Dr. Brian Bahder: Research:
Insect Vector Ecology
My research interests involve the role various insects play in pathogen transmission in plants from the population level to the molecular level and how the insect biology relates to disease epidemiology. One of the main focus areas of my research program is better understanding the epidemiology of Lethal Yellowing (LY) and Texas Phoenix Palm Decline (TPPD) phytoplasmas in palm trees of south Florida and the Caribbean basin. This includes identifying the insect vectors of these diseases, alternate host plants of the phytoplasmas, general vector biology and life history, and ultimately developing cost-effective and environmentally responsible management strategies. My research program also investigates pest and vector insect species in ornamental plants in general along with corresponding diseases. I am interested in developing digital PCR assays (dPCR) for increased sensitivity when looking for pathogens in host and vector tissue to reduce the cost and time of vector discovery but also develop more cost and time efficient sampling and survey strategies for researchers as well as private industry. Long-term research initiatives involve classifying the receptors involved in vector-pathogen specificity in order to reduce vector ability to transmit a given pathogen. Another area of interest is surveying hemipteran and plant pathogen diversity (Auchenorrhyncha and Sternorrhyncha) in south Florida as well as Latin America to help in identifying invasive species and new diseases to the area.