Ms Luki-Marie Scheepers
I graduated with a Biochemistry degree in 2017 at the University of Pretoria, and completed my Honours in Chemistry in 2018 at the same institution. It was in this time that I was exposed to the world of chromatography and structural elucidation of plant-extracted compounds that brought me closer to separation and structure determining techniques in gaseous state. I am currently pursuing my PhD in Chemical Ecology.
My MSc research was aimed toward finding, or validating pheromones from insect-derived headspace samples, specifically for the Eucalyptus snout beetle, Gonipterus sp. 2 (Curculionidae), and the Pine Emperor moth, Nudaurelia clarki (Saturniidae). This was achieved with laboratory methods including GC- EAD (Gas Chromatography and Electroantennography), GC-MS and micro-derivatization techniques. The pheromone of N. clarki was previously identified from N. cytherea - a species known to occur in the Cape. Thus, my research was focused on validating the usability of the same pheromone for N. clarki in field trials.
I am currently pursuing a PhD in Chemical Ecology. This study will build on the foundational work from my MSc for the Gonipterus sp. 2 and N. clarki, and will broaden the focus to include a few other economically important South African plantation pests. The aim of this study is to identify attraction pheromones for the respective new species, and to validate the usability of these pheromone blends in field trials. The study aims to ultimately identify species-specific pheromone tools for integrative pest management tactics for the chosen pest species in South Africa.
My first review- published!
As Chemist graduate, the multi-disciplinary world of Chemical Ecology is exhilarating. To get the Chemistry right in biological systems, the understanding of the biology of a target pest is essential. Upon starting my MSc studies in 2018, I wished there was an article summarizing what I needed to know to get started on my project on a Curculionid species.
So, I wrote a review to fill the gap and was fortunate enough to get published!
Many Curculionid weevils, commonly called snout weevils, are plant pests globally. Every species has a unique biology, and unique blend of chemicals in their pheromones (weevil-produced volatiles for attracting members of the same species). This influences all aspects of using these volatiles as pest management tactic: from identification of the chemical blend to field-level trapping and/or monitoring uses. This review highlights key factors to consider for pheromone pest management development for beetles in the Curculionidae family up to 2020.
Even though my graduate studies are focused on the Chemistry of insects, I have always loved biological systems in general. The finer detailed understanding of how biological systems work individually and on an integrated level gets me excited- especially when I can apply it in some way. Human cell biology also holds a special place in my heart, and I hope to encounter some research in this field in the future.
I have many interests other than academics, including competitive ballroom and latin dancing, hiking and playing the violin.
Ms Luki-Marie Scheepers, a PhD student in the Applied Chemical Ecology research group in FABI, presented her and her co-authors’ work on the Pine Emperor moth, Nudaurelia clarki, at the prestigious Entomological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting ‘Entomology 2020’. Annual conferences like these are usually highly anticipated collaboration and networking events and this year was no different despite it being hosted virtually. The online platform empowered a global audience, from 51 countries, to watch a total of 87 symposia divided into sections including systematics, medical science, ecosystems and physiology. The symposium content was full of variety, ranging from how bumblebees cope with self-created heat, how a fly evades your swat on a neural level and so much more. This conference illustrates the grit and innovation of researchers worldwide to continue networking, collaborating, innovating and working towards a finding answers for real-world problems despite a gripping global restriction on movement.
Professor Jeremy Allison (Extraordinary Professor in FABI at UP) joined Luki-Marie Scheepers, Josephine Queffelec, Elisa Pal and Quentin Guignard on a field trip to Underberg, near the Drakensberg from 2-4 March.