Dr. Nan-Yao Su's Personnel Page
Dr. Nan-Yao Su
Professor of Entomology
Department of Entomology and Nematology
Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center
Research Interests and Current Research Project: One of my early interests was to understand how subterranean termites search and locate food sources in soil. This led to the development of the first commercial termite bait products in the US. Application of the monitoring-baiting technology in a subterranean termite IPM program has been the applied aspect of my program. On the basic side of the program, we continued to study the tunneling behaviors of subterranean termites so as to understand termite foraging strategy.
Post Doctorial Research Associate
Research interests and current research projects: My research projects focus on general termite biology and control in Taiwan, including three major topics. 1. Taxonomic revision of Taiwanese termites; 2. Survey of termite pests and their economic importance in Taiwan; 3. Investigation of ecological niche Taiwanese termites related to environmental factors, termite-associated nematodes, Formosan pangolin, and ants.
Post Doctorial Research Associate
Research interests and current research projects The focus of my research project is the relationship between subterranean termites and entomopathogenic fungi. Subterranean termites have evolved in a soil environment interacting with many soil pathogens and this led to the development of disease resistance mechanisms that allowed the termites to survive in such an environment. My goal is to study the termite-fungus relationship and to understand how the disease resistance mechanisms can prevent epizootics in a termite colony. The disease resistance mechanisms I am focusing on are behavioral interactions, antifungal chemicals produced by the termite colony and cellular immunity in individual termites. Biological control for subterranean termite has received a lot of attention in the past, but due to the existence of such mechanisms, no field success has been observed. By identifying the role of the disease resistance mechanisms, we can possibly find a way to bypass them and make biological control a feasible option for subterranean termite IPM.
Research interests and current research projects: My research focuses on the question of how complex processes that produce highly ordered structures can emerge from the seemingly chaotic actions of many individuals. I am currently studying the mechanics of tunnel excavation in subterranean termites. The main goal of my research is to provide an alternative to pheromone mediated stigmergic self-organization. The organizing principles of excavation that are emerging from our work are not based on simple individuals communicating indirectly through scent, but on complex individuals with rich behavioral repertoires that experience direct tactile interactions with each other and the tunnel walls. Termites are not automatons meandering aimlessly through tunnels, but instead are moving along vectors that are actively produced through path integration. Excavation occurs within tunnels, not at specifically marked sites, but when movement is arrested. This may occur when the termites reach the tunnel’s end, where excavation extends the tunnel along its axis. They may also excavate from tunnel walls when traffic congestion occurs and they are delayed in a queue of termites, widening tunnels and eventually causing bifurcation, or when they encounter a physical irregularity in the tunnel wall, leading to branch formation. The scaling of excavation to traffic flow leads to mechanics that have similarities to varying pressure in a closed system and parallels may be found in the process of angiogenesis and the growth of other ramification systems.
Nurmastini S. Bujang
Research interests and current research projects: Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer and the ability of termites to digest cellulose as their food source is a characteristic shared by very few other organisms in the food
chain. Lower termites digest cellulose using independent dual cellulose-digesting systems consisting of endogenous (termite-derived) and exogenous (protozoan-derived) factors. However, the system(s) within higher termites remains debatable because instead of protozoans, they harbor bacteria in their hindgut and these bacteria???s role in cellulolysis is still unclear. My current research interest is the phylogenetic diversity of cellulase genes in higher termites.
Aaron J. Mullins
Senior Biological Scientist
Research interests and current research projects: As Senior Biological Scientist my chief duties include support for research conducted in the lab and field. I also provide project and administrative support for the lab and its students. My previous termite research experience focused on succession ecology of subterranean termite populations following area-wide colony elimination. I also have educational and professional experience in crop science and apiculture.
Ronald E. Pipin
Research interests and current research projects: My job is to build the devices that help keep the termites alive, contained, observable and detectable.