Originally from Southwest Michigan, Dr. Brett Blaauw has always taken an interest in the applied aspects of entomology, and knew early in his academic career that he would focus on research that would support farmers. As such, Blaauw earned his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Kalamazoo College where he focused on the interactions between ladybeetle predators and milkweed aphids that sequester plant chemical defenses. He went on to earn his Master’s degree in Science from Western Michigan University where he completed a thesis on the dynamics and impact of chemical defense expression in plant-aphid-coccinellid interactions. He then pursued his PhD at Michigan State University where he evaluated plant composition and habitat size on the effectiveness of native plant conservation strips for sustainable enhancement of beneficial insect communities and their ecosystem services in agroecosystems. After receiving his doctorate, Blaauw moved to New Jersey to work in the Tree Fruit Entomology lab as a post-doctoral research associate where his work focused on evaluating the behavior and potential management tactics for the invasive brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive insect pest that has a wide range of hosts and has become an increasingly more challenging agricultural pest of fruits and nuts in the southeast.
With an impressive academic repertoire under his belt and with a bit of luck, Blaauw was hired with a unique dual appointment as an assistant professor and Extension specialist for both the University of Georgia and Clemson University. As the regional peach entomologist for Georgia and South Carolina, Blaauw maintains research plots in both states, and provides trainings and information to Extension agents and growers in both states. Blaauw’s Extension responsibilities in Georgia also include apples and grapes. Blaauw is part of a team of researchers from various southern land grant universities that provide critical updates to the annual Southeastern Peach, Nectarine, and Plum Pest Management and Culture Guide. He is also a contributor to the MyIPM Smartphone App, a free app that provides integrated pest management strategies for commodity crops on insects, diseases, and weeds in the southeast.
Currently, Blaauw’s research in his fruit entomology lab is focused on the dynamics of integrating insect behavior and ecology to more effectively and sustainably manage insect pests. “Our work attempts to highlight effective ways of managing insect pests while minimizing the impact we have on non-target species, such as natural insect predators and pollinators. By applying more targeted approaches in pest management we are better able to protect the beneficial insects in a system, thereby encouraging long-term sustainability of the land and improving cost efficiency for farmers.