Skip to main content

Soil and Water Summer Experience – Sarah Birkmire

The Soil and Water Sciences Department is offering students the chance to blog about their summer experience. The students enrolled in one of three courses over the summer, for which they received credit: SWS 4905-Individual Work, SWS 4911-Supervised Research in Soil and Water Science, and SWS 4941
Practical Work Experience. This is Sarah Birkmire’s summer experience:

college student in greenhouse with plants behind her.

Sarah Birkmire in the greenhouse at the Mid-Florida REC. (photo provided)

My name is Sarah Birkmire, and I am in my senior year majoring in Environmental Management in Agriculture and Natural Resources. This summer, I had the privilege to work as a research assistant at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s (UF/IFAS) Mid-Florida Research and Education Center’s entomology lab under Dr. Lance Osborne. My summer internship has actually turned into a full-time job!

Two plastic tubs for mite rearing experiment and corn plant in pot.

Mite rearing study materials. (photo provided)

So far, I have assisted in and even led several entomological research projects. One of the projects in which I have been allowed to take the lead is a study of the relationship between a predatory beetle and citrus mealybugs. Another is a predatory mite rearing project for the Master Gardening program at the center. This project is designed to be replicated by high school science labs to teach biological control. I had the opportunity to write a paper about this project which will soon be published on EDIS. In addition, I assisted in many other studies to maintain our stock of plants and insect colonies.

Insect collection under framed glass showing butterflies, grasshoppers, and other insects.

Sarah Birkmire’s summer insect collection. (photo provided)

This has been an excellent learning experience, and I have really enjoyed my work. I have become familiar with many beneficial insect species and common insect pests in the state of Florida. Biological control and signs of pest damage on plants are two other areas where I have gained valuable knowledge. I was also allowed time to improve my insect identification skills in conjunction with the Insect Classification course I took this summer. Dr. Osborne encouraged me to work in the lab on collecting and identifying insects once my other work was completed each day. Working through identification keys and learning about the morphologies of various insects has made me an even more valuable member of the team here at MREC’s entomology lab. I have had the chance to help identify several pest species!

College student wearing magnifying goggles to study insects.

Sarah Birkmire wearing magnifying goggles in the lab while studying insects. (photo provided)

The Principles of Entomology course that I took last summer and the Insect Classification course I took this summer both prepared me for this experience. Some of the information about pesticides and biological control that I learned in courses like Agricultural Ecology and Agricultural and Environmental Quality came in handy during my work as well. Although working in an entomology lab may not be directly related to soil and water science, I have still had the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have gained from my studies in Environmental Management in Agriculture and Natural Resources at UF. I now have my foot in the door as a UF employee. The experience working with plants and in greenhouses is great for my future plan to apply for the Doctor of Plant Medicine program at UF.