Can Towson University help rid the world of stink bugs?

By Megan Bradshaw on September 22, 2017

TU's Vonnie Shields has received $150,000 from USDA to identify volatile and “green” pesticides to manage stink bug populations.

Towson University Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics associate dean and biology professor Vonnie Shields, Ph.D. received a $150,000 sponsored research agreement from the USDA to begin to solve a problem that plagues people across the nation: stink bugs.

Vonnie Shields head shot
Vonnie Shields, Ph.D.

Shields and her team—research associate Nicholas Larson, Ph.D., and research chemist Aijun Zhang, Ph.D., USDA, Beltsville, Maryland — aim to identify volatile and “green” pesticides to manage brown marmorated stink bug populations.

This research will entail collecting volatiles and conducting chemical analyses to identify potential active compounds (attractants), feeding deterrents, repellents and pesticides. Electrophysiological, physiological, toxicological and behavioral bioassays will be used in this study.

A long-term goal of the project will be to identify relevant volatile chemicals that can be used in behavioral manipulation strategies running concurrently with pest management programs. Successfully identifying those relevant chemicals could lead to the sale of environmentally and economically sustainable population management tools.

While this work has begun recently, Shields hopes to extend the grant for another year, ultimately working toward the lasting goal of identifying relevant volatile compounds that can be used to design and develop stink bug traps.

As associate dean, Shields helps oversee a college with a booming student population. In her department alone, biology degrees awarded over the last five years have increased 32 percent. Fisher College soon will also break ground on a new facility that supports 21st-century science instruction and equipment that is slated to open for the fall 2020 term.