Calvin assumes new leadership role in combating spotted lanternfly threat

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dennis Calvin, director of Penn State Extension and associate dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences since 2009, has assumed a new role overseeing the college's efforts to combat the invasive spotted lanternfly. His appointment, which comes with the title of associate dean and director of special programs, was effective July 1.

With Calvin's shift in responsibilities, Jeff Hyde, Penn State Extension associate director for programs, will serve as acting director of extension.

Penn State researchers and extension personnel are working closely with state and federal officials to develop strategies to contain and control the spotted lanternfly, which threatens agricultural sectors worth about $18 billion to Pennsylvania's economy. Scientists are racing to learn more about the pest's biology and behavior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Penn State a $1.2 million grant to lead outreach and communication efforts across the state.

As populations of spotted lanternfly grow and spread, management of this insect likely will increase in complexity and intensity over the next few years, according to Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

"The complexity of the challenge, the diverse array of expertise we're engaging across the college, and the close interaction with state and federal agencies creates a need for extensive coordination to address this issue effectively," he said.

Roush noted that Calvin is uniquely qualified to serve in this role due to his background and long-standing reputation in multiple facets of entomology and extension.

"Because of his efforts to position Penn State as a national leader in extension, Dr. Calvin is well known and highly regarded among universities and government agencies in neighboring states, which will be critical as we coordinate with them on matters such as trade and interstate transport," said Roush.

Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly was found for the first time in the United States in Berks County in 2014 and since has spread throughout 13 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania — a region that the state Department of Agriculture has designated as a quarantine zone. The planthopper feeds on sap, weakening plants and leaving behind a sticky, sweet excrement called honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold and attracts stinging insects.

"Because this is the first population of spotted lanternfly outside Asia, it's difficult to assess the magnitude of the threat that it presents, but it is potentially the worst introduced insect pest since the gypsy moth nearly 150 years ago," Roush said.

"From what we know, the spotted lanternfly is a significant threat to Pennsylvania agriculture, landscapes and natural ecosystems," he said. "This includes grapes — which already have sustained heavy damage — and the tree-fruit, hardwood and nursery industries. Also threatened are outdoor recreation, backyard enjoyment and biodiversity."

As part of the partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and USDA, the Penn State Extension spotted lanternfly website is the primary hub for educational and management information. Extension also is working with the state to create online training to assist businesses in meeting quarantine permitting requirements and is staffing a spotted lanternfly toll-free hotline. In addition, College of Agricultural Sciences researchers are leading efforts to learn more about the insect's biology and control options.

Calvin joined the faculty of Penn State's entomology department in 1985. For 11 years, he led Penn State's integrated pest management, or IPM, program, which entailed developing and coordinating IPM initiatives and acting as a liaison with national, regional and state IPM groups.

His research has focused on modeling insect population dynamics and the effect that climatic uncertainty across the landscape plays in their management. He has developed expert systems and other computer-based decision-support systems for insect pest management in corn and alfalfa, and trained county-based extension educators, private consultants, farmers and agribusiness personnel in pest management for field and forage crops and stored products.

He received a bachelor's degree in agronomy and pest management from Iowa State University, and he earned his master's and doctoral degrees in entomology from Kansas State University.

Hyde, a professor of agricultural economics, has developed and delivered extension educational programs on topics such as farm business planning, marketing and human resource management. From 2008 to 2015, he led Penn State Extension's statewide ag entrepreneurship and economic/community development programs.

Before becoming associate director for programs — and then assuming the acting extension director position — Hyde served as associate head of the college's Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education and as assistant to the director for special program initiatives for Penn State Extension. He earned a bachelor's degree from Frostburg (Maryland) State University and master's and doctoral degrees in agricultural economics from Purdue University.

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated July 18, 2018