The Herms Lab focuses on ecological interactions between insects and woody plants, and their implications for pest management. Our research explores a wide variety of topics including plant defense theory, chemical ecology of plant-insect interactions, phenotypic plasticity in expression of plant defense, and impacts of invasive insects on forest communities. Currently, our research has a major focus on the ecology and management of emerald ash borer (EAB). Applied research and extension programs focus on pest management in forests, urban forests, ornamental landscapes, nurseries and Christmas tree plantations. Specific projects focus on plant health care for arborists and landscape managers; phenology and degree-day models as user-friendly tools for predicting pest activity and timing pest management decisions, and ecologically-sound pest management for the home yard and garden.
Signature area: Environmental Quality and Sustainability
Research (70% appointment)
My research program focuses broadly on ecology and management of insect herbivores of woody plants. Key themes include chemical ecology of plant/insect interactions, impacts of invasive insects on forest communities, and IPM in forests, urban forests, landscapes, nurseries, and Christmas tree plantations. A primary emphasis is plant defense theory and its application to pest management. Specific interests include stress physiology of trees, mechanisms of tree resistance to insects, phenotypic plasticity in chemical defense (secondary metabolism), and effects of stress and cultural practices on expression of constitutive and induced insect resistance of trees. A major focus is on ecology and management of emerald ash borer (EAB) with projects focused on host plant resistance from a coevolutionary perspective, ecological impacts of EAB-induced ash mortality and gap formation in forests, and management of EAB in urban forests.
Extension (30% appointment)
My extension program is focused on integrated management of insect pests in forests, urban forests, production nurseries, ornamental landscapes, and Christmas tree plantations. Key programs focus on management of emerald ash borer and gypsy moth in urban and natural forests, plant health care for arborists and landscape managers, and phenology and degree-day models as user-friendly tools for predicting pest activity and timing pest management decisions.
The Nature and Practice of Science (ENT 7910, 2 credits): This course addresses issues of importance to scientists but not ordinarily addressed by the graduate curriculum. The goal is to engage participants in critical examination of what science is, how science should be done, the contribution of their research to the larger picture of knowledge accumulation, and ethical obligations of scientists. The application of concepts to the participant’s own graduate research is emphasized. The first half of the course provides in-depth structural and functional analysis of the scientific method, including contrasting philosophical views, interrelationships of functional components (discovery, empirical observation and pattern detection, theoretical explanation, prediction, and tests), role of inductive and deductive logic in hypothesis testing, and integration of logic with experimental design and statistics. The second half of the course focuses on science as a human endeavor including creativity, evaluation of scientific productivity including attribution of credit and reward, and ethical issues in research, scholarship, and application of scientific knowledge. Experience has shown that the course is as beneficial for students beginning their MS program as it is for those nearing completion of their PhD.
Insect Ecology & Evolutionary Processes (ENT 6410, 3 credits; team taught with Drs. Mary Gardiner and Andy Michel): The course provides an overview of insect ecology from an evolutionary perspective focusing on factors influencing the diversity, distribution, and abundance of insects in natural and managed ecosystems. Fundamental mechanisms underlying interactions between insects and their abiotic and biotic environment at the molecular, cellular, organismal, population, community, ecosystem, and landscape levels will be addressed and their integration emphasized. The role of insects as model systems in the development of general ecological and evolutionary principles are high-lighted
Ecology and Management of Insects and Pathogens Affecting Trees in Forest and Urban Environments (ENT / PP 5110, 3 credits; team taught with Dr. Pierluigi Bonello) This course provides an overview of major pathogens and insects affecting health of trees in forests, nurseries, plantations, and urban environments with emphasis on diagnosis, ecology, and management. Specifically, the course will address (1) fundamental importance of diseases and insects including economic and ecological impacts, (2) identification of common native and invasive insect pests and diseases, (3) how and why pest outbreaks develop, and (4) integrated management of insect pests and diseases..