It has been an exciting few weeks for the CocoaPOP project.
Staff at UTT have been working alongside Samantha Forbes, a researcher from James Cook University in Australia. Samantha has extensive experience with cocoa plantations and has been helping UTT staff develop a protocol for collecting live midges in large numbers from the field and emerging adult midges in the laboratory from culture material. Samantha's efforts have yielded results and now there are sufficient adult midges to carry out laboratory behavioural experiments.
Cocoa midge collected in Trinidad. This is a Dasyhelea sp. and emerge in large numbers from one of the focal sites. (Genus confirmed by G Spinelli)
Another female Dasyhelea individual.
Chemical ecology experiments will now be taking place, looking at midge-cocoa flower interactions. We are intitially working in climate controlled laboratories using a Y-tube olfactometer, a reliable standard approch for insect chemical ecology studies.
The most recent findings from the CocoaPOP project were presented as a talk as part of the Royal Entomological Society's Ento 15 meeting.
This was held at Trinity College, Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland - the RES's first annual meeting outside the UK. Dr Sarah Arnold from the CocoaPOP project gave a presentation on the final day entitled, "Pollinator populations, rainfall and biodiversity on Caribbean cocoa estates". The presentation received many enthusiastic and interesting questions and provoked some engaging discussion. It was an opportunity to share the research of CocoaPOP with the wider scientific community, including agricultural entomologists, insect biodiversity researchers and chemical ecologists.
The meeting also permitted some excellent opportunities to network during formal poster sessions and also social events such as the Gala Dinner and ceilidh.
CocoaPOP staff travelled to Brussels to attend the annual EU ACP Joint Stakeholders' Conference, and learned about various aspects of successful project management and execution. It was an excellent opportunity to make new contacts and finalise plans for the later months of CocoaPOP.
A project visit by UTT partners Dr Puran Bridgemohan and Mrs Euphemia Cazoe to NRI in the UK. There was an interim project meeting, to assess progress and plan the next activities. Euphemia also spent 2 days at NRI working with NRI's project controllers to receive training in Project Management Information Systems (relating to managing large projects like CocoaPOP: budgets, travel, personnel and timesheets, etc.), which will strengthen institutional capacity at UTT.