Black EXCELLENCE in Entomology Week at The University of Florida

What is Black in Entomology week?

Black in Entomology Week is a broader campaign from February 22nd to the 26th following the trend of other social media campaigns like #BlackBirdersWeek, #BlackinMarineScience, etc. We at the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology department want to take this opportunity to celebrate and amplify the work of our Black faculty and students.

Meet the Faculty

Dr. Chelsea Smartt

Associate Professor in Molecular and Medical Entomology

Dr. Oscar Liburd

Professor in Fruit and Vegetable IPM


Lecturer in Biosecurity and IPM

Dr. Tolulope O. Morawo

Assistant Professor of Entomology

Meet the Featured Students

Hannah Talton, Doctor of Plant Medicine Student

Hannah graduated with her Master's Degree in Entomology and Nematology in 2019. She is now pursuing her Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) degree under Dr. Amanda Hodges.

Hannah checking her traps for her monitoring and surveillance project for invasive moth species. 

Hannah is currently working on a collaborative monitoring and surveillance project for invasive moth species Helicoverpa armigera, also known as Old World Bollworm.

She also works on an integrated organic carrot project with her Co-Chair Dr. Danielle Treadwell in Live Oak, Florida. Hannah recently published a manuscript from her masters work on Neopamera bilobata in organic strawberries.

James Pinkney, M.S. Student

James’ current project is an ecological study on blending turfgrass cultivars and the effect it has on pest and beneficial insects. This study is important because it starts a conversation on ways we can make turfgrass production and management more sustainable!

James working with turfgrass.

Andy Jean-Louis, Doctor of Plant Medicine Student

Andy Jean-Louis, originally from Haiti, is a Doctor of Plant Medicine student studying Asian bean thrips (ABT). Since March of 2020 the ABT has been seen in southern Florida causing significant damage to crops. Andy also works with Thrips palmi, Frankliniela occidentalis, Gynaikothrips, as they also are causing harm to Florida fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals.

Andy checking traps for the Asian bean thrips in South Florida
“The ABT has only been reported in Florida and it is subject to regulation; therefore, growers will have to make sure the pest is not present in their product while shipping out of state.”

Cleveland Ivey, Ph.D. Student

Cleveland works under Dr. Hugh Smith at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. His project is centered around the Asian Bean Thrips, Megalurothrips usitatus, an invasive pest of legumes that is native to the Asian tropics. Megalurothrips usitatus was first detected in Miami-Dade County in March 2020 and is known to cause damage in snap beans in southern Florida. Cleveland is focused on developing quality control-based rearing protocols and understanding the biology and life-history of the pest.

“Developing proper rearing protocols and understanding the insect itself will allow for us to begin focusing on establishment parameters and options for chemical, biological, and cultural control.”
Cleveland at work.

Keir Hamilton, Doctor of Plant Medicine Student

Keir joined our Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) Program after receiving his Masters of Science in Horticultural Sciences.

Keir monitoring hemp plants.

Keir is fulfilling one of his DPM internship requirements as a Research Associate at Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Division of Plant Industry. In addition, Keir is conducting research on pathogens of industrial hemp with two of his committee members. Keir looks forward to graduating with his doctorate in August 2021 and working in the agricultural industry.

Decyo McDuffie, Undergraduate Student

Currently, Decyo is working on Integrated Pest Management of mosquitoes and biting flies with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) as a student researcher.

Decyo checking on mosquitos.

Decyo also works in Dr. Martin’s lab within the Entomology & Nematology department on mosquito control research and Culicoides species identification.

James Brown, Ph.D. Student

James developed an interest in Entomology after his military service and received his Master’s in Entomology & Nematology in 2018.

James in the field with PI Dr. Oscar Liburd.

Now James works in Dr. Oscar Liburd’s Small Fruits and Vegetable IPM Laboratory where he investigates the chemical ecology of insect pests, their fruit hosts, and microbes. James also is a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the Natural Area Teaching Lab at the University of Florida.

David Olabiyi, Ph.D. Student

David is originally from Ibadan, Nigeria. His research is focused on understanding the biology and ecology of the Hibiscus mealybug, Nipaecoccus viridis (Newstead), an invasive pest of citrus in Florida.

David in a citrus grove looking for mealybugs.

David just completed a study in which he evaluated the potential of commercial entomopathogenic fungi as a potential tool for managing this mealybug pest in citrus groves. He will be presenting his findings at the ESA Southeastern branch virtual meeting in March 2021.

Purity Kendi Muthomi, M.S. Student

Purity, originally from Kenya, is an Entomology & Nematology M.S. student working with Dr. Liburd. She is currently doing research on the IPM techniques and chemical ecology of the Diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) in cabbage.

Purity pictured working with cabbage.

She has previous experience doing IPM work on Cassava thrips, Corynothrips stenopterus and Redbanded thrips, Selenothrips rubrocinctus Giard, in Central America.

Thanks for reading!


Created with images by wobogre - "field road rural" • Skitterphoto - "corn field farm clouds"