Adrian Marshall, 28
Postdoctoral research associate, Washington State University
Adrian Marshall is researching new, environmentally sustainable methods of controlling tree fruit pests in the Wenatchee Valley as a postdoctoral research associate at Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research Extension Center.
It’s been his focus since he was a student at Wenatchee High School.
“Since I was young, I have had a curiosity about the way the natural world works, especially interactions between plants and insects,” he said.
His first job, while still at WHS, was as a summer field assistant at the extension center in Wenatchee. His work contributed to codling moth and stink bug management programs for North Central Washington apple growers. Inspired to pursue a career as a research entomologist, after earning both his high school diploma and associate degree through the Running Start program at Wenatchee Valley College in 2011, he went on to the University of Idaho. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology in fall 2014, then started on a doctoral degree in entomology back where he started — at the WSU Tree Fruit Research Extension Center. During five years of graduate school, he gained experience in leadership through service in two graduate student associations, honing his communications skills along the way. He’s won national and regional awards for his presentations and secured more than $300,000 in grant funding.
He also reached out to the community, leading educational farm walks, training Boy Scout troops in insect identification, assisting the USDA in high school outreach programs and helping organize presenters to showcase their research in the Science in our Valley weekly seminar series.
After earning his Ph.D. he was hired as a postdoctoral research associate working on insect pest management in cherries. For the past 18 months, he has focused on developing sustainable techniques for controlling the leafhopper vectors of X-disease phytoplasma in stone fruits. This pathogen re-emerged five years ago after decimating cherry and stone fruit crops in the 1950s and has reached epidemic levels in Washington state with current losses of more than $120 million in cherries alone.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I most revere the communities and organizations, from universities and professional organizations to my mentors and peers, that have helped me pursue entomology and build the skill set I have today. It is inspiring to see the impacts of the research I was a part of both in local agriculture — with netting over apple orchards — and internationally, contributing to research on invasive insects in tree fruit.
Q: Who or what inspires you to be successful?
A: There are many factors that inspire me to be a successful entomologist, but my primary desire is to help growers identify paths to both, improve fruit production and minimize environmental impacts. For the past 50 years, growers and scientists in the Wenatchee Valley have been world leaders in developing environmentally sustainable pest management programs to conserve beneficial insects like predators and pollinators.
For example, entomologists at the TFREC worked with the local tree fruit industry to pioneer control techniques such as using less toxic insecticides or switching control methods to disrupt chemical communication between pests in order to conserve predators and improve pest management programs.
To be successful today means to integrate combinations of control techniques which do not disrupt other services the ecosystem provides, are sustainable, and still achieve a high enough level of control for growers to stay profitable.
Currently, working on X-disease in cherries, I have met many third- and fourth-generation growers who face the tragic risk of removing their family orchards due to X-disease. Knowing the work I am a part of impacts the community and has the potential to help growers save their orchards is very motivating.