Our research focuses on the landscape ecology of forest insects, with special emphasis on linking patterns observed across space and through time to individual- and community-level processes. Integrating basic and applied foci, we strive to provide high-quality deliverables to granting agencies and stakeholders from regional to international levels who invest in our work. Here are some of the major projects in which we are currently involved:
Invasion biology of forest insects in novel habitats.In the American midwest, we are involved in mitigating the effects of emerald ash borer, such as studying the spread and efficacy of biological control agents on the western edge of the invasion front. Collaborators on this project include Monika Chandler of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Robert Venette of the USDA Forest Service. We have also recently begun collaborating on a project led by Robert Venette and Steve Seybold studying walnut twig beetle and thousand cankers disease. In the Canadian west, the current outbreak of mountain pine beetle has breached the historic geoclimatic barrier of the Rocky Mountains, and the insect is now reproducing in the jack pine of the boreal forest. Since 2006, we have been investigating the effects of landscape features and climate on outbreak progression and spread. In the past five years, in conjunction with Barry Cooke (CFS), we have been leading the ecological risk analysis component of the TRIA Project headed by Jörg Bohlmann (UBC) and Janice Cooke (U of Alberta). Collaborators on these spatiotemportal studies include Allan Carroll (UBC), Jun Zhu (U Wisconsin), Yanbing Zheng (U Kentucky), Staffan Lindgren and Dezene Huber (UNBC), and Kishan Sambaraju (CFS). Funding agencies that have supported or continue to support our work in invasion biology include the MN LCCMR commission, USDA CRES, NSERC, the Canadian Forest Service, the BC Forest Sciences Program, Genome BC, Genome Alberta, and Genome Canada.
Interaction of below- and above-ground herbivory in forest dynamics. We work in two study systems, which yields valuable comparative opportunities especially with long-term datasets. In the American Midwest, we are involved in a long-term project headed by Kenneth Raffa (U Wisconsin) and funded by the National Science Foundation. We are analyzing underlying mechanisms and spatio-temporal patterns of gap formation in red pine plantations with root weevils, pine engravers, and their predators. In British Columbia, we have studied how landscape-level mortality by mountain pine beetle affects movement, feeding, and subsequent mortality to young trees by Warren root collar weevil. Funded by the BC Forest Sciences Program and NSERC, collaborators on the latter project include Staffan Lindgren (UNBC) and Niklas Björklund (Swedish Agricultural University).
Factors mediating phase transitions in the population dynamics of eruptive herbivores. Much research on the mountain pine beetle focuses on its outbreak stages, despite the fact that it exists at endemic phases for decades between outbreaks. Projects include studying the spatial dynamics and community interactions that mediate the incipient-epidemic and outbreak-collapse phases between outbreaks in a study initiated by Allan Carroll (UBC). Collaborators include Staffan Lindgren (UNBC), and Kenneth Raffa (U Wisconsin), with past funding from NSERC and the Canadian Forest Service. Another project, funded by the USDA NRI, is examining the role of bacterial assemblages in the population dynamics of mountain pine beetle across scales. Collaborators include Kenneth Raffa, Aaron Adams, and Cameron Currie (U Wisconsin), as well as Nadir Erbilgin (U Alberta).
Alternate host use by eruptive herbivores. Amid the unprecedented size and severity of the current outbreak of mountain pine beetle we have witnessed the reproduction of the insect in spruce. While not common, such phenomena provide unique opportunities to study host selection principles. Moreover, such "novel" host use presents valuable comparative study opportunities as the insect threatens another novel host, jack pine. Collaborators include Dezene Huber and Staffan Lindgren (UNBC) and Robert Hodgkinson (BC Ministry of Forests and Range), with funding from NSERC and the Canadian Forest Service.
If you would like information on any of these studies or the students working on them, please contact me at BrianAukema@umn.edu