Spring 2018 Global Change Fellow
PhD Candidate, Department of Entomology
Advisor: Dr. Steve Frank
Every year the Southeast Climate Science Center funds a multi-disciplinary cohort of Global Change Fellows representing colleges across NC State University. Here are some highlights about Spring 2018 Fellow, Sarah Parsons, and the applied research she’s conducting.
What do you study?
What (or who) influenced you to go into this field of study?
Rachel Carson. Although she is not an entomologist, my love of nature started with her. Silent Spring set me on my “scientist” path starting in third grade.
What results are you finding?
Encouragingly in keeping with other work in urban ecology, I have found that with an increase in impervious surface in our cities comes an increase in aphid pest abundance on street trees. My work suggests that how we build our cities in a changing climate will have large consequences for pest management. Hopefully my work will shed light on how we design our landscapes, such that we can reduce risk of pest outbreaks on urban trees.
Who will benefit from your research?
Urban residents, planners, and designers. My research will help inform designers what to plant around trees to decrease tree pests and thus improve tree health for all city residents.
How can your research be used to inform management decisions?
My work will directly inform management decisions in landscape design and urban planning. Ultimately my research will help protect the health of trees in increasingly stressful environments as our cities get warmer.
What do you think is the most pressing issue related to global change?
Urbanization. More than half the population now lives in cities and this trend will continue in future years. With urbanization comes a whole manner of environmental issues, including habitat fragmentation, biodiversity loss, and a decrease in human health associated with hotter urban temperatures. As more of us live in cities, we will need to learn how to better design cities such that they support human and ecosystem health.
How do you expect the SE CSC Global Change Fellows Program to impact you and your work?
I expect the program will help me foster relationships with members of my cohort, who reach across many different fields. Often, I find that I do not interact with researchers outside entomology. However, my fellowship cohort is richly diverse. I look forward to working with members of my cohort, and learning how to improve my research and its future directions.
How would you describe your research to a 3rd grader?
My research looks at what to plant around street trees to keep them healthy.
What is your dream job?
Teaching ecology at a small liberal arts college, and being the eccentric old lady science expert on all the local city planning boards.