinkedIn for locusts” where Network members can connect directly and exchange information in a common space. The Global Locust Initiative sees this as a critical resource for the community to unify conversations and streamline opportunities for collaboration and information sharing across disciplines, sectors, and continents.

Global Locust Network online community

On Friday April 16th, the new online community reached 100 members, with representatives from 30 countries and over 75 areas of expertise. Members are research scientists, field technicians, non-profit professionals, students, professors, farmers, and officials from intergovernmental organizations like The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In addition to providing a community hub website for sharing expertise, posting events, job opportunities, and updates, Mobilize works seamlessly with your email, making it easy for members to respond to messages and posts from the familiarity of their usual mailbox.

If you are interested in joining, the application is available here.

Global Locust Initiative hosts second stakeholder workshop on locust and grasshopper management: Australia edition

April 12, 2021

The Global Locust Initiative Lab hosted a virtual workshop on locust governance with Australian stakeholders on February 16-17, 2021. This workshop was part of a project supported by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and ASU’s Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems to understand feedbacks among locust populations, land use, and governance.

This is the second of four planned workshops to identify and address institutional barriers to sustainable locust management. The first workshop took place in February of 2020 in Tucumán, Argentina and focused on governance issues surrounding research and management of the South American locust (Schistocerca cancellata). Both led by Clara Therville, Postdoctoral Scholar, and Marty Anderies, Professor, Arizona State University who study how people govern natural resources.

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Australian Plague Locust Resurgence

December 15, 2020

By Douglas Lawton, PhD Candidate in ASU School of Life Sciences, December 14, 2020

Australian Plague Locust
Australian Plague Locust

After a record-breaking drought for the past two years, Australia is experiencing a resurgence in Australian Plague Locust (Chortoicetes terminifera) outbreaks throughout the eastern seaboard, but more intensely in New South Wales. The Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC) predicts that swarms and outbreaks will likely continue into December with a moderate likelihood of region-wide outbreaks developing later into summer.

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Education Coordinator - Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute

November 23, 2020

We are seeking a full-time Education Coordinator for the Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI), a newly established Biology Integration Institute funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. This position will provide leadership and administrative support to facilitate all aspects of training and educational activities at the BPRI.

The successful candidate will be a central communicator and facilitator for faculty and trainees of the BPRI, and work closely with various member institutions of the BPRI (Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M University, Washington University in St. Louis, Arizona State University, University of California-Davis, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville). This position offers a unique opportunity to develop a career as an education specialist who can work with scientists, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students across different biological disciplines. There are also opportunities to develop leadership skills through shared governance. The position is based at Texas A&M University. We are especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the BPRI’s diversity through their service. Women, minorities, people with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply.

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Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute Postdoctoral position available at Texas A&M University

November 23, 2020

A postdoctoral position is available in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA. The position is part of the Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI), one of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s four newly established Biology Integration Institutes.

The BPRI focuses on understanding locust phase polyphenism, one of the most striking examples of coordinated phenotypic plasticity. This phenomenon provides a powerful comparative system for understanding how gene expression patterns and epigenetic regulation are linked to shifts in behavior, physiology, and ecology that result in outbreaks, collective movement, and mass migration. The BPRI is established to comprehensively dissect this phenomenon and use it as a model system to transform the study of phenotypic plasticity. With a commitment to improving diversity, inclusion and equity, the BPRI will train the next generation of integrative biologists who can efficiently navigate across different disciplines.

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12 BPRI graduate student opportunities to start Fall 2021!

October 15, 2020

Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI)BPRI is an NSF-funded virtual institute consisting of a group of like-minded teacher-scholars with diverse disciplinary expertise from six institutions. The Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI) uses locust phase polyphenism as a model system to transform the way phenotypic plasticity is studied by linking sub-organismal processes to the whole organism, populations, and ecosystems, and ultimately to the tree of life.

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Universities collaborate to create new Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI)

October 15, 2020

ASU to join six other universities to create an institute to better understand locust phase change.

As a formidable ecological force, locusts have a long history of devastating crops and causing food insecurity throughout history and around the world. A secret to their success—dubbed phase polyphenism—is a textbook case of phenotypic plasticity where an individual can modify its phenotype in response to a changing environment. Locusts can capitalize on times of plenty by altering their morphology, physiology, and behavior as they shift from a cryptic and solitary lifestyle to a mobile and gregarious one. This ultimately results in the dramatic outbreaks with swarms of billions of individuals we are seeing currently on multiple continents.

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Taming locusts in Senegal: Working with communities, empowering women

October 14, 2020

Locusts are a major pest in many parts of the world, damaging plants and livelihoods. Senegal is one such place; farmers constantly battle migrating swarms of the local Senegalese grasshopper.

