Mr Garyn Townsend

PhD student


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I am currently in the second year of my PhD in Entomology under the supervision of Prof. Brett Hurley, Prof. Martin Hill (Rhodes University) and Prof. Francois Roets (Stellenbosch University) in the Department of Entomology at the University of Pretoria. My PhD project focuses on the distribution, spread and impacts of the invasive polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) in indigenous forests in South Africa. I am also investigating the recruitment of natural enemies onto PSHB in order to find a potential biological control agent for this pest.

The PSHB, Euwallacea fornicatus, is an ambrosia beetle native to Southeast Asia. The beetle bores galleries into host trees where it releases a fungal symbiont, Fusarium euwallaceae, which grows within the xylem vessels of the tree, reducing water uptake and causing severe stress and sometimes death. The PSHB was discovered in South Africa in 2017, and has since been confirmed in eight of the nine provinces of the country. The PSHB attacks various ornamental trees and several native tree species, posing a major threat not only to agricultural crops and urban trees, but also to native forests throughout South Africa. Over the past 3 years I have been monitoring the impacts of this beetle and its fungus on indigenous tree species and tracking its movement through indigenous Afrotemperate, coastal and swamp forests.

My research will contribute to our understanding of this pest and its impacts in indigenous forests. It will also help guide management objectives and protocols in the future.