Research in the Coyle Lab is primarily focused on improving management and detection capabilities of invasive species, and finding ways to improve tree health management.
Asian Longhorned Beetle Program
The Coyle Lab is heavily involved with research on Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) biology and management. This invasive woodboring pest was first discovered in South Carolina in May 2020 in Charleston County. Specific projects include:
1. Determining Asian longhorned beetle population spread rates. Led by Meredith Bean (M.S., 2022), and in collaboration with Charleston County Parks, we removed 24 red maple trees from the Stono River County Park. All egg sites and exit holes were recorded based on tree location, and exit holes were dated to determine the year in which adults emerged. These data will allow us to reconstruct the ALB invasion and determine rates at which beetles spread both within a tree and among the trees on the island. These data will be used to help improve ALB population growth models, which will help in delimiting future populations around the world.
2. Determining ALB phenology in South Carolina. A previous phenology model (Kappel et al. 2017) suggested ALB could develop in less than one year in parts of the southern U.S. Led by M.S. student Lena Schmitt (M.S. expected December 2023) ALB has been collected monthly to determine phenology in this environment – the southernmost population in North America. Larval head capsule measurements are recorded to determine instar, and presence of other life stages is recorded. These data will improve phenology prediction models and aid in detection efforts.
3. Evaluating novel ALB management methods. Traditional ALB management involves removing and chipping infested trees, but this approach is unfeasible and impractical in sensitive or inaccessible natural areas. Led by Abby Ratcliff (M.S., 2023, co-advised with Dr. Kelly Oten at NC State University), we evaluated alternative management methods that did not involve complete host removal. These data could be pivotal to helping eradicate ALB in swampy areas in South Carolina. Ms. Courtney Johnson (PhD expected 2027, NC State University) is evaluating these methods on an operational scale to determine if ALB population growth or spread is affected by these novel management methods.
4. Evaluating the possibility of using native biological control agents for ALB management. Many native woodboring insects are present in South Carolina, and led by Marina Lupu (M.S. expected 2023), we are using sentinel logs and field surveys to determine which species impact ALB larvae and native cerambycid larvae in the ALB-infested area. Biocontrol could be a management option when beetle populations are low or difficult to reach.
Invasive Plant Management
The Coyle Lab is also heavily involved in management of invasive plants, including Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) and pampas grass (Miscanthus sinensis). Specific projects include:
1. Optimizing the use of herbicide and prescribed fire for Callery pear management. Previous work (Vogt et al. 2020) and current efforts (Poole et al. In Preparation) evaluated several herbicide active ingredients and application techniques in their ability to kill Callery pear. We are also investigating how prescribed fire might impact Callery pear seed viability, germination, and growth. We know that fire can dull Callery pear thorns (Coyle et al. 2020), so using this land management technique might effectively kill unwanted Callery pear trees and reduce the likelihood of tire puncture.
2. Genetics of Callery pear. Work with colleagues at the University of Tennessee (Marcin Nowicki, Denita Hadziadic-Guerry, William Klingeman, and Robert Trigiano) and led by Shiwani Sapkota (M.S., 2021, 2022) showed that Callery pear possessed several genetic characteristics that make it a very effective invasive plant.
3. Developing a tool to detect Pyrus calleryana in the field. As states move to put P. calleryana on their do not sell or regulated plant list, regulatory officials will be tasked with determining the identity of plant material in the field. Working with University of Tennessee collaborators, we are developing a tool to differentiate among Pyrus species using a small portion of plant tissue.
4. Using digital imagery to determine the spread and occurrence of Callery pear on the landscape. Working with Dr. Jess Hartshorn and UT colleagues, we are evaluating ways to utilize available digital imagery (e.g., Lidar, etc.) to better determine the true extent of Callery pear in the eastern U.S. We are also measuring Callery pear biomass based on stem diameter (this project is led by Prabina Sharma, M.S., 2023, Clemson University), and these data will be paired with digital occurrence data to determine the amount and potential impact of Callery pear on the landscape.
5. Ecological impacts of Callery pear. We are investigating this invasive tree's impacts on herbivore and decomposer communities in collaboration with Dr. Hartshorn and others at Clemson University.
6. Effective Miscanthus management strategies and impact on biodiversity. In western North Carolina, Miscanthus sinensis is known as "grassoline" because of its flammability and propensity to contribute to wildfires. Led by Ms. Jordan Bailey, our lab is working with the personnel in the NC Forest Service and Mars Hill University to test different management strategies for controlling this invasive grass, as well as investigating the impacts on native flora and fauna.
Other Projects Include:
1. Evaluating the distribution and impacts of the invasive Joro spider in the Southeast. Working with colleagues at several universities, we are examining the impacts and potential spread of the (relatively) new invasive in the region, the Joro spider.
2. Determining ways to improve non-native species detection at ports of entry.