Led by Associate Professor Arianne Cease from the School of Sustainability and funded by USAID, the Global Locust Initiative went to Senegal — an area where they’ve been working since 2016 — to see if changing crops’ nutrients would deter locusts and to work with local communities and organizations to monitor and manage locust numbers.

The initiative, part of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, is devoted to researching the complex problem of locusts and finding solutions alongside local collaborators.

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Read latest issue of Metaleptea

Metaleptea (Vol. 40, Issue 3) | September 22, 2020

The latest issue of Metaleptea (Vol. 40, Issue 3), the Newsletter of the Orthopterists’ Society, is published and available to read! It features upcoming events, announcements, regional reports, and recent research. Locusts are a key feature, including the announcement of the Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI) — a newly funded NSF Biology Integration Institute, updates on outbreaking locusts species from South Asia to Brazil, and a new paper in the works about how spatiotemporal hierarchy improves locust outbreak models.

Read the whole issue.

Locust outbreaks increase with two additional species in Southern Africa and China

September 11, 2020

New outbreaks of the African Migratory Locust (Locusta migratoria migratorioides) and the Yellow-spined Bamboo Locust (Ceracris kiangsu) are causing concern in addition to the ongoing outbreaks of the Desert Locust and South American Locust.

Southern African countries have launched an emergency response to outbreaks of the African Migratory Locust which, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. These outbreaks are smaller and separate from the Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) emergency in eastern Africa and southwest Asia. Compounding effects of a 2019 drought and the COVID-19 pandemic are reported to make the food and nutrition security issues more acute.

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Like marathon runners, locusts carbo-load before a long journey

ASU Now | August 14, 2020

A study published Aug. 2 in the Journal of Animal Ecology finds that migrating locusts carbo-load before flying up to 350 kilometers in a single night.

Marion Le Gall, an assistant research professor in the Global Locust Initiative in the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, conducted a locust field study in 2017 in Senegal.

Her findings showed that Mongolian locusts did better in overgrazed pastures than in a normal pasture. Co-author and sustainability scientist Arianne Cease tied this to the nutritional content of plants: Land that was overgrazed contained less nitrogen and plants were more sugar-based. That was good for the locusts.

The abstract follows.

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Join us for a webinar: The International Locust Crisis

View Source | July 22, 2020

On World Humanitarian Day, and as part of a week-long series of events for Entomology Advocacy Week hosted by the Entomological Society of America, Dr. Arianne Cease, Director of the Global Locust Initiative at Arizona State University, and Dr. Shoki Al Dobai, Locust and Transboundary Plant Pest Team Leader of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, will discuss current global efforts to enhance the capacity for sustainable locust management and the ongoing international efforts to manage the Desert Locust crisis occurring in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia.

The webinar, The International Locust Crisis, will be held on Wednesday, August 19. Register through the Entomological Society of America.

Open research position in entomology and ecology at the USDA-ARS in Sidney, MT

May 26, 2020

The Global Locust Initiative would like to pass along this job opportunity with the United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service:

The USDA-ARS is seeking a permanent, full-time entomologist or ecologist as lead investigator in one of the following two areas: 1) Applied modeling, spatial analysis, and forecasting of rangeland and crop insect pest distribution, outbreak dynamics, population growth, and/or risk analysis; OR 2) Plant-insect pest population dynamics with a strong quantitative focus.

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Contribute to a special issue of the journal Agronomy

May 6, 2020

two locusts in treeSubmissions are now being accepted for a special issue of the journal Agronomy, guest edited by Drs. Michel Lecoq and Arianne Cease, focused on any of these broad themes surrounding modern locust management:

    —the biotic and abiotic factors that affect population and behavioral dynamics (including the potential role of climate change),
    —surveys and monitoring,
    —management technologies,
    —the impact of outbreaks (economic, social, and/or environmental),
    —or related research.

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FFAR and Swette Center project: first workshop on institutional barriers to sustainable locust management in South America

April 20, 2020

As part of the Global Locust Initiative Lab’s FFAR project on coupled human-system approaches to solving locust plagues, also supported by ASU’s Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, workshops have been organized in South America, Sénégal and Australia to identify and address institutional barriers to sustainable locust management.

The first workshop took place in Tucumán, Argentina, on February 26 and 27, 2020. It brought together 38 participants from Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay working in national and provincial locust control agencies, as well as  researchers, farmers and representatives of farming associations and ministries. Using a participative methodology with tools, such as collaborative social mapping, participants were invited to share their point of views regarding governance issues in the case of the South American locust (Schistocerca cancellata) over a day and a half. They explained the current situation characterized by regular outbreaks of S. cancellata, identified the main actors involved in the governance system, characterized the interactions among these agents, and discussed the main strengths, opportunities for improvement, and threats for the sustainable governance of the South American locust.

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MSUS student travels to Senegal to help workshop locust booklets

April 6, 2020

This article was written by William H. Walker VI, a sophomore in the School of Sustainability. Edited December 2, 2020 by Alana Burnham.

Global Locust Initiative Senegal IPMFrom left to right: Team members Fatou Bintou Sarr, Sidikarou Badiane, Braedon Kantola, and Alana Burnham pose with a CFSA participant at a sabar or drum circle in Boulel, Senegal.

Imagine you are in rural Senegal, working on a farm. It's your livelihood, your culture, and a part of your well-being. You grow millet, peanuts, maybe even some tomatoes or eggplant. You do all you can to take care of your farm and your family. Yet, there is cause for concern: locusts and grasshoppers. One day, your field is suddenly overtaken by a swarm. You call your government’s USDA equivalent, but by the time agents arrive to spray pesticides, your harvest is all gone. How can you prevent this? What can be done to empower farmers? One way is by teaching them to identify and monitor pest species, so that they can inform authorities early on and outbreaks can easily be controlled. That’s what a team at Global Locust Initiative is working on, as a part of their larger project Communities for Sustainable Agriculture (CFSA) funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Collaborating with the Senegalese Plant Protection Directorate (Direction de la Protection des Végétaux or DPV), locust experts in Senegal and France, and Senegalese community members, the team created a booklet on identification of locally relevant locust and grasshopper species. Master of Sustainability Solutions (MSUS) student Braedon Kantola assisted this team as a part of his culminating experience—which brought him all the way to Senegal.

In February 2020, Kantola accompanied booklet-lead and outreach specialist Alana Burnham to communities in central Senegal, where the team workshopped symbols and illustrations developed for the identification booklet. Along with local locust experts Sidikarou Badiane, Alioune Beye, and Fatou Bintou Sarr, they met with 100 farmers to gather feedback.

Global Locust Initiative Senegal MeetingEntomologist Fatou Bintou Sarr presents the first edition of the identification booklet to CFSA participants in Nganda, Senegal.

The finished identification booklet covers several topics: a general background on locust and grasshopper anatomy; species identification information such as markings, habitat, and diet; and contact information for local DPV agents. Written in French and Wolof, Senegal’s predominant local language, the booklet includes illustrations developed by Kara Brooks, a graduate student at the Herberger Institute for the Design and the Arts. This resource will complement a previous booklet on monitoring techniques, which is now available on GLI’s website.

Global Locust Initiative Senegal women groupA CFSA participant in Nganda, Senegal, reads a finished booklet on locust management. Participants in Nganda helped provide feedback on the booklets during the revision process.

During his time in Senegal, Kantola visited several rural communities, picked up a few phrases of Wolof, and even participated in a few Senegalese sabar or drum circles. Says Kantola, “having worked on this project has opened my eyes to so many experiences and learning opportunities.”

Locust plagues are devastating countries across Africa

ASU Now | February 21, 2020

LocustRight now, there are hundreds of billions of locusts wreaking havoc on vegetation across Africa. Experts are sounding the alarm, including United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who said the swarm has the potential to be "the most devastating plague of locusts in any of our living memories if we don't reduce the problem faster than we're doing at the moment."

The outbreak has hit East Africa particularly hard as many countries in the region are heavily dependent on agriculture. Locust swarms devastate food crops and raise food insecurity, an issue many of the countries already struggle with. According to the UN, the swarms are the largest in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years and the largest in Kenya in 70 years. In Kenya, Joseph Katone Leparole — who has lived in the hamlet, Wamba, for most of his 68 years — described the plague as being similar to an umbrella covering the sky.

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Desert Locust upsurge: an update from Dr. Michel Lecoq, GLI Network member and Desert Locust expert

February 21, 2020

For the latest information on the Desert Locust situation, please see the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Locust Watch website.

The Desert Locust is known throughout history for its capacity to reach plague-like swarms, descending from the sky to ravage crops and trouble farmers. Scientifically named Schistocerca gregaria (Forskål 1775), this species undergoes an almost “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” type of transformation called locust phase polyphenism. The Desert Locust can change from a solitary insect, behaving more like a typical grasshopper, into a “gregarious” form that prefers high-density communities and lots of traveling. These gregarious adults make up clouds of locusts capable of migrating hundreds of kilometers in a single night.

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