Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith
Education & Background:
M.S. Student in Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2012 B.A. Biology, Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts)

Research Interests:
I am interested in the ways environmental factors (particularly anthropogenic influences) and changes at the molecular level interact to create novel ecological niches. Insects are a great way to study this give and take relationship because of their ubiquitous and often tumultuous relationship with human populations, and their high fecundity and short generational timespan.

My master’s project will focus on the evolving cold tolerance of an invasive fruit fly, Drosophila suzukii, and its ability to exploit marketable fruit crops in unexpectedly cold climates. Since its introduction to North America via California in 2010, D. suzukii has been enormously successful in spreading throughout the continent, including into the northern United States and Canada, where the temperatures fall below those in its native Asian range. In addition to its hardiness, D. suzukii, or the Spotted Wing Drosophila, as it is commonly referred to, is a much greater threat to fruit crop production, due to the female’s large, serrated ovipositor, which allows it to infest healthy, ripe, and otherwise marketable fruit, unlike its native counterparts, which rely on fallen and rotting fruit.

So far, my fieldwork for this project has involved working closely with growers and collaborating with laboratories within UW-Madison and across the country. Working with growers to provide assistance in monitoring populations has been incredibly humbling and rewarding, and has helped me focus my plans for future research.

Personal Interests:

When I’m not craning over samples or tramping through berry farms, I enjoy reading, DIY projects, container gardening, and relaxing with my boyfriend, Stephen, and our two cats, Paul and Sherman.