Dr. Straub's Research Lab

Dr. Cory Straub
Assistant professor
Office: Thomas 109; Ph: 610-409-3306
Email: cstraub@ursinus.edu

 

Education and training:
Postdoctoral research associate, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Postdoctoral research associate, Lincoln University, New Zealand
Ph.D., Washington State University
M.S., Central Washington University
B.A., Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Courses:
BIO 101 Issues in Ecology and Evolution (Lecture and Lab)
BIO 102 Cell Biology and Genetics of Health and Disease (Lab)
BIO 325 Insect Biology (Lecture and Lab)
BIO 350 Conservation Biology (Lecture)

Research:
Compared with natural ecosystems, agricultural ecosystems (agroecosystems) are species-poor. They are also more prone to herbivore outbreaks. Are they more prone to these herbivore outbreaks because they are species-poor? And, if so, can we reduce the need for insecticides by incorporating greater species diversity into agroecosystems?

To address these questions, we (1) survey agroecosystems that vary in species diversity, (2) conduct experimental studies to determine how herbivorous pest populations respond to changes in species diversity, and (3) make observations of predator and pest behavior in species-rich and species-poor environments. Some of this work has shown that increasing the diversity of predatory insects can strengthen the suppression of aphid pests. More research is needed to clarify the mechanism(s), but preliminary evidence suggests that resource partitioning by predator species that forage on different parts of the plant may allow diverse predator assemblages to consume more aphid pests (Straub and Snyder 2008).

More recently, we have begun to explore how increasing plant diversity affects pest abundance. In Pennsylvania, the key pest of alfalfa is the potato leafhopper, Empoasca fabae. We are examining whether intercropping alfalfa with orchardgrass can reduce the damage caused to alfalfa by leafhoppers. Orchardgrass is an unsuitable host for leafhoppers, so they may choose to emigrate from alfalfa fields that incorporate orchardgrass. We are also interested in learning if the predators of the leafhopper, such as the damsel bug, are more or less effective in alfalfa-orchardgrass mixtures.

Selected Publications:
Straub, C. S., and W. E. Snyder. 2008. Increasing enemy biodiversity strengthens herbivore suppression on two plant species. Ecology 89: 1605-1615.

Straub, C. S., D. L. Finke, and W. E. Snyder. 2008. Are the conservation of natural enemy biodiversity and biological control compatible goals? Biological Control 45: 225-237.

Straub, C. S., and W. E. Snyder. 2006. Species identity dominates the relationship between predator biodiversity and herbivore suppression. Ecology 87:277-282.

Straub, C. S., and W. E. Snyder. 2006. Experimental approaches to understanding the relationship between predator biodiversity and biological control In J. Brodeur and G. Boivin, editors. Trophic and Guild Interactions in Biological Control. Springer, New York, New York, USA.

Snyder, W. E., G. B. Snyder, D. L. Finke, and C. S. Straub. 2006. Predator biodiversity strengthens herbivore suppression. Ecology Letters 9:789-796.

Nate Simasek and Regan Dohm collect leafhoppers and introduce them to experimental enclosures.
Nate Simasek and Regan Dohm collect leafhoppers and introduce them to experimental enclosures.