This is the sixth short news article written by students, during the professional development class of Spring 2023, about each other's research.

Student Spotlight: Rowda Altamimi

Written by Shea Tillotson

Can you feel the love in the air? Or should I say, can you feel the love in the soil? Maybe the annual bluegrass weevil can. The mating behavior of Listronotus maculicollis, also known as the annual bluegrass weevil, has yet to be described, but with Rowda Altamimi on the job, the love life of this weevil, will no longer be a mystery.

As an insect pest of turfgrass, the annual bluegrass weevil feeds within the stem of the plant, and externally on the crown. This damage causes economic loss for the golf industry. Fortunately, Rowda is planning to uncover what exactly is involved with the process of mating in this species, and in doing so, hopes to help find alternative ways to manage this pest. She says “when we know how the weevil mates, we can find ways to disturb its mating”. If the weevils can’t mate, then they can’t make more weevils, and those weevils won’t be able to damage the grass.

Rowda has started her Ph.D. research in Dr. Benjamin McGraw’s lab at Penn State looking at the behavior of this insect. Using a computer program called EthoVision, which utilizes a camera to record movement, Rowda plans to observe weevil mating. One question Rowda has is: how do the weevils find each other? Rowda asks excitedly, “is there a sex pheromone?”. Sex pheromones are chemicals that animals secrete to attract their opposite sex and mate. If she can uncover the sex pheromone, she could be able to use this knowledge to confuse the weevil’s sense of smell before mating even occurs.

Rowda has always been fascinated with the behavior of insects. She loves to problem solve and is looking forward to studying the blue grass weevil. She hopes to help make golf courses greener, in more ways than just the color. The golf industry is heavily reliant on pesticides. Rowda says if she can establish the life cycle of this weevil, “we can find better ways to control it. We can find alternative methods to chemical control”. Using something other than chemicals to control pests in golf turf grasses opens up the opportunity for golf courses to lessen their chemical usage. Look out for greener grasses on the golf course, and when you see them, be sure to think of Rowda Altamimi and all the great work she is doing to make them better.  


This project is supported by a grant from the United States Golf Association