Our plans for providing educational services or research projects depends on two things: 1) rearing issues that come to our attention from our own work or from questions or observations from our contacts, and 2) demands from our students, customers, cooperators, and stakeholders. The first component is driven by intellectual concepts and practical needs. The second component is strongly influenced by funding considerations where the practical driving force is this question: “how will we pay our bills?”
- Intellectual factors: For
example, while using the Yamamoto diet (1969) for rearing tobacco hornworm larvae (Manduca sexta), with some of my classes, the question occurred to us, “Is a milk protein such as casein going to be as nutritious to plant-eating hornworms as would be a plant-derived protein such as soy protein isolate?” This prompted an experiment where conditions were identical, except for the substitution of soy protein for casein. The figure below shows the comparison in graphic terms where the hornworms reared on the soy-containing diet were much smaller than the same aged individuals reared on the casein-containing diet. The same type of question can be asked about other diet components such as the wheat germ (testing differences in brands, processing methods, effects of aging or storage conditions).
- Practical (funding sources): Besides the curiosity-based research questions, another extensive part of our research stems from sponsors who wish to have some type of rearing problem addressed. So for example, when the USDA, APHIS needed research done on developing and improving artificial diets for emerald ash borers, we developed a cooperative agreement to help them solve their problems (currently being addressed in the EAB diet/rearing research project). Similarly, we have been approached by several privately owned companies and government organizations to develop diets, rearing systems, or other problem-solving efforts.
In our discussion of infrastructure, we point out that the driving force behind rearing research innovations and improvements is a funding source where some problem needs to be solved or a need must be met. We also point out that rearing is a rather unique aspect of science and technology because conventional funding sources are in place to support science and technology disciplines that are established and recognized as independent entities. So for example, there are programs in biological control, host plant resistance, pesticide testing (toxicology), and genetic pest management, all of which have the status of established disciplines where research is encouraged by funding sources such as the USDA (Forest Service, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Protection Service, etc.) Often private entities or non-government organizations (NGOs) call for kinds of research in established disciplines, and these organizations provide funds for control of mosquito-vectored diseases (e.g. the Gates Foundation) or the MacArthur Foundation which funds research on conservation and sustainable agriculture. In every case, such funding is directed at the problems such as developing a system of biological control or sterile insect control technique for some kind of pest, but the funding is directly applied to the primary project such as finding a pathogen, parasite or predator that will control the target pest. What remains hidden is the underlying need to REAR the insects in question, and generally the fact that development of a suitable rearing system is an elusive and difficult step towards the problem’s solution. Too often, the assumption is that the insects that will be used in the control system can be made available easily, seamlessly, and automatically.
Yet very often the gaps in the rearing science and technology are huge, and they require many complex and often sophisticated steps to fill-in the needed processes.