Once a month we sit down with an Entomology graduate student to get to know more about them, how they became interested in Entomology, and what their research is about. This month, we sat down with Mario Luppino!
Q1: Masters or Ph.D, and how far into your program are you?
I am a masters student at the end of my 3rd year in the program. I am planning on graduating in April of 2023.
Q2: What is your research project?
I’m studying how the interaction between pesticides, parasites, and landscapes may be impacting wild bee populations. I focus mostly on bumble bees (Bombus sp.), but also look at honey bees (Apis mellifera) and mining bees (Andrena sp.).
Q3: How did you become interested in entomology?
I was a part of a Japanese student exchange program in middle school and stayed with a host family who kept honey bees. Getting to see honey bees in action defending themselves against the Japanese giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) was really exciting! I decided to start keeping bees when I turned 16 and kept them until I came to WSU when I was 23.
Q4: Why would you recommend entomology as a career?
I’m not sure if entomology is really a career so much as a way of life. Bugs become the center of your world, they’re all you read about, and all of your friends come to you with bug questions. Only get into Entomology if you want to be “the bug person” for the rest of your life.
Q5: What are your future career plans after graduation?
I’m hoping to work for a conservation district or at an extension center after I graduate. I think that science should be made as accessible to the general public as possible. People are interested in entomology, they just don’t understand it or have easy access to information. In this era of mass extinction and extreme distrust of science, researchers should be working to facilitate open communication and foster curiosity in the natural world.
Q6: What is your favorite thing about your Master’s/PhD journey?
Getting to explore the Palouse region of eastern Washington and western Idaho through an entomological lens has been great. I’ve loved getting to learn more about the bees (and other bugs) in our region. It’s also been great making friends with people who are as passionate about insects and the environment as I am.
Q7: Something you’re proud of that you made, found, received during your time here at WSU.
During my graduate degree I was Social Chair for 2 years and recently became the president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association. I’ve also been a part of the debate team for the last 2 years along with Dowen Jocson and Emily Rampone, and we placed 2nd overall again this year which I’m really happy with. I have worked to foster a sense of community during a global pandemic and have led/hosted several outreach events despite social distancing restrictions. I’m most proud of my ability to develop workshops and bring people from all different walks of life together.
Q8: What is your favorite insect and why?
Choosing a favorite species is hard. I love Bombus appositus, the white shouldered bumble bee, because of its fun color forms and gentle disposition. But I also love Bombus huntii, Hunt’s bumble, because I had a colony of them nest in my garden once and because of the bright red stripe on their abdomen. Bombus nevadensis, the Nevada bumble, is cool because of its giant size and loud flight, but Bombus occidentalis, the western bumble, is equally interesting for its small size and cute, white-tipped abdomen. Charismatic, relatively long lived, resilient, and important for ecosystem function, all in all, my favorite group of insects is the bumble bee.