Two Ag Sciences Graduate Students Awarded International Fellowships

Posted: February 18, 2014

Two Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences graduate students have been awarded fellowships from the U.S. Borlaug Global Food Security Program. Maggie Douglas, a doctoral student in Entomology and International Agriculture and Development, and Katie Tavenner, a doctoral student in Rural Sociology and Women's Studies, received the fellowships to support their international research projects.

Douglas will spend six months abroad collaborating with entomologists at the World Vegetable Center in Taiwan to help develop integrated pest management systems in developing countries such as Bangladesh. Integrated pest management, or IPM, aims to manage pests -- such as insects, diseases, weeds and animals -- by combining physical, biological and chemical tactics that are safe, profitable and environmentally compatible.

Douglas’ research will focus on lablab bean, an ancient crop first grown in Africa and Asia and cultivated throughout the tropics for food. An important vegetable crop in Bangladesh, lablab bean growers face serious pest problems. Entomologists at the World Vegetable Center have developed biological controls, one component of an IPM program. According to Douglas, lablab bean growers typically rely on broad spectrum and sometimes harmful insecticides, but still do not achieve adequate pest control. “We will examine whether farmers can combine judicious use of biopesticides with conservation of naturally-occurring predators to manage pests of lablab bean.”

Due to the political climate in Bangladesh, Douglas is planning dual experiments in both Taiwan and Bangladesh starting this November. “I’m very excited and so thankful for the Borlaug Global Food Security Program. It has given me and other graduate students at Penn State the opportunity to collaborate with leading food security researchers,” Douglas explained. Douglas will be advised by Dr. R. Srinivasan while at the World Vegetable Center. Her Ph.D. advisor is Dr. John Tooker, assistant professor of entomology at Penn State.

Another Borlaug fellow, Katie Tavenner, will be collaborating with researchers at Bioversity International in Rome and conducting fieldwork in South Africa to study natural resource management and food security in Wild Coast nature reserves.  Historically, decisions in resource allocation and conservation management in South Africa have marginalized small-holder farmers and the rural poor. Tavenner’s research will explore the social and power relations between conservation authorities and the livelihood needs of rural people, with a focus on strengthening gender equity and democratic participation in biodiversity management.

Tavenner credits her attendance at the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security in helping her obtain the fellowship. The Borlaug Summer Institute is a two-week long learning program for graduate students attending U.S. institutions who are interested in developing a holistic understanding of the conceptual challenges around global food security.

Tavenner also acknowledges the Parks and People: South Africa Program and College of Agricultural Sciences Tag Along Fund Program who awarded her the initial grant that funded her preliminary research. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity and for the support and encouragement of my advisor Dr. Carolyn Sachs,” said Tavenner.

The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development to expand the pool of U.S. food security professionals who have the scientific base needed to effectively study and manage global landscapes in support of sustainable food systems. A total of four Penn State graduate students have awarded the fellowship named after Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution.

More information about the program is available at In addition, more information on the Borlaug Summer Institute can be found at

To learn more about international opportunities for students in agriculture, call the College of Agricultural Sciences Office of International Programs at 814-863-0249null814-863-0249 or visit


Editors Contact:
Kristie Auman-Bauer
PA IPM Program
(814) 865-2839null(814) 865-2839

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