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Royal Entomology Society Student Forum

The Royal Entomological Society’s Student Forum 2023, Cardiff, was attended by four entomology PhD research students from the Warwick Crop Centre in late-March 2023. All attendees shared a fundamental passion for insects, themselves fundamental organisms within our planet’s biosphere. There are endless species of insects, and with that diversity; this was reflected in the speakers and students attending the events. The programme included talks and posters highlighting the intricate interactions between insects and all aspects of life, from plants, to ecosystems, climate change, and humanity. There were opportunities for us network with other entomologists from various universities and industry partners who shared with us their research. Not only did the event showcase accessible science and the tangible impact made by entomologists, but we were introduced to inspiring people for whom their love of entomology pervades into their personal lives and character; this was seen in the some of the sublime entomology inspired attire at the event. Many of the entomologists at the forum have found inspiring ways to live and work with nature and insects, rather than neglecting the diversity, complexity, and importance of the natural systems all around us.

Passionate, and expert, guest speakers attended the event - including Professor Seirian Sumner, Dr. Peter Graystock, Ashleigh Whiffin, and Dr. Jordan Cuff. Ashleigh Whiffin, is a museum-based entomologist, insect advocate and science communicator, who passionately ensures the accessibility of her collections to various groups through a range of activities, from public tours, to creating public displays, and promoting the collections online. The brilliant Professor Seirian Sumner’s talk, ‘Endless Forms: Reasons to Love Wasps’, sharing the title of her recent public publication. Prof. Sumner unveiled her research and the world of wasps - truly more than just aggressive insects buzzing around picnics. Did you know that there are five times more species of wasps than bees, and that there are wasps that have sex inside plants? Did you know that they also act as nature’s pest controller? The many students quickly snapped up signed copies of her book. The final speaker, Dr. Jordan Cuff from the University of Newcastle, entertained everyone with his equally book-worthy story of his journey from his PhD to postdoc during the COVID-19 pandemic. The talk included challenges and hurdles - alongside a brilliant story of his lock-down wedding day which gained national attention, where he had carboard cut-outs of his fiancée’s parents made. Dr. Cuff shared his experiences, successes, failures, and his many tangents. He also provided his personal experiences and advice on securing a postdoc in entomological research and navigating the academic job market.

The poster events allowed further opportunities to network, and for the Warwick Crop Centre students to showcase their research through brilliant posters: Becca McGowan and ‘The Biology & Integrated Management of the Bean Seed Fly’, Fiona Tainsh with ‘Red Mason Bees for Commercial Pollination’, and Rebecca Sanders with ‘A Holistic Approach to Integrated Pest Management: investigating a new strategy for aphid management combining durable host plant resistance with fungal bioprotectants’.

Becca McGowan and Fiona Tainsh presenting posters on their PhD research

Overall, the event reaffirmed how fortunate we are to be researchers in entomology at the Warwick Crop Centre, University of Warwick, which also undertakes meaningful, integrated, and applied research, whilst not neglecting the wider purpose that the work serves. Many of the problems we face, from climate change, to pollution, and biodiversity loss, stem from humanity’s dissonance and separation from nature. However, the Royal Entomological Society’s student forum 2023 showed that there are scientists working with and for nature, of which we share a part of. Instead of increasingly finding complex ways of not embracing natural complexity, entomologists embrace and endeavour to understand nature and diversity around them. This underlying philosophy and relationship with natural systems was prominent throughout the talks and posters at the student forum, as it is in the work and people undertaking research at the Warwick Crop Centre.

Sam Baillie, PhD Student

PhD students from Warwick Crop Centre in Cardiff at the recent Royal Entomological Society Student Forum