Sujaya Rao  Fulbright Scholar to Ecuador and Professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Science, College of Agricultural Sciences

Dr. Rao conducted research on “Native Bees Associated with Ecuador Agriculture: Assessment, Conservation and Management” and taught “Applied Entomology and Introduction to Integrated Pest Management” at her host institution Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador in Quito earlier this year.

Sujaya Rao’s Reflections:

Although I expected my Fulbright experience to be rewarding, I had not envisioned that it would be transformative on so many levels! The extraordinary help provided by farmers, students, and new friends, and their efforts and interest in exposing me to their culture and the landscapes, left deep impressions on me.

At the professional level, the insights gained on pollinators and crop productions have made me take another look at pollinator problems in the US. The dependence on honey bees for pollination of our foods in western societies contrasts greatly with the diversity in pollinators in Ecuador. Besides bees, flies, bats, and humming birds are also important pollinators of crops. In the case of Ecuador, farmers are often not aware of what is pollinating their crop, since they regularly achieve reasonable yields.

Many agriculture-based industries in Ecuador are hungry for research. As soon as word spread that an US pollinator researcher was visiting, I received calls from multiple farmers wanting me to visit their farms and plantations and offer insights on how to improve their yields while reducing their costs associated with manual pollination.  I was, therefore, able to interact with Ecuadoreans from the coast, the Highlands and the Amazon, and experience, first-hand, life on farms and plantations. Every day provided a new bug-learning experience with new questions being raised in my mind about crop pollination and pest management with reduced dependence on toxic pesticides.

On a personal level, I now have a greater appreciation for a calmer and more family-driven way of life.  I found that walking, whenever I could, enabled me to learn an enormous amount about the local culture, and I now find myself walking around more in Corvallis and discovering places that I have not yet visited, even in my twelve years at OSU!

I can’t wait to get back to this gold mine in entomological opportunities, ie. Ecuador!  I am greatly motivated to continue to seek global experiences not just for myself but for all those who I interact with both professionally and personally.