The work of four SUNY Oswego student researchers and a faculty member tracking and potentially combatting an invasive species -- for which they made the first discovery in Oswego County -- recently earned publication. 

Titled “The microbiota of Drosophila suzukii influences the larval development of Drosophila melanogaster,” the full study was published in the Zoological Science section of PeerJ, an open access, peer-reviewed journal. 

The research, led by assistant professor Peter Newell in the department of biological sciences, spanned two years and included contributions from four undergraduate students. First author Gabrielle Solomon (who graduated in 2018) started the research in summer 2017, supported by a Student-Faculty Challenge Grant. 

Solomon trapped and identified Drosophila suzukii, an invasive species of fruit fly that has been damaging fruit crops throughout North America. When she caught her first specimens at Rice Creek Field Station, it was the first reported sighting in Oswego County. 

From there the research moved into the lab, where Solomon sampled and analyzed the microorganisms associated with the insects. Solomon and her student collaborators, sophomore Hiruni Dodangoda and seniors Rita Ntim-Gyakari and Tylea McCarthy-Walker, tested whether the microbes from D. suzukii had an impact on the growth and development of the common fruit fly, D. melanogaster. 

“The two species compete for habitat, and the microbiome may be an important dimension of this interaction,” Newell said. “By gaining a better understanding of interactions between species, this research may help control populations of D. suzukii, which are having a negative impact on fruit growers in New York state and beyond.”

The research was also supported by the Rice Creek Associates, the Possibility Scholars program and the Research and the Office of Individualized Student Experience.

Since earning her zoology degree in December 2018, Solomon has pursued a number of opportunities to do field research on animal behavior and ecology. After five months in Lee Vining, California, studying the sage-grouse, her most recent post has been on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she is a volunteer at the United States Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystem Research Center, studying the ecology of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat. 

For more information on zoology, biology and related programs at SUNY Oswego, visit the biological sciences website.

3 SUNY Oswego students conducting invasive species research

Published research -- From left, SUNY Oswego students Hiruni Dodangoda, Rita Ntim-Gyakari and Tylea McCarthy-Walker are co-authors of a research paper -- along with 2018 zoology graduate Gabrielle Solomon and faculty member Peter Newell -- tracking and potentially combatting an invasive species -- for which the team made the first discovery in Oswego County.