IALC Peace Fellowship Report 3 June-12 August 1997

Cara A. Saunders 
Undergraduate Student
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

IALC Peace Fellowship Research Tour 
and Follow-up Visits with Research Scientists

Preparations and Training

My IALC Peace Fellowship project involved collecting vector insects as part of the IALC-funded project Impact of Water Capture on the Dynamics of Plant Virus Vectors, headed by Dr. Michael Irwin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dr. Benny Raccah of the Volcani Center, Israel. After my nomination as IALC Peace Fellow was approved...I reviewed the research that had been conducted to date and studied the relevant background material. Dr. Michael Irwin and I discussed and planned the details and requirements of the project. I was trained to assemble the insect-collecting traps and to determine which locations were most appropriate for placing them. I also learned how to collect and identify the specimens necessary for the research.

Contacts in Israel

The research site for this project was at the Shezaf Nature Reserve, Hazeva, Israel. The Hazeva Research and Development (R&D) Center, connected to the Field School of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, is located just outside this reserve. Ilan Yarom, director of the Hazeva R&D Center, provided access to a laboratory and living accommodations. Dr. Benny Raccah, from the Volcani Center, served as my advisor throughout the fellowship. I visited his office to discuss the progress of my research and to present any problems or complications in the project.

Research Goals

My project focused on the insect vectors of plant viruses which are present in desert agriculture. These vectors include aphids, whiteflies, thrips and leafhoppers. The first section of the research was an experiment geared towards sampling the abundance of these populations. The second part of the research aimed to draw a connection between the species and their natural host plants.

Project Methods

For the experiment, I used Maliase traps to provide information about the daytime presence of insect species, placing the traps in three locations in the reserve. These traps were checked daily and the specimens were collected. The second collection method was a light trap, to provide information on the nighttime abundance of the insect species. In order to research the connection of the insect vectors to their host plants I sampled various desert plants and collected specimens from them manually using a net.

Processing and Analysis

After collection, the insect specimens were sent back to Dr. Irwin's laboratory at the University of Illinois. The plant species were identified with the assistance of a local botanist from the field school in Hazeva. The collected specimens and their related data will be analyzed by Dr. Irwin and his staff and incorporated into their overall research project.