Pest Defense caught up with Dr. Dawn Gouge, Medical Entomology Professor & Public Health IPM Specialist at the University of Arizona

What is your background and how does it apply to school IPM?  

I entered the IPM field from the perspective of maximizing the survival and ecological services of beneficial and nontarget organisms. I started as a PhD student researching the potential to use entomopathogenic nematodes as biocontrol agents. I integrated their biocontrol uses into an operational pest management system during my Post Doc.

I recorded more opportunities to leverage the ecological services of beneficial organisms while researching management of ornamentals, rice and soybean field crops as an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University (TAMU). TAMU increased my understanding of the need to preserve and maximize native or augmented biocontrol agents.

What is your role with the Pest Defense for Healthy Schools? 

I thoroughly enjoyed working in community IPM systems while at TAMU. I saw astonishing opportunities to mitigate risks to human health associated with pests and pest management practices. In 2000, I received a Community IPM position offer with the University of Arizona. I attended a local school IPM meeting and met Dr. Marc Lame during the first week on the job. At that meeting, I did my first crawl-through at a school facility. My eyes were saucers and my mouth was agape the entire time. Following this session, I continued to interact with a collective group of community IPMers focused on the enormous need to increase awareness and basic understanding of pests and pest management practices.  

Over time, a national network formed from collaborations facilitated by the IPM Institute, the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs and the USDA IPM Centers. A pivotal moment for many of us occurred when Dr. Marc Lame brought a group of change agents to Indiana University to hash out the details of the Monroe Model process for school IPM. The Model process emerged from early work done by Marc in collaboration with the Monroe County Community School Corporation in Indiana. The Monroe Model shared both science-based pest management practices and an enormous dose of social science-based diffusion of innovations theory. Later the USDA supported a national pest management strategic planning session that brought 50 scientists from around the country to TAMU to generate a national school IPM pest management strategic plan.  

In collaboration with the IPM Institute I served as the lead PI on an EPA grant that facilitated the coordination of materials for the initial on-line and in-person Pest Defense modules. The effort leveraged the expertise of more than 27 IPM experts across the country. Dr. Lawrence “Fudd” Graham and the IPM Institute obtained the final funding needed to generate the initial online Pest Defense modules.

What is the largest hurdle schools face when adopting an IPM program?

Obtaining low-bid IPM service contracts and the lack of IPM education and awareness remain two of the most important challenges and limitations.

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