The declines in insect populations being observed around the world are alarming, given that insects provide vital ecosystem services such as pollination, decomposition and biological control. The loss of insect diversity in many areas is largely driven by the use of insecticides, especially in cities where chemical pest control is mostly unregulated and can even exceed amounts used in agriculture. This excessive use of insecticides threatens public health, biodiversity and ecosystem function. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a toolkit of pest control strategies which has been developed for agricultural systems to reduce reliance on chemical control. It is possible to use IPM in urban areas but stakeholders (e.g. urban residents, businesses and pest control professionals) have been slow to change their practices. The aim of my work is to understand the impact of urban insecticide use on biodiversity and insect mediated ecosystem services, and to shift urban pest control towards more sustainable practice. This involves identifying extensive knowledge gaps in the extent of pesticide use in cities and improving stakeholder engagement by understanding people’s values and offering alternative pest control solutions.
Dr Lizzy Lowe is a Postdoctoral researcher in the Behavioural Ecology group at Macquarie University. Lizzy completed her PhD at the University of Sydney in 2016 and was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Auckland in 2017. As an urban ecologist Lizzy is passionate about working with local communities to improve engagement with nature in cities. She has a particular passion for raising the public profile of underappreciated animals such as spiders, and you’ll often find her out leading ‘spider walks’ for community groups or chatting on radio about why we should love ‘creepy crawlies’.