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Wooster Biologist Laura Sirot Takes Aim at a Pesky Fruit Fly

UPublish story by John Finn

Laura Sirot Large Headshot
Laura Sirot, assistant professor of biology at The College of Wooster, has received a Fulbright Research Award to study the reproductive biology of Anastrepha fruit flies in Mexico.

WOOSTER, Ohio — Laura Sirot, assistant professor of biology at The College of Wooster, has received a Fulbright Research Award to expand her study of fruit flies with world-renowned expert Martín Aluja, at the Institute of Ecology (INECOL) in Veracruz, Mexico, beginning next year.

“I will be conducting research on the reproductive biology of Anastrepha fruit flies, which are considered a major pest of fruit across much of the Americas, but found primarily in Mexico and Central America,” said Sirot. “We will be looking at biorational (environmentally safe) approaches based on natural processes.” Sirot, whose four-month research leave begins in January of 2014 and continues through April, will join a team of investigators at INECOL who work on biorational approaches to pest management.

“Like many species, female Anastrepha undergo a behavioral switch after mating in which they increase egg production and decrease mating activity,” wrote Sirot in her leave proposal. “My work will focus on identifying what aspects of mating lead to these important behavioral switches in Anastrepha females. The proposed research is an exciting natural extension of my current research program on the reproductive biology of insects.”

Aluja has studied Anastrepha species for more than 30 years, and is now the director of INECOL. He invited Sirot to work with him as a collaborator in the study of the reproductive biology of Anastrepha. “My expertise on insect reproductive behavior and reproductive proteins, coupled with his expertise in Anastrepha, would allow us to forge a long-term research collaboration that could lead to a productive new trajectory for me and for my Independent Study students,” said Sirot. “The goals of the project are to identify stimuli that induce post-mating behavioral and physiological changes and the seminal fluid proteins of two species of Anastrepha fruit flies found in Mexico.”

These studies will contribute to understanding the reproductive biology of major pests of fruit across the Americas, according to Sirot. It will also lay the groundwork for developing novel approaches for improving existing methods of safe, affordable, and environmentally sound pest management.

Sirot is grateful, not only to have been selected as a Fulbright Scholar, but also for the support she has received from the College. “Our leave program at Wooster gives faculty an amazing opportunity to explore new research avenues and to take risks in creating new opportunities for faculty and students to learn new research techniques and develop collaborations with scientists around the world,” she said.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 by then-Senator J. William Fulbright to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those in the more than 150 other countries that participate in the program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Close to 300,000 scholars have participated in the program since its inception nearly 70 years ago.

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