Changes in land use and climate change put pressure on nature, and this increasingly leads to societal issues that demand sustainable solutions. The answers are often found all around us in Nature, but the question is how to find these while Nature is being put under pressure by us. Through ecological and practical research, the ‘Ecologically Wise: Insects and Society’ professorship provides insights into the connection between organisms and their environment, and between humans, the environment and Nature.
Connection with the Dutch Institute for Ecology
Via the so-called ‘LINT-subsidy’ provided by the governing body ‘Regieorgaan SIA (NWO)’, Jetske de Boer has connected Aeres University of Applied Sciences Wageningen to ‘the Netherlands Institute of Ecology' (NIOO-KNAW)’. This institute is located next to Aeres University of Applied Sciences Wageningen. In this way, the professorship combines the educational potential with NIOO-KNAW’s life science research. This connection provides the synergy that is necessary to advance in the transition towards a society that is able to work together with Nature in a sustainable way. The advantage of this collaboration is twofold: the education of students at Aeres Hogeschool Wageningen and their future pupils in green vocational education is enriched with thinking in terms of contexts and systems, while NIOO-KNAW’s fundamental research is able to respond to questions that arise in the field.
The professorship works on two sub-themes:
- Managing pest insects
- Increasing insect biodiversity
Both sub-themes are closely connected. By increasing biodiversity ecosystems regain their natural balance and problems caused by pest insects are reduced. Vice versa, when pest insects are managed in ecological ways, e.g. with less pesticides, biodiversity can increase. In the Netherlands, the oak processionary caterpillar provides a concrete and present-day example of this. This insect species causes health problems in humans and domestic animals, and these problems increase as a result of land use and climate related factors, and because natural enemies are (too) scarce in environments with declining biodiversity. The NIOO-KNAW has the unique opportunity of investigating a broad range of natural enemies of the oak processionary caterpillar (including birds, insects and microorganisms) with the aim of improving long-term management of this pest species. The second sub-theme focuses on the question of how vegetation management and other measures can be used to increase insect biodiversity. Our research creates opportunities to develop and appy ecological knowledge on insects in the field and in vocational education.
Dr Jetske de Boer has been active as an entomologist in academic research for 20 years, and through this, she strives to connect with questions that arise in the field. She has been a professor at Aeres University of Applied Sciences Wageningen since the 1st of May 2020.