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Summer internship with Dan Wisniewski

Posted: July 21, 2017

This summer has been full of insects, corn, soy, and so much dirt! I am Dan Wisniewski a rising sophomore majoring in Plant Science with a minor in Environmental Resource Management at Penn State.

I never imagined doing any work with insects until the middle of my Ent. 313 class in the spring semester. I learned so much about the science of insects in just a few short weeks. A job opening was announced in the Tooker Lab in March of 2017 so I immediately applied. After meeting with Dr. Tooker and learning what exactly goes on in his lab the job seemed perfect.

In the Tooker Lab I worked under a wide variety of people including Dr. Eric Yip, doctoral candidates Elizabeth Rowen, Kirsten Pearsons, Julie Baniszewski, graduate students Sarah McTish and Angela Coco. As a Plant Science Major I personally found Dr. Yip's research quite interesting. He is studying the interaction between The gall fly and goldenrod. I was able to mate flies, assist in growing goldenrod, help conduct experiments studying the fly’s pheromone, and everything in between. He is looking at how the plants primed with the pheromone of the fly detect and provide a defense to prevent female flies from laying their eggs. Such eggs will may eventually result in a harmful gall.

Additionally this summer I went out to the field almost every other day with the doctoral candidates. In Elizabeth's and Kirsten’s plots I learned about insecticide and effects pesticides on the soil community. Furthermore in Angela and Julie's plots we are studying plant diversity. Angela is looking at how a more diverse crop field will produce a variety of smells that will confuse insects, hopefully causing them to attack certain plant species less. Julie is looking at how weed communities are suppressed or changed in a diverse field. Her hypothesis is that grass crops such as corn and sorghum will suppress grass weeds like giant foxtail, while soy will suppress broadleaf weeds like pigweed and lambs tails.

All of the work this summer has been fun, educational, and useful for my future in agriculture. Although I do not plan on pursuing entomology, what I learned here can be applied to so many fields of agriculture. Dr. Tooker has been a wonderful guy with which to work, always making sure the undergrads were learning something new. The doctoral candidates and graduate students working under him were extremely professional and easy going. I could not of had a better summer internship.