Award Winning PhD Poster

28 May 2014

Elizabeth Donkin
Elizabeth Donkin

Have you ever wondered how every cabbage in your garden seems to get covered in caterpillars?

And if you were to hide the cabbages amongst the other vegetables would the butterflies fail to locate them?

PhD student Elizabeth Donkin’s research project is designed to tackle questions like these. Planting a susceptible crop amongst other plants can confuse pest insect searching, making it harder for them to find the plant they want. This could be a useful pest control tool, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. Insect pest species have evolved to use many different methods to search for their host plants, some are more sophisticated than others and this could impact how effective mixed planting is for disrupting their search. Elizabeth and her research group have developed a computer model which can simulate insect pest species populations; each with a different search strategy and in environments where plant species are varied in spatial distribution and density. This will hopefully give the group some insight into the best spatial arrangement of plants to use for pest control and which species this technique may be most effective for as a pest control strategy.

Elizabeth was recently given the opportunity to present a poster about this model at the Ecological Genetics Group Meeting hosted by Newcastle University which was attended by scientists from research groups across the UK and Europe. Her poster and presentation entitled ‘Optimal strategies for finding a host plant in a complex world’ was judged the joint best entry from a PhD student at the conference.

Elizabeth found receiving outside opinions of the project at the conference encouraging as she received a lot of useful feedback and some great ideas of how to develop the model further; she says "Winning the award was great, I am glad people found the poster engaging and were interested in our research. Having a running demonstration of the model alongside the poster definitely helped explain the project more clearly."

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Elizabeth Donkin
PhD Student
IBERS, Aberystwyth University

Sarah Dalesman
IBERS Press Gang
Phone: +44 (0)1970 622344