When an outbreak hits Argentina, Arianne Cease and her lab manager study hot spots with local experts to create solutions
The worst locust outbreak in 60 years struck Argentina last January. Farmers reported insect swarms more than 4 miles long and almost 2 miles high. More than 1.7 million acres were under potential threat.
The problem had been kept under wraps for so long that many had no idea what they were dealing with.
Some believe complacency had led to government budget cutbacks in locust monitoring, and many people who knew how to deal with locust plagues were retired.
“The locust upsurge slapped our faces and caused us to awake from a long nap,” said a government scientist.
Enter Arianne Cease, a scientistCease is an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability and a senior sustainability scientist at the Julie A. Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. at Arizona State University who studies how interactions between humans, plants and insects affect agriculture. She is an expert on locusts and has studied them worldwide.
“This is exactly the kind of thing we’re trying to position ourselves to be on the ground for when it’s happening,” Cease said.
She tasked Jenni Learned, a senior research specialist and manager of her lab, to find contacts.
Learned emailed everyone in the country who had anything to do with locusts. It took a few weeks of sleuthing. The standard email went like this: “Hey. We saw there’s an outbreak. Are you interested in us coming down there?”
Word got around. “They found out we were serious about it,” she said.
Learned hopped on a plane, went down first, scoped out the field sites and met with technicians from government agencies and government scientists. The Argentinians were happy to see her.