The Conservation Biological Control Short Course

2015 Annual Report for EW14-035

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $72,050.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2018
Grant Recipient: The Xerces Society
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Eric Mader
The Xerces Society

The Conservation Biological Control Short Course


Native insects that attack crop pests are an overlooked resource. Although vast numbers of such beneficial insects are at work on farms across the world, they are eclipsed in farm education by a smaller diversity of pest species. Yet, as a large body of research now demonstrates, farmers as diverse as pumpkin growers in New Mexico and wine grape producers in eastern Washington benefit from natural pest control.

The Conservation Biological Control Short Course synthesizes that body of research and offers realistic solutions for enhancing beneficial insect populations on farms. Specific course topics include beneficial insect biology, designing habitat for beneficials, pesticide risk mitigation, securing financial support through USDA programs, and real-world case studies.

This project, the outgrowth of a 6-year research initiative conducted by the Xerces Society and university research partners, for the first time ever presents conservation biological control as an easy-to-adopt framework for multiple crop systems.

The audience for this project includes IPM specialists, Extension personnel, NRCS conservation planners, Soil and Water Conservation District technicians, state departments of agriculture, crop consultants, and sustainable agriculture organizations.

The project is being promoted through multiple channels, as well as in partnership with relevant agencies and State SARE Coordinators. Qualitative and quantitative post-course feedback from participants will be incorporated on an ongoing basis.

Based upon the overwhelmingly successful results of a prior PDP project using this same model (related to pollinator conservation), we are confident this project will foster widespread adoption of course concepts across the region.

Objectives/Performance Targets

During this 3-year project, we will deliver 12 Conservation Biological Control Short Courses in all Western SARE states. The major product of the Conservation Biological Control Short Course is a community of more than 350 farm educators, crop consultants, and conservation planners who are empowered with new knowledge and the enthusiasm, motivation, and confidence to share that knowledge with the farmers they support.

Through this project, participants will increase their knowledge of beneficial insect biology, habitat requirements, the design and installation of new habitat, pesticide risk mitigation, and how to support these efforts through USDA conservation programs. With this new knowledge, participants will be empowered to directly support conservation biological control projects with their clients and to provide farmers with advice on how to fine-tune existing practices.


In 2015 we recruited two instructional specialists to support curriculum development and course delivery. Those specialists include Dr. Hillary Sardiñas, an entomologist and agroecology specialist who has worked extensively in large-scale western cropping systems through her graduate work at UC Berkeley, and who brings fluent Spanish-language capacity to support our outreach if necessary. Our second specialist, Dr. Thelma Heidel-Baker is an IPM specialist and organic farmer who previously worked as an Extension IPM educator at the University of Iowa.

During 2015 we finalized course curriculum for each of the six 45-minute modules that constitute the Conservation Biological Control Short Course. To support hands-on learning in the field, we developed a farmscape-level “Beneficial insect Habitat Assessment Tool,” which allows our instructors to lead guided field tours at course locations where participants quantify and score the relative habitat value of different landscape features. Along with the habitat assessment tool, we are currently in the process of developing a companion Beneficial Insect Monitoring Protocol, which guides participants through a field sampling process to collect, classify, and calculate beneficial insect populations on farms.

During the fourth quarter of 2015, we began identifying possible venues for the first events, in coordination with local partners. Preliminary plans include an event with King County Conservation District in Washington for June 3, and an early summer course with Western Nevada College, in Fallon, Nevada. By late winter 2016, we anticipate that we will have secured venues and confirmed guest lecturers for short courses in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington (with additional states lined up soon afterward).

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

By completing the Conservation Biological Control Short Course, participants will gain a comprehensive understanding of beneficial insect ecology, the design and installation of habitat features that support those insects, and concepts for balancing the needs of beneficial insects with farm practices.

The broader, long-lasting impact of this train-the-trainer approach will be greater adoption of conservation biological control by farmers, greater adoption of new pesticide risk mitigation practices, increased participation in USDA conservation programs, and enhanced biodiversity in rural communities.


Jessa Cruz
Senior Pollinator Habitat Conservation Specialist
Xerces Society
628 NE Broadway, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5032326639
Jennifer Hopwood
Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist
Xerces Society
628 NE Broadway, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5032326639
Mace Vaughan
Pollinator Program Director
Xerces Society
628 NE Broadway, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5032326639