Kristine Grayson
Biology professor Kristine Grayson conducts field research with her students.

University of Richmond Biology Professor Kristine Grayson Receives USDA Grant Award for Invasive Species Research

Grant News

October 2, 2023
Kristine Grayson

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND ─ Kristine Grayson, associate professor of biology at the University of Richmond, is continuing her research on invasive insect control with support from a new $162,438 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Invasive Pest Insect program. 

Working in partnership with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program, Grayson will manage projects on the genetic diagnostics of invasive insects, including the spongy moth, spotted lanternfly, and Japanese beetle. This work will also investigate biocontrol agents, which play a key role in reducing pest populations and preventing crop disease. Grayson will collaborate with Yunke Wu, who runs the molecular diagnostic group at the Forest Pest Methods Laboratory.

The data collected in this project will allow the USDA and other agencies to better identify pest insects and strategize more effective prevention and control methods.

“The rapid identification of damaging invasive insects is critical for protecting our forests and agriculture,” Grayson said. “The molecular tools used and developed under this project provide crucial species identification information more rapidly to state and federal resource managers.”

The range of pest insects Grayson studies varies in both presence and impact.

  • The spongy moth was introduced to the U.S. roughly 150 years ago and is now present across Eastern North America.
  • The spotted lanternfly was introduced to Pennsylvania in 2014 but has already spread to more than a dozen states and caused serious damage to trees and crops.
  • The Japanese beetle arrived in the U.S. in 1916 but has not yet spread to the West Coast, where it could have a significant impact on agriculture.

This project will improve the ability of airports and other cargo sites in California and Oregon to identify and reduce the threat of the Japanese beetle in these protected states.

This grant is the latest support Grayson has received for her research projects. She has received previous funding from the USDA, as well as the National Science Foundation and Jeffress Memorial Trust.