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Science AMA Series: I’m Jozsef Vuts here to discuss the science behind chemical ecology and how this knowledge can be used to tackle pest insects. AMA!
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Edit: Hi everyone! Many thanks for those who were interested in this topic, I really enjoyed answering your thought-provoking questions. I am signing out now, but will try to check back later and answer a few more. Hello Reddit! I’m a chemical ecologist at Rothamsted Research in the UK. Up until the age of eight I had wanted to become a pilot, an ambition that was stopped short after a failed attempt to fly a home-made glider. However, I think it was my innate curiosity that eventually made me realise that I wanted to do something connected to nature. Endless hours a day spent in the back garden, natural history books, influential teachers and, later in life, great mentors supported me on my way to becoming an ecologist. First at the Plant Protection Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (http://marton.agrar.mta.hu/start.php?lang=en), and later at Rothamsted (https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/). I was amazed by the dedication and focussed work of inspiring scientists who wanted to make a difference, thereby setting a standard for me. After my third level studies, I was introduced into the amazing world of semiochemicals (behaviour- and development-modifying chemicals). Since then, I have found myself immersed in this magical world of chemical communication that invisibly governs key interactions among organisms! It is fascinating stuff! I mainly work with insect pests in agro- and forest ecosystems. I identify volatile compounds from the pests’ host plants or the insects themselves. I then use these compounds to manipulate the behaviour and development of the plant, or the insect, to help keep the pest’s population under control. I recently also started to study the chemical ecology under our feet. The soil is a tough one, because it is much less accessible, and therefore harder to research, than the environment above the ground. However, when something is discovered here, it has the potential to be ground-breaking! In a world where environmental, human and food safety are fortunately becoming increasingly important, we need alternative, non-toxic ways to tackle pests, and chemical ecology research offers such solutions. The recent ban of many key pesticides is also driving the focus of plant protection in this direction. It would be great to discuss my research with you. Feel free to ask me anything! On Thursday 26th October at 4pm (BST) I will be live on Reddit Science AMA. In the meantime, you are welcome to find out more about me in a blog entry I wrote for Rothamsted’s ‘A day in the life of a research scientist’ blog series (https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/articles/day-life-dr-jozsef-vuts). (Rothamsted Research is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England at Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ under the registration number 2393175 and a not for profit charity number 802038.)