Conservation Biocontrol on Urban Farms in NYC

The goal of this 3-year project is to help urban NYC growers improve their management of arthropod pests by attracting and conserving natural enemies (arthropods that prey on pest arthropods). In the first year of the project (2021), the CCE intern monitored three cooperating urban farms to assess the diversity and abundance of natural enemies. This provided baseline information on the arthropods already present at these growing operations in the absence of special efforts to attract and conserve natural enemies. In 2022, the farmers planted habitat to support natural enemies in the spring. The CCE interns sampled monthly for natural enemies and scouted for pests and their damage to vegetable crops. Part of the project is to share results and new techniques with a larger audience beyond the three cooperating growers through annual workshops presented in NYC (virtually or in-person) and through the creation of outreach materials to be distributed digitally. Our 2021 intern initiated a Guide to Beneficial Insects on NYC Farms and in 2022, a CCE intern presented the project at an on-farm meeting. Ultimately, this project will increase urban growers’ knowledge of attracting and identifying natural enemies. Urban growers will also add habitat for natural enemies to their growing operations and will achieve improved pest management through these plantings. 

Roles and responsibilities 

We are seeking a student intern to document the success of habitat plants for support of natural enemies of pests. They will scout for, sample, and identify arthropod pests and beneficial insects, and assess pest damage. They will also provide photo and video documentation of the project and use this information to develop outreach materials. In addition, the intern will work with the cooperating farmers to evaluate the project and its potential benefits to their farms. Arthropod sampling, scouting for pests and pest damage, and assessment of habitat plants will occur once per month (June-August), and the project will include summarizing collected data. Interns will receive initial training on insect sampling and identification and data management during the Spring 2023 semester in Ithaca, and via Zoom after the intern arrives in NYC. Training on pest and pest damage scouting will be provided once the intern arrives in NYC. During the internship, we will have weekly Zoom check-in meetings to answer intern questions and discuss the project. 

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Essential/required qualifications:

  • Ability to pay attention to detail and be willing to learn and follow new protocols and develop basic proficiency in Excel.  
  • Ability to work independently.  
  • Ability to communicate well with farmers and other project personnel  

Other qualifications would be helpful but are not essential/required.    

  • Previous coursework/interest in entomology, plant science or other biological sciences
  • Interest or experience in science communication, including photography, taking and editing video, etc.
  • Ability to speak and write in a second language  

Training to identify arthropods to the taxonomic level required for this project will be provided. Depending on the student’s location in/near NYC and access to vehicles, we can provide either a Metrocard or mileage reimbursement to cover costs of traveling to and from urban farm sites.  

Learning outcomes 

The student will learn about urban agriculture, vegetable production on small urban growing operations, arthropod pests of vegetable crops, and the natural enemies that feed on these pests. They will gain experience in communicating and collaborating with growers, and skills in pest scouting, arthropod sampling and identification, and data summary. Depending on interest and available time, they may also have the opportunity to develop skills in simple video editing (e.g., with Adobe Spark, Instagram reels, TikTok videos) and design of outreach materials