Scott C Merrill
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I examine population dynamics within pest-crop agroecosystems including the potential effects of climate change. Additionally, I create experimental games to quantify the decision making processes in various environmental arenas. To address these systems, I synthesize information derived from field data, experimental gaming data using a variety of quantitative techniques including data simulation, population modeling, spatiotemporal forecast modeling and landscape ecology. An important goal of my work  is the creation of applicable and predictive models to reduce the negative impacts on ecosystems. For example, I develop models that help inform Integrated Pest Management systems, reduce the spread of disease in our hoofstock industries, and improve water quality in the Lake Champlain watershed.

Research Assistant Professor

Department of Plant and Soil Science
Managing Director: Social-Eco
logical Gaming & Simulation (SEGS) Lab
Research on Adaptation and Climate Change's (RACC) Policy and Governance team

North East Water Resources Network's (NEWRnet) Social Dimensions team

Quantitative thinking in the life sciences, PSS 381. Fall 2012-2015 
Ecological Gaming, HCOL 185, HCOL 186. Fall 2013, Spring 2013-2015
Experimental Economics: Gaming and Simulation,
PA 395. Fall 2014 
Scott preparing a
                                              mixture of aphids and
                                              cream of wheat (c) used to
                                              infest winter wheat

University of Vermont
63 Carrigan Drive
Jeffords Hall, Rm 217
Burlington, VT 05405-1737
Ph: (802) 656-0711
Fax: (802) 656-4656

Recent news
March 2016 Come join me when I talk about Experimental Game research and the next steps towards advancing data gathering for complex, social-ecological systems. The talk will be on March 25th, 2016 in Jeffords 112 at 1:30. Refreshments will be available in Jeffords 107 at 1:00 prior to the talk.

February 2016 We are running experimental games that to examine the effect of information and uncertainty on adoption of animal health protocols by swine producers. Our results should provide help us reduce the potential negative impact of new or emerging diseases on  livestock welfare.

February 2016 A Research on Adaptation to Climate Change retreat offered me a chance to talk about recent advances in collecting data to study social-ecological systems such as collecting data using experimental games. Check out the talk here!

August 2015 Our interns successfully completed and presented on their experimental game research at the NEWRnet regional conference. I was very impressed with their work and look forward to continuing to collaborate with them in the future.

July 2015 Noah El-Naboulsi and Arkia Wynn are running experimental games and collecting data.

June 2015 The interns are here! Both NEWRnet and RACC interns have arrived for orientation at UVM. I had the pleasure of introducing each of these groups to RACC's Policy and Governance team and NEWRnet's Social Dimensions team. Additionally, we had the first successful test of the SEGS lab's mobile simulation and gaming capacity. We brought all 17 tablets over from the SEGS lab to UVM's Davis Center to play a new experimental game. This new game is a temporally dynamic interactive farming and river pollution game (written by yours truly in R!)

April 2015 We just received the largest grant that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has ever received. This project titled A human behavioral approach to reducing the impact of livestock pest or disease incursions of socio-economic importance will research ways to reduce the negative impacts of new, emerging diseases to our hoofstock (the pork, dairy and beef industries). How did I get involved in this project you ask? One aspect of this grant will be examining decision making by those that can impact the flow of diseases through the industry, such as truck drivers carrying milk and the sanitation practices that they use. We don't want to actually infect our hoofstock with new diseases, but want to be able to study how people respond both to the threat of diseases and to outbreak scenarios. To do this, we have decided to use virtual worlds, and allow stakeholders (such as the dairy drivers) to play experimental games in these worlds. This experimental gaming approach, much like war games, can provide exceptionally valuable data that might help us reduce the negative impacts of diseases to producers and the industry.

February 2015 Another Ecological Gaming course is underway! I have tweaked a few of the programs and am excited to see how the students respond to these ecological challenges.

January 2015 Validating spatiotemporal predictions of an important pest of small grains was just published in Pest Management Sciences. This research provides good evidence for a working model that will provide within-field predictions of aphid densities in fields that have not been scouted solely using remotely sensed data (e.g., topographical data and weather data).

January 2015 (Update: The challenge was 90% successful with a solid manuscript draft completed but also some notes about where additional data are needed to complete the story). I am excited about to try another Three-day writing challenge! This time around the team has changed but the goal is the same: Produce a complete manuscript from scratch within a three day window! I intend to write a manuscript examining resistance development to genetically modified 
Bt corn.

November 2014 I am excited to have the opportunity to take over the acting Lead Scientist positions for NEWRnet's Social Dimensions VT group  as well as the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) Policy and Governance team! I get to work with a brand new group of great scientists!

July 2014 I am excited to be teaching my
Quantitative thinking in the life sciences course again this fall. Additionally, I will be getting the opportunity to facilitate Experimental Economics: Gaming and Simulation. I expect to be having a lot of fun teaching and working with students this upcoming semester.

June 2014 "This is a paradigm-breaking paper" - a great quote from the editor of our just-accepted manuscript entitled "Examining the competitive advantage of Diuraphis noxia (Hemiptera: Aphididae) biotype 2 over biotype 1". Working with a great team (Frank Peairs, Terri Randolph, Jerry Michels and Thia Walker), we found a substantial overwintering competitive advantage in one aphid biotype over another within the same species.

April 2014. The Social-Ecological Gaming and Simulation laboratory (SEGS lab) is getting closer to reality. Our new location will be in 105A Jeffords Hall. We expect to begin building the physical infrastructure and transitioning into this space around the middle of May.

February 2014. I am excited to be joining the North East Water Research Network (NEWRnet) to help develop simulation gaming platforms aimed at informing the farming community about the impacts of their management decisions on the agricultural ecosystem and water quality.

July 2013. Back by popular demand! In addition to my regularly Fall scheduled Quantitative Thinking in the Life Sciences course, I will be teaching my Ecological Gaming course to sophomore honors students.

July 2013. My work (with Shawn Walter, Frank Peairs and Erin Schliep) modeling the distribution of European corn borer moths in pivot-irrigated corn has been accepted. It has some interesting findings suggesting that the random mating assumption inherent to the high dose refuge strategy may be a poor assumption in semi-arid corn growing regions. This finding has significant resistance management implications.

May 2013. My Ecological Gaming course has come to an end. Some of my personal favorite simulation game challenges from the course were a simulation of Mike Steele's work involving acorn-caching squirrels, hawks and oak trees, and a simulation of industrial melanism in moths, which let us examine evolution.

March 10, 2013. I am excited and overwhelmed to announce the birth of my daughter Shea Alyssa Adair Merrill, weighing 8 lbs, 4 oz. All of us are healthy and extremely happy!  

January 2013. Laurie Kerzicnik, along with yours truly and others just published some captivating spider work that examined the diversity of spiders in a variety of eastern Colorado agroecosystems (titled "Faunistic composition of spiders in eastern Colorado agroecosystems and analysis of spider density and diversity in crop-intensified agroecosystems" Environmental Entomology.

December 2012. I have just wrapped up teaching my first course "Quantitative Thinking in the Life Sciences". This was a fantastic course to teach. The students seemed very engaged and (I hope) took a lot out of the class. We looked at each their projects from starting with conceptual framework, and ending with simulating and testing those data. Along the way, we learned R coding and played around with statistics and probability.

November 2012. Come see my research talk at this year's Entomological Society of America's meeting in Knoxville. I will be presenting my work entitled "Using the relationships between temperature, metabolism and consumption to predict the effects of climate change on pest pressure" which will be Sunday, November 11th presented as part of the Symposium entitled "Linkages between climate change and global insect pestilence: from theory to practice"

November 2012. It was a pleasure to present my research discussing the links between metabolism, consumption, demography and climate change at the Plant and Soil Science weekly seminar series.

October 2012. Some of my recent spatial ecology modeling work was just published titled "Quantifying Russian wheat aphid pest intensity across the Great Plains" Environmental Entomology. I really enjoyed this work because of the many ah ha! moments. I was surprised by the strength of the signal suggesting that the previous summer conditions were strongly linked to spring aphid density.

June 2012. I am currently developing code for an Ecological Gaming class that I hope to teach in the spring of 2013. This class focuses on teaching the foundations of Ecology through the lens of a computer simulation game. Check out this animation
of a simulation of the tri-trophic world.

March 2012. I have just returned from a engaging three day trip out to the University of Idaho to give a talk for their Interdisciplinary Climate Change Seminar. My talk, entitled "Predicting the Effects of Climate Change on Agricultural Pest Incidence: How Secure is Our Food Supply?" discussed some of the possible effects of climate change on the Sunflower stem weevil, the Russian wheat aphid, and then finished with a broad sketch describing the potential impact of increasing temperature on global pest pressure.

January 2012. My work with Sheri Pucherelli, Frank Peairs, and Terri Randolph was published in the journal Arthropod-Plant Interactions. This work entitled "Russian wheat aphid (Hemiptera: Aphididae) reproduction and development on five nonclutivated greass hosts" discusses host quality and the potential for selection pressure on many of the grass host species that the Russian wheat aphid uses during the oversummering months (and likely year round). http://www.springerlink.com/content/bqmv53526572t087/

December 2011. I have officially landed at the University of Vermont in the Department of Plant and Soil Science. I am excited about getting started.

November 2011. Come see my research posters at this year's Entomological Society of America's meeting in Reno. I will be presenting my work entitled "Climate change and the perils of linear thinking" on Wednesday, November 16 in Exhibition Hall 3
, First Floor (Reno-Sparks Convention Center). Also, check out some of the my work with Terri Randolph and others entitled "Suppression of Russian wheat aphid (Diuraphis noxia) populations with natural enemies present in the wheat system" which is also presented on Wednesday in Exhibition Hall 3.

November 2011. I am just back from spending a week with Josh Tewksbury at the University of Washington. I think we will have some strong work coming out soon looking at the effects of climate change on pest pressure on a global scale.

October 2011. I am starting a new position as a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont in the Department of Plant and Soil Science! There are some really exciting prospects with people out there that I am eager to start working on.

August 2011. Check out my podcast with Dr Jai Ranganathan on Curiouser and Curiouser Podcasts, a Miller-McCune production. We discuss the future of food, some of the crazy pests in agriculture and how the Organic foods label may reduce our food supply resilence. http://www.miller-mccune.com/curiouser/could-organic-farming-threaten-our-food-supply-34734/

June 2011. Our work (SCM, Shawn Walter, Frank Peairs and Jennifer Hoeting) describing the within-field spatial variablility of the Western bean cutworm has finally been published by Enviromental Entomology (entitled "Spatial variability of Western bean cutworm populations in irrigated corn. This work provides a first step towards developing precision pest management tactics for controlling this pest of corn and beans.

June 2011.
Assefa Gebre-Amlak did a great job in getting our work on degree-day models for the Sunflower stem weevils out to the farming community through a publication called the Golden Plains Area Agricultural Handbook (this section in the handbook was authored by SCM, Assefa Gebre-Amlak, J. Scott Armstrong and Frank Peairs). This research provides degree day information to help time scouting for Sunflower stem weevil in sunflower crops.

June 2011. I presented my work at two different venues this month. The first was a seminar given as part of the
NCEAS (National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis) Ecolunch Seminar Series, and the second was for the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) in Brisbane, Australia. I really enjoyed these interactions and felt I was able to communicate the necessity of serious forethought when trying to parameterize the variance signal in spatially explicit climate change modeling of insect pests.

April 2011. Very exciting news! On April 9th, my son Brennan Cole Adair Merrill was born at 7 lbs, 4 oz.

March 2011. I just finished teaching a Kids Do Ecology program with 5th graders from Monroe Elementary School in Santa Barbara. Our project examined how the shape of a birds beak could influence what food it consumes. I will be making a link soon on this website to show our project, including methods, results and the poster that the class created to explain their project. 

December 2010. I will be presenting my research on the potential effects of climate change on the habitat of the Russian wheat aphid at the Entomological Society of America meeting in San Diego at 8:00 am on Tuesday, December 14th in the Town and Country Hotel and Convention Center, Grand Exhibit Hall. Research Poster

December 2010. Two of my peer-reviewed Colorado State University Technical Reports will be published this month. The first, entitled "Estimating Russian wheat aphid (Homoptera: Aphididae) overwintering success using weather data", describes development of a predictive model for estimating spring Russian wheat aphid densities using overwintering weather conditions. The second, entitled "Examining the correlation between fall and spring population densities of the Russian wheat aphid (Hemiptera: Aphididae)", seeks to illustrate the correlation between the density of Russian wheat aphids before the onset of winter to the density of aphids in the late winter and early spring.

April 2010. I enjoyed giving a talk for the NCEAS (National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis) Ecolunch Seminar Series. My talk discussed the link between Precision Agriculture and Landscape Ecology. I used an example that analyzed different fertilization strategies (a traditional fertilization strategy versus a Precision Agriculture based yield zone strategy) and a Precision Pest Management example to illustrate the importance of Precision Agricultural strategy and the need for quality ecological models to inform management decisions.

March 2010. I have just returned from my first trip to Washington DC since I was a kid. While I was there I presented my work on developing outbreak prediction models to improve Russian wheat aphid pest management strategy at the USDA-Agriculture & Food Research Initiative, Arthropods & Nematodes Biology & Management Programís awardee workshop.

February 2010. I just sent in proofs to the Journal of Economic Entomology for a manuscript entitled "Non-Linear Degree Day Models of the Sunflower Stem Weevil (Curculionidae: Coleoptera)" from work with Assefa Gebre-Amlak, John "Scott" Armstrong and Frank Peairs that should help time scouting for Sunflower stem weevil in sunflower crops.

August 2009. Environmental Entomology just published "Diuraphis noxia Reproduction and Development with a Comparison of Intrinsic Rates of Increase to Other Important Small Grain Aphids: A Meta-analysis" based on my work with Thomas Holtzer and Frank Peairs . This work was innