Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Michael E Irwin
Title: Professional Scientist / Biodiversity and Crop Protection Specialist
Mailing address:
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801
Office address:
Address mailcode: 637
Office room:
Location: NSRC
Phone: 217-333-1963
Fax: 217-244-1707

Research Emphasis
Biosystematics of Therevidae and phylogeny of the Asiloidea; interchange of biota betweenmanaged and natural systems; Plant virus epidemiology; aphid migration and movement; and international crop protection and soybean pest management
Faculty Member - Insect Ecology
Faculty Member - Sustainability
Description of Research
Biosystematics of Therevidae and Phylogeny of the Asiloidea
I am elucidating the phylogenetic relationships of the Therevidae (stiletto flies) and other families of the Asiloidea (Diptera: Brachycera). Through the use of morphological, geographical, genetic, behavioral, and ecological characteristics, a large team of researchers and graduate students is describing and modeling the historical relationships among these taxa. We are employing web interfaces and powerful databases in our study. Our team has an NSF PEET (Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy) and Schlinger Foundation grants for this project, which run through the fall, 2005.
Biodiversity, Bioindicators, and the Interchange of Biota between Agricultural and Wild Systems
The importance of understanding global aspects of biodiversity cannot be overstated. Our effots are now focused on Madagascar and New Caledonia, and we are attempting to become involved with biodiversity questions in the more xeric zones of Spain, Bolivia, and Cuba. Bioindicators are an important means of ascertaining environmental quality; we are pursuing hypotheses that could lead to breakthroughs in this area for xeric climates and agroecosystems. Biotic movement between natural and agricultural ecosystems is an important factor in maintaining the viability and sustainability of those systems. My interests lie in understanding how species and their genes flow between systems, and how an understanding of this can contribute to the knowledge base underpinning the issues of sustainability.
Plant Virus Epidemiology
Plant virus epidemiology is a complex study involving interactions of plants and viruses, viruses and vectors, and vectors and their environment. Work to date has stressed the behavioral ecology of vectors, primarily of soybean mosaic virus, bean common mosaic virus, and barley yellow dwarf virus. My goal has been to explore alternate control tactics, such as modifying vector flight or probing behavior, using live barriers as dampers to field spread, breeding for host plant resistance, and employing chemicals to disrupt the transmission process. These tactics have been incorporated into models of plant virus epidemics that can be used to develop appropriate control strategies.
Aphid Migration and Movement
Understanding the complex aspects of pest migration: source area, distribution in the atmosphere, distribution on an area-wide basis, and local movement and settling requires an intensive team approach. Results of this study are already beginning to provide a predictive capability to determine timing and abundance of aphid invasion into, and possible colonization of, crops.
International Crop Protection and Soybean Pest Management
Because my position was earlier supported by the International Soybean Program (INTSOY), I developed expertise and guidelines for managing insect pests of soybeans and insect vectors of soybean diseases, especially for developing countries. I sought generalized technologies for establishing pest management programs, including sampling plans, monitoring strategies, and establishing ecologically sound and environmentally compatible methods for controlling complexes of soybean pests. I also endeavored to developing countries desiring to undertake, or currently undertaking, soybean cultivation. This developed into a broad-based effort to assist developing countries in the development and execution of crop protection, across crops and across disciplines.
Message to students:
2001 Elected to the Board of Directors of Discover Life in America, responsible for the biotic inventory of the Smoky Mountain National Park
2001 Appointed as an advisor to the All Species Borad of Directors, San Francisco, CA
2001 Named Professorship: Schlinger Arthropod Biodiversity Research Scholar
1997-2000 XXI International Congress of Entomology, Brazil, 2000: Section 2 Convenor, Agricultural Entomology
1999- Elected as Honorary Fellow, California Academy of Sciences
1998- External member of the Technical Committee of the USAID IPM CRSP; Virginia Technical University, lead institution.
1994-1998 Entomological Society of America, Presidential Committee of Policy Statement on Insects and Biodiversity, Chair
1996 American Meteorolgical Society award for outstanding achievement in biometeorology
1996 Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar award (first awardee)
1995-1996 International Congress of Entomology, Italy, 1996: Section 15 Co-Convenor, Agricultural Entomology
1993-1997 Alliance for Aerobiology Research, Governing Board; 1993-5, Chair
Professional affiliations:
Selected publications:
Metz, M. A., and M. E. Irwin. 2000. A new therevid genus from Dominican amber, the revisions of Lindneria Kr
INHS Publink:
Program affiliates:
Co-Principal Investigators and Collaborators on Grants:
Professor David K. Yeates, University of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Professor Brian M. Wiegmann, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
Dr. F. Christian Thompson, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Stephen Gaimari, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Donald W. Webb, Illinois Natural History Survey
Academic Professionals:
Gail Kampmeier, Research Associate
Jill Mullett, Scientific Illustrator
Graduate Students:
Honghong Zhang
Kevin Hoslton
Mark Metz
Martin Hauser
Professional society involvement and activities:
American Institute of Biological Sciences
Association of Applied Biologists
Canadian Entomological Society
Entomological Society of America
1989-1992 Editorial Board, American Entomologist
1991-1994 Governing Board
1993-1994 Presidential Committee on Insects and Biodiversity, Chair
Entomological Society of Washington
Journal of Agricultural Entomology
Sociedad Entomologica del Peru
International Working Group on Plant Virus Epidemiology
Program committee 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999
Education: PhD, Entomology, University of California, Riverside, 1971

BS, Entomology, University of California, Davis, 1963
Lab name: Lab research: Lab publications: Lab current projects:

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