Grad Students 2020

Marian Rodriguez Soto

Marian Rodriguez Soto is originally from Maunabo, Puerto Rico. She received her B.S. in Agricultural Sciences from the University of Puerto Rico and first came to Purdue in 2017 through the summer research opportunity program (SROP), a program that aims to enhance diversity in academic, government and industry positions that require graduate degrees. In her spare time she enjoys spending time in nature, hiking, and learning to cook. Marian officially joined the graduate program in Entomology in 2018 to work with Drs. Doug Richmond and Laramy Enders on a multi-state USDA-NIFA funded project to advance the development of IPM programs for a group of turfgrass infesting weevils called billbugs. 

Billbug larvae can devastate turfgrass by feeding on plant tillers, rhizomes and roots.

Eleven different species of billbugs infest turfgrass across North America with many species overlapping in their distributions. Although the adults are relatively easy to identify, the damaging larval stage of these insects are indistinguishable. The inability to accurately identify the larvae to species level has hindered efforts to understand how the seasonal biology of this pest complex varies with species and geographic location. As a result, efforts to develop coherent, regionally relevant management programs for this pest complex have fallen short, forcing growers to rely heavily on the prophylactic use of insecticides.  

Marian’s research focuses on developing a better understanding of the seasonal biology of the billbug complex infesting turfgrass across North America. She uses a combination of DNA barcoding and simple morphometric measures to identify the cryptic larvae of these insects to species level and track their development through the growing season. The knowledge gained through Marian’s research will help fill major gaps in our understanding of billbug biology, support the development of sustainable IPM programs and reduce grower reliance on prophylactic insecticide applications. Upon graduation and completion of her project (June 2021), Marian would like to find a position in extension or outreach where she can apply her skills. 

Although adult billbugs can be readily identified to species level, the larvae are indistinguishable.

For more background on the project and people involved, visit: 

Plant-Insect Microbiomes Laboratory Website 

Soil Insect Ecology Laboratory Website 

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@mars_rodri125  

@enders_lab  

@doctorDRich 

@USDA_NIFA 

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