Research Associate, Natural Resources and the Environment
Tonya Bittner is a Research Associate in the New York State Hemlock Initiative, which works to protect the eastern hemlock tree from threats including the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid, a pest insect accidentally introduced from Japan. Tonya has always been interested in the ecology and evolution of populations across a wide range of the animal kingdom. Since 2014 she has been fortunate to research three ecological systems involving invasive insects, their pathogens, symbionts, and predators. She has worked on projects involving a wood-borer (Sirex noctilio), a defoliator (Lymantria dispar), and a plant-sucking insect (Adelges tsugae) all attacking North American trees. Understanding the complex ecological interactions within these systems is vital to effectively combat the invasive insects in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) framework. Tonya enjoys using varied research approaches including population genetics and manipulative ecological experiments.
Tonya’s current research on predatory flies in the genus Leucopis is part of a large collaborative effort across the US to establish biological control of the hemlock woolly adelgid. She has contributed to a genetic survey of North American Leucopis lineages to better understand their evolutionary history and distribution. She is currently rearing flies to determine their thermal development thresholds; this will help to predict success of these predators across the latitudinal span of North American hemlocks. Meanwhile she is also supporting the lab’s development of environmental DNA protocols to detect early establishment of the predators.
Bittner TD, Havill NP, Caetano IAL, Hajek AE (2019) Efficacy of Kamona strain Deladenus siricidicola nematodes for biological control of Sirex noctilio in North America and hybridisation with invasive conspecifics. NeoBiota 44:39-55. doi:10.3897/neobiota.44.30402; Bittner TD, Hajek AE, Liebhold AS, Thistle H (2017) Modification of a pollen trap design to capture airborne conidia of Entomophaga maimaiga and detection of conidia by quantitative PCR. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 83(17) https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00724-17; Bittner TD, Hajek AE, Haavik L, Allison J, Nahrung H (2017) Multiple introductions of Sirex noctilio (Hymenoptera: Siricidae) in northeastern North America based on microsatellite genotypes, and implications for biological control. Biological Invasions, doi:10.1007/s10530-016-1365-1.
B31 Morrison Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
tdb68 [at] cornell.edu