As with any field, having critical mass in terms of individuals conducting research is critical to advance the science at an efficient rate while allowing for new ideas to develop more quickly and effectively. If numbers are low, I think the impact is obvious. We risk exploring limited topics and applications with production of data occurring at a slower rate.
My background has allowed me to work in a number of different arenas involving decomposition ecology, such as integrated pest management, sustainable waste management, insect production for use as food and feed, and even forensics. In many instances, my linking with researchers outside of the applied sciences has allowed me to conduct research that appeals to a broader audience outside of the applied arena. This result has been truly beneficial to me, and I would like to think the applied sciences, as new researchers have been recruited to conduct experiments in the given area of interest (i.e., increasing army of researchers and diversity of topics covered). In terms of insects as food and feed, more researchers the world over are taking an interest in insects paramount to the industry as potential model organisms.
These model organisms allow scientists to explore topics explaining how nature operates while at the same time producing data that are beneficial for applications- such as mass production. At the same time, when such basic researchers utilize such insect models to address questions that they find interesting, they are able to tap into resources not commonly available to the applied researcher. In the USA, those funds would come through agencies such as the National Science Foundation or National Institute of Health to name a couple.
Berggren et al (2019), in their opinion piece, presents research topics that would allow for bridging basic and applied sciences in the insects as food and feed industry. The authors illustrate the various arenas where basic research on such models allow scientists to explore broader topics while producing data with applied outcomes we all are interested in seeing achieved At the same time such efforts result in the recruiting new researchers. Here is the citation- hopefully you can access it.
Berggren, Å., A. Jansson, and M. Low. 2019. Approaching ecological sustainability in the emerging insects-as-food industry. Trends Ecol Evol 34: 132-138.
Much of the information in the article is readily known to practitioners that might read this blog; however, the real appeal of the article to me is the location in which it was published- Trends in Ecology and Evolution; one of the premiere basic ecology research journals globally.
By using this platform to offer an opinion on the use of the insects of the food and feed realm as models by basic researchers. The authors present a case demonstrating these insect models are adequate to address basic questions ranging from environmental ecology to physiology (just as examples).
Everyone currently working in this realm is doing a great job (so I am not criticizing current efforts at at all); my hope is such an opinion piece will increase interest in such model systems resulting in a stronger research pool (in terms of numbers and diversity of topics covered).
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Encourager of Network Facilitation
Individuals with over 25 years research experience with the black soldier fly. We are passionate about the science behind the black soldier fly and its ability to convert waste to protein.
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