Pasto Ag Museum offering 'Research Unplugged' events on October Thursdays

The Pasto Agricultural Museum is located at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, along Route 45, nine miles from State College. Enter the center using Gate K. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Pasto Agricultural Museum will host three “Research Unplugged” presentations Thursday afternoons in October, featuring Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ faculty talking about their studies in entomology.

The speaker series known as RU — offered in partnership with Schlow Centre Region Library, the Penn State Office of Government and Community Relations, and the Ag Alumni Society — will run from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, 14 and 21 at the museum, located at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, along Route 45, nine miles from State College. Enter the center using Gate K. Masking is required inside the museum and at this event.

The Research Unplugged presentations are as follows:

Thursday, Oct. 7

“Toxicology research to support integrated pest and pollinator management — a balancing act” will be the subject of the first presentation, given by Fang "Rose" Zhu, assistant professor of entomology.

Fang "Rose" Zhu, assistant professor of entomology. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

“Pesticides are mainstays for sustainable pest management in crop systems; however, pests evolve a high level of pesticide resistance, and many pesticides have the potential to harm pollinators,” she said. “Our toxicology research aims to uncover the genes, pathways and mechanisms responsible for pesticide resistance and chemical adaptation in pests and pollinators.” 

The long-term goals of Zhu’s research are discovering new theories of insect chemical adaptation, along with developing innovative techniques and strategies for precision pest management and beneficial species conservation. She uses integrative approaches from molecular and evolutionary biology, functional genomics, behavior, bioinformatics, protein chemistry, and structural biology.

“The primary emphasis of my research is to understand the mechanisms and evolution of insects' adaptation to chemical stresses in their environment. Insects are the most evolutionarily successful metazoans on the Earth,” she said. “The remarkable success of insects is largely due to their adaptive capabilities in coping with numerous stresses.” 

Thursday, Oct. 14

“Plants smell: Goldenrod can sniff out danger” will be the subject of the second presentation given by John Tooker, professor of entomology.

John Tooker, professor of entomology. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

“A plant may start to prime its defenses as soon as it gets a whiff of a male fly searching for a mate,” he said. “Once tall goldenrod plants smell a sex attractant emitted by true-fruit fly males, they appear to prepare chemical defenses that make them less appealing to female flies that could damage the plants by depositing eggs on them. Recent research looks at potential benefits for agriculture of this unexpected interaction.”

Tooker’s research group studies relationships among plants, insect herbivores and natural enemies to understand factors that regulate populations of herbivorous insects. The researchers are interested in both plant- and natural-enemy-mediated factors and how they influence insect behavior, community composition, and herbivore mortality. 

“Our long-term goal is to exploit the ecology/biology of our study organisms to provide strategies and tactics for more sustainable insect pest management,” Tooker said.

Thursday, Oct. 21

“Thank a bee! The importance of pollination in Pennsylvania,” will be the topic of the third presentation, given by Natalie Boyle, assistant research professor in entomology.

Natalie Boyle, assistant research professor in entomology. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

“Pollination is a critical service that humans rely on for 75% of the foods we eat,” she said. “In this talk, we will introduce attendees to the diversity of pollinators in Pennsylvania, how, when, and why they are important, and share some of the research being conducted by scientists in the Center for Pollinator Research and Insect Biodiversity Center.”

Boyle is the coordinator for educational programming at the center, where she oversees the development of residential, online and extension courses in pollinator-friendly landscaping and insect conservation. Her research background is in improving managed solitary bee husbandry and management, which has fueled her current research interests in bee foraging behavior and nutrition.

Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research consists of more than 30 independent faculty, including researchers, educators, extension specialists and outreach coordinators, spanning multiple departments and colleges at Penn State. “Together, we are committed to studying the factors impacting pollinator health and developing and implementing creative approaches to pollinator conservation,” she said.

About the Research Unplugged speakers series

Research Unplugged is a long-running educational community partnership aligned with Schlow Library’s mission of providing Centre Region residents access to unique and engaging programming as the area’s “Centre of Reading and Learning.” Funding for RU is provided, in part, by Schlow Library Foundation.

About the Pasto Agricultural Museum

The Pasto Agricultural Museum is a forum for scientists, practitioners, and the public to engage in important issues facing agriculture and the environment. Museum visitors explore the intersection of history and science interpreted in programs, exhibits, and events that feature tools, technology, present day practice and research.

For more information about the Pasto Museum or the scheduled Research Unplugged talks in October, contact Rita Graef, curator, at 814-863-1383 or

Last Updated September 20, 2021