Brazilian peppertree biological control release for July 16, 2019

NEWS RELEASE: Biological Control of Brazilian Peppertree

Master of Ceremonies and Event Speakers
  • Master of Ceremonies, Philip Tipping, Research Leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Invasive Plant Research Laboratory
  • Timothy Widmer, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of National Programs - Plant Health
  • Jennifer Smith, Chief of Staff, South Florida Water Management District
  • Pedro Ramos, Superintendent, Everglades National Park
  • Lt. Col Reynolds, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Zhenli He, Professor and Associate Center Director, UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center
  • Kipp Frohlich, Division Director Habitat and Species Conservation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Greg Wheeler, Research Entomologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Brazilian peppertree and Biological Control Agent Fact Sheets
High Resolution Images Available for downloading 
Thrips life cycle poster, Biological Control Successes in Florida and Melaleuca brochures available for downloading
Research Scientists Responsible for Petition to Release Thrips and Leaf Gallers for Biological Control    
Greg Wheeler is a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale. Wheeler has conducted biological control research of invasive weeds for more than 20 years. Wheeler's most recent projects include Brazilian peppertree and Chinese tallowtree. For the two species he has conducted overseas surveys, host range testing and chemical ecology for the biological control agents, and the invasive plants. Wheeler is  especially interested in the phylogenetic and biochemical factors that influence host range of specialized herbivores. Additional research topics include the role of natural enemies limiting agent densities and agent impact on weed populations.


High Resolution Image of Greg Wheeler

Bill Overholt is a professor emeritus of entomology, who retired from the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) in 2016. His career as a research scientist spanned nearly 30 years, with a focus on biological control of insects and weeds, both domestically and internationally. Overholt’s research program at UF/IFAS involved biological control of invasive plants, including Brazilian peppertree, hydrilla, air potato, tropical soda apple, and cogongrass. He conducted foreign exploration, host range studies, and field release and evaluation of biological control agents. His work also included extension activities aimed at increasing public awareness of the problems associated with invasive plants and the application of biological control as a tool for their management. Today, Overholt produces grapes and raspberries in New Mexico.

High Resolution Image Bill Overholt

Fernando Mc Kay is a research scientist of the Foundation for the Study of Invasive Species (FuEDEI), an overseas biological control laboratory within the Office of International Research Programs (OIRP). The FuEDEI was formerly the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service South American Biological Control Laboratory. Mc Kay completed a Ph.D. in Biological Science at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Evaluation of biological control agents for Brazilian peppertree was the topic of Mc Kay’s doctoral thesis. Mc Kay’s doctoral studies also included the leaf-feeding moth, the leaf-blotcher, and a sawfly as potential biocontrol agents for Brazilian peppertree.

High Resolution Image Fernando Mc Kay

Rodrigo Diaz is currently an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Diaz completed a Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of Florida/IFAS in 2008. As a doctoral candidate, Diaz worked along with Overholt and Manrique at the UF/IFAS Norman C. Hayslip Biological Control Research and Containment Laboratory in Fort Pierce. They published journal articles in collaboration with all of the scientists who gained the permit to release the biological control insects against Brazilian peppertree. In addition to Brazilian peppertree and its candidate insects for biological control, Diaz also researched a second invasive species, tropical soda apple, which is now a successful biological control program throughout Florida.

High Resolution Image Rodrigo Diaz

Veronica Manrique is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Urban Forestry and Natural Resources at Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She completed a Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of Florida/IFAS in 2008. During her graduate studies she worked with Overholt and Diaz. The three scientists published multiple journal articles about Brazilian peppertree and its potential biological controls. Manrique also worked with air potato vine, an invasive species that is now part of a successful biological control program in Florida.

High Resolution Image Veronica Manrique

Directions to Brazilian peppertree biological control July 16 release News Conference

Location of Brazilian Peppertree Release News Conference at Tree Tops Broward County Park in Fort Lauderdale. The address is 3900 SW 100th Ave., Davie, FL 33328. Upon entering the park, look for signage specific to the event. Guides will also direct traffic and parking. The guides will wear a white t-shirt bearing a "thrips" graphic design.