Using Mathematical Modelling to Defeat Pests

By | October 19, 2019

[WOMAN]: So the problem is, that we’re aiming to address is, how to deal with invasive species or pest species. So there’s been quite a lot of work trying to get at how to deal
with these kinds of species Chemical pesticides is one approach that people have used a lot of in the past. That can have toxic consequences, so it’s not always great. An alternative is to use
bio control methods, so that means using a predator to try to eliminate the pests. So the predator will eat things. We want to try to basically refine this approach using something that’s been suggested through mathematical models and that is food supplementation
of the predators. The modeling work has shown that this kind of approach should be effective. [MAN]: So the math model is very general. It’s a predator-prey Lotka-Volterra system, which basically says that if you take away the prey, the predators going to die, right? But with the additional food, if you provide the predator with a little bit of additional,
constant additional food, then what can happen is the predator can clean out the prey and survive on the additional food. [SUSAN]: What we want to do is now combine the models with lab experiments, so setting up a simple system
where we can put a pest species. So here we’re using bacteria
as our sort of model and a predator species — we’re using a single-celled
protozoa that eats bacteria as our predator. So we can put those together and create this model system where we’re able to manipulate
things really easily and follow the dynamics
of the populations and see whether or not adding another’s food source is actually going to eliminate
this pest species, or, you know, what might be the additional biological parameters
that we’re not thinking about that might be important to go back to the models and refine the models and think about how the system works. [RANA]: Probably the most
exciting thing for me, to see these things translate to something,
which is real. So I think it’s very exciting.

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