A gypsy moth.
A VCU-led study of gypsy moths and temperature received a Royal Entomological Society Award for Best Paper Published in 2017/18 in the journal Physiological Entomology. (Getty Images)

VCU, UR study on spread of gypsy moths amid climate change receives prestigious award

The Royal Entomological Society will recognize the study at its annual science meeting this month in London.

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A study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond has been selected as the best paper to be published in the journal Physiological Entomology over a two-year period. The study explored how warming temperatures affect the spread of gypsy moths.

Variation in Growth and Developmental Responses to Supraoptimal Temperatures Near Latitudinal Range Limits of Gypsy Moth Lymantria dispar (L.), an Expanding Invasive Species,” was published in 2017. It will be honored Aug. 21 in London at the International Symposium and Annual National Science Meeting of the Royal Entomological Society.

“Understanding how species adapt to thermal limits and possible fitness trade-offs of heat tolerance represents an important step toward predicting climatically driven changes in species ranges, which is a particularly critical consideration in conservation and invasion ecology,” the researchers wrote in the article.

Graduate student places a moth larva into a cup.
Lily Thompson, a former VCU master’s degree student in the Department of Biology and lead author of the study, places a moth larva into a cup. (Courtesy photo)

The study was authored by Lily Thompson, a former VCU master’s degree student in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences; and co-authored by former VCU biology undergraduates Trevor Faske and Dominique Grimm; Kristine Grayson, Ph.D., a former VCU post-doctoral researcher who is now an assistant professor of biology at the University of Richmond; Salvatore Agosta, Ph.D., associate professor of physiological ecology in the VCU Center for Environmental Studies; Nana Banahene, a former undergraduate student at UR; Dylan Parry, Ph.D., an associate professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Patrick Tobin, Ph.D., an associate professor of environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington; and Derek Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Biology at VCU.

The research began at VCU in Johnson’s lab. Thompson, who is entering a doctoral program in wildlife and fisheries biology at Clemson University this fall, was a graduate student in the lab. Grayson was a post-doc researcher under Johnson, and Faske and Grimm were undergraduates working in the lab.

It continued when Grayson joined the faculty at UR, and Thompson went on to work as a lab manager in Grayson’s lab.

Faske, who earned a master’s degree in biology from VCU and who is now in a Ph.D. program in ecology, evolution and conservation at the University of Nevada at Reno, will accept the award in London on behalf of the team.