Mr Dylan Hodgkiss

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Personal profile

I am currently working on a PhD project aimed at exploring the pollination and pest control ecosystem services provided by hoverflies in UK strawberry crops.

Global declines in pollinating insects represent a major threat to food security. Moreover, an increasing number of insect-dependent crops are grown each year. Strawberry flowers require visits from different types of pollinating insects in order to achieve full pollination, as different types of flower-visiting insect behave differently on the flower head and pollinate different regions of the receptacle. Relying on managed pollinators for strawberry crops is therefore short-sighted, and wild pollinators should be encouraged to boost productivity and resilience to annual population fluctuations. Though a few studies have suggested that drone flies (Eristalis sp.) may be effective strawberry pollinators, to date no research has been conducted on the pollination efficiency of a broad range of hoverfly species.

In addition to potential losses from suboptimal pollination rates, each year British strawberry yields are reduced by an estimated 507 tonnes of strawberries, worth £2.1 million, due to aphid damage. The larvae of hoverflies belonging to the Syrphinae subfamily are aphid predators and have been shown to effectively suppress aphid populations in a number of crops. However, their ability to check aphid numbers in strawberry fields remains to be tested.

Using a combination of field studies, cage trials and gut contents analyses, this project will examine the extent to which hoverflies may provide the pivotal ecosystem services of pollination and aphid biocontrol in strawberry crops. A key outcome of the study will be to determine whether the same cohort of hoverflies that consume pest aphid species is also capable of enhancing strawberry pollination rates as adults. A final aim of the study involves looking into habitat enhancement techniques, such as introducing sown wildflowers into the crops, to encourage visitation by beneficial hoverflies and improve the delivery of these vital ecosystem services.

Research interests

Broadly, my research interests include community ecology, pollination ecology, intergrated pest management, urban ecology and agricultural ecology.

 

Education

October 2014 - present:                PhD Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London

October 2010 - October 2013:      MSc Environmental Management, Birkbeck College, University of London

September 2003 - June 2007:     BSc Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis

ID: 22888352