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Sarah Gabel (PhD student)


sarah_gabelI graduated from Saint Martin’s University in 2014 with a B.S. in Biology. I then went on to work in a variety of positions for two years: the Department of Ecology lab testing consumer products for compliance with hazardous chemical laws, Washington State University studying molecular biology of pea plants, and the Center for Natural Lands Management restoring prairies and surveying the efficacy of conservation efforts.


PhD Project: Enhancing natural capital for ecosystem service provision

My PhD project is supervised by Prof Jane Stout, studying pesticide impacts on hoverflies in the Irish farming landscape. There is concern worldwide for the health of pollinator populations; not just bees but other insects as well. One of the most prominent causes for this decline is our changing landscape due to agriculture and urbanization, leading to loss of habitat and healthy, diversified food sources for pollinators. To mitigate this, it is encouraged to plant floral resources where possible, such as wildflower strips on agricultural land. This has a dual benefit – insects receive habitat and food, and nearby crops receive ecosystem services from these visiting invertebrates. Some insects offer more than just pollination services, such as hoverfly species. The marmalade hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus, has larvae that predate on aphids, an economically significant pest of crops. The drone hoverfly, Eristalis tenax, has larvae that aids animal waste decomposition. However, the close proximity of these wildflower strips to agricultural land could be exposing them to pesticides. My project will be examining hoverfly activity in agricultural wildflower strips, their level of exposure to pesticides, and how this impacts their behaviour at different stages of their life cycle.

Last updated 21 March 2017