We are graduate students in
environmental sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
(ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland.
For our masters' thesis, we are
doing research on the Erythrina Gall Wasp (Quadrastichus erythrinae),
which was first described in 2004 as a newly invasive pest to
Mauritius, La Reunion and Singapore. Since then it has spread rapidly
across the globe, threatening many Erythrina species. In
2005 the Erythrina Gall Wasp reached the Hawaiian Islands where it has
caused severe damage to many Erythrina trees and is
threatening the Hawaiian endemic Wiliwili tree (Erythrina
sandwicensis). Our goal is to help pinpoint the origin of this invasive
wasp by analyzing different Erythrina species in the field and
under laboratory conditions.
As environmental scientists to
be, we approach the Erythrina Gall Wasp invasion as an
environmental problem. Although our educational background is more in
system analysis than in entomology, we enjoy the entomological
research work under Dr. Messing’s guidance, as we are always welcome
to bring in our own ideas and are able to integrate our knowledge with
other members of the research team
As a couple and a team we have
worked well together on several projects and complement one another in
our research. We both share an interest for the complex relationships
in nature and are therefore also highly interested in biological pest
control and invasive species management, both fields where a lot of
complex interactions take place.
Sandra: My special interests are
botany, ethnobotany and plant response mechanisms. I especially like
to identify speciemens in the field, to collect seeds or samples and
to grow plants. I am always curious to find out if things are edible,
which sometimes provides me with mind-blowing experiences. My job is
also to proofread the things we write.
Josef: I’m especially interested
in work with Geographical Information Systems and therefore take
care of the GIS work, mapping and illustration of field data.
Furthermore I am the photographer and head of our team’s statistic
department. During our field trips, I normally do my best to get lost.