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Ag Sciences Graduate Students Awarded International Fellowships

Two Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences graduate students have been awarded fellowships from the U.S. Borlaug Global Food Security Program.
    PITTSBURGH, PA, March 15, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Maggie Douglas, a doctoral student in entomology and international agriculture and development, and Katie Tavenner, a doctoral student in rural sociology and women's studies, received the fellowships to support their international research projects.

U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Program's Summer Institute.

Douglas will spend six months abroad collaborating with entomologists at the World Vegetable Center in Taiwan to help develop integrated pest management systems in Bangladesh. Integrated pest management, or IPM, aims to manage pests -- such as insects, diseases, weeds and animals -- by combining physical, biological and chemical tactics that are safe, profitable and environmentally compatible.

Douglas' research will focus on lablab bean, an ancient crop first grown in Africa and Asia and cultivated throughout the tropics for food. An important vegetable crop in Bangladesh, lablab bean growers face serious pest problems. Entomologists at the World Vegetable Center have developed biological controls to combat lablab bean pests. According to Douglas, lablab bean growers typically rely on broad spectrum and sometimes harmful insecticides, but still do not achieve adequate pest control. "We will examine whether farmers can combine judicious use of biopesticides with conservation of naturally-occurring predators to manage pests of lablab bean."

Due to the current political climate in Bangladesh, Douglas is planning dual experiments in both Taiwan and Bangladesh starting this November. "I'm very excited and so thankful for the Borlaug Program. It has given me and other graduate students at Penn State the opportunity to collaborate with leading food security researchers," Douglas explained. Douglas will be advised by Dr. R. Srinivasan while at the World Vegetable Center. Her advisor at Penn State is Dr. John Tooker, assistant professor of entomology.

Another Borlaug fellow, Katie Tavenner, will be collaborating with researchers at Bioversity International in Rome and conducting fieldwork in South Africa to study natural resource management and food security in Wild Coast nature reserves. "Historically, decisions in resource allocation and conservation management in South Africa have marginalized small-holder farmers and the rural poor," Tavenner explained. "My research will explore the social and power relations between conservation authorities and the livelihood needs of rural people, with a focus on strengthening gender equity and democratic participation in biodiversity management."

Tavenner credits her attendance at the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security in helping her obtain the fellowship. The Borlaug Summer Institute is a two-week long learning program for graduate students attending U.S. institutions who are interested in developing a holistic understanding of the conceptual challenges around global food security.

Tavenner also acknowledges the Parks and People: South Africa Program and College of Agricultural Sciences' Tag Along Fund Program for the initial grant that funded her preliminary research. "I'm very thankful for the opportunity and for the support and encouragement of my advisor Dr. Carolyn Sachs," said Tavenner. Dr. Sachs is a professor of rural sociology and department head of women's studies at Penn State.

The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to expand the pool of food security professionals who have the scientific base needed to effectively study and manage global landscapes in support of sustainable food systems. A total of four Penn State graduate students have awarded the fellowship named after Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution.

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Kristie Auman-Bauer
Pennsylvania IPM Program

University Park, PA
United States
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