UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Heather Leach has joined Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences as a spotted lanternfly extension associate.
In this newly created position, Leach is responsible for coordinating spotted lanternfly outreach and response efforts for the college, working in collaboration with state and federal agencies such as the state Department of Agriculture, Game Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, she will help ensure that Penn State Extension personnel are prepared to field inquiries and handle routine reporting duties.
First discovered in Berks County in 2014, the spotted lanternfly has spread to 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. It poses a significant threat to Pennsylvania agriculture, most notably the grape, tree-fruit, hardwood and nursery industries, which collectively are worth nearly $18 billion to the state's economy. The insect also can cause damage to high-value ornamentals in home landscapes and can affect quality of life for residents.
"My goal is to develop a comprehensive understanding of spotted lanternfly priorities from every perspective and disseminate new information on biology, behavior and effective management techniques as effectively as possible," said Leach, who most recently worked as a laboratory technician in berry-crops entomology at Michigan State University. "I believe that a unified and collaborative approach will give us the best chance to manage this important pest."
Leach earned a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife and a master's degree in entomology from Michigan State University. As a graduate student, she focused on developing chemical, cultural and biological tools to suppress damage from spotted wing drosophila, a fly that can cause damage to many fruit crops.
In addition, she served as a research technician for the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station, Michigan State University Extension, where she conducted field research on integrated management techniques to minimize damage from spotted wing drosophila, brown marmorated stink bug and other pests on cherry, grape and apple crops.
Leach received several scholarships and awards while at Michigan State University, including the Paul Wooley Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Entomology Master's Program and the Gordon Guyer Excellence in Extension Department Award.
She also has given numerous presentations on pest management and crops at events such as the International Congress of Entomology in Orlando, Florida; the North American Berry Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the International IPM Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland.
"We are thrilled to have Heather join our team and are confident her academic and research experiences will aid our efforts to prevent further damage from this destructive species," said Julie Urban, senior research associate in the Department of Entomology. "She will be an important liaison between Penn State and our collaborating partners."
For more information about how to identify and control spotted lanternfly, how to report an infestation and how to comply with quarantine regulations, visit the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly or the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website at http://agriculture.pa.gov.