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), we 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, we will plant habitat to support natural enemies, sample monthly for natural enemies, and scout for pests and their damage to vegetable crops. We will 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. 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 two student interns to document success of habitat plants for natural enemies of pests, assess crop damage, sample arthropods, scout for arthropod pests and pest damage, and provide photo and video documentation of the project. One intern will be primarily responsible for insect sampling and identification, while the other intern will be primarily responsible for documenting success of habitat plants. Both would share responsibilities for scouting for pests and pest damage as well as photo/video documentation, and would assist each other with their primary responsibilities. Arthropod sampling, scouting for pests and pest damage, and assessment of habitat plants will occur once per month (June-August), and include summarizing collected data. Interns will receive initial training on insect sampling and identification from Amara Dunn (during the Spring 2022 semester in Ithaca, or via Zoom after the intern arrives in NYC). Training on pest and pest damage scouting will be provided by Sam Anderson once interns arrive in NYC. During the internship, Dunn will schedule weekly Zoom check-in meetings to answer intern questions and discuss the project. Pictures taken will be used to help create a “Common Pests on NYC Farms” field guide and a fact sheet explaining how to install plants that support beneficial insects on an urban farm or garden.

    Qualifications and previous coursework

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

    The students need to demonstrate attention to detail and be willing to learn and follow protocols. These are the most important qualifications. Ideally, we would recruit a pair of interns who together possess the following qualifications (although neither intern needs all of them):

    • Previous coursework in entomology
    • Experience or interest in science communication
    • Coursework or knowledge of plant science (could be ornamental or vegetable crops)

    Students who are bilingual (Spanish/English) are especially encouraged to apply. Training to identify arthropods to the taxonomic level required for this project will be provided. 

    Learning outcomes 

    The students 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 will 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.