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INTAD Student Spotlight: Julie Baniszewski

Posted: November 30, 2017

Meet Julie Baniszewski, a first year PhD student in Entomology and International Agriculture and Development. Her research experience in entomology hails from the University of Florida, where her interests were related to plant-insect interactions and using insects to control invasive weeds. From there, she shifted to agriculture and earned her M.S. in Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Kentucky working with grain crops. Extension work helped her keep in touch with farmers and the field.

Between her M.S. and starting her PhD, she worked in Switzerland with insect biological control for CABI, an international non-profit organization. She was struck by the diversity of the research projects there and the global exchange of information. In agriculture, there is a demand to improve pest management practices on a sustainable level. She  wanted to be able to employ skills that improve agriculture in areas that need better management rather than focusing solely on agriculture intensification to increase crop production.

These interests helped her decide to start my degree here at Penn State with Dr. Tooker on a project that looked at inter- and intra-species diversity in cropping systems to improve natural enemy populations to better control insect pests in crops. She has also incorporated her general agriculture interests to also look at weed management and disease distribution in the field. Here at the Penn State research farm, insect pest pressures are relatively low, but she hopes to employ this crop diversity approach to areas of the world that see greater pest management issues and have a greater demand for cultural control. The INTAD program, therefore was attractive to become a part of my research focus to implement international agricultural development.

Ultimately, she hopes to gain more international experience and work in international agriculture in a research and extension appointment. She aims to help agriculture adopt more sustainable practices in areas of the world that struggle with pest management.