Cassandra Vogel started her two-year post doc at SLU in May 2023. She will investigate how resilient natural enemies and their pest control services are to disturbances. The aim is to contributes to the knowledge necessary to design agricultural landscapes and management in such a way that conserves biodiversity and the services they provide to farmers.
Before Cassandra came to Sweden, she did her PhD at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany.
– There I studied the effect of land-use change and agroecological practices on biodiversity and ecosystem services in smallholder agriculture in Malawi. Fieldwork in the tropics makes for quite the big contrast to Sweden!
Now, she is working at the Department of Ecology at SLU and is also tied to the SLU Centre of Biological Control.
Various predators, such as carabid beetles and spiders, are important natural enemies of agricultural pests. High biodiversity of these predator communities seems to increase pest control services, but even more importantly, these biodiverse communities and the pest control services they provide could be more resilient to disturbances in their habitat, such as those caused by climate change, loss of semi-natural habitats at the landscape scale or intense agricultural management.
– Our project aims to investigate how resilient natural enemies and their pest control services are to disturbances. We do this by measuring, for example, under which climatic conditions various species of predators are active and by collecting data on their diets. We also assess the species richness and abundance of predators before and after management in twelve pairs of tilled and untilled wheat fields located in landscapes around Uppland ranging from simple (less semi-natural habitat) to complex (more semi-natural habitat).
– By collaborating with teams in Italy, Austria and Germany, we can repeat our measurements under various climatic conditions in Europe so that we get a better idea of potential climate change impacts on predators and pest control services.
Right now, Cassandra and colleagues are measuring the recovery of predator communities after harvest in 24 wheat fields.
– Before harvest, we measured the abundance and richness of predators in the fields, and after harvest we do the same in intervals of several days. In addition, we have cameras that can film the predation of aphids. That way, we hope to compare the situation before and after management (harvest in this case) and see when predators and pest control services recover.
– I hope the project can contributes to the knowledge necessary to design agricultural landscapes and management in such a way that conserves biodiversity and the services they provide to farmers. That way, I hope that we can develop sustainable and resilient agricultural system that is able to deal with the challenges of the future, such as those climate change will bring.
When Cassandra is not working, she has a wide range of hobbies.
– I probably have too many hobbies, but a few of them are cooking, running, drawing, reading and playing my guitar (badly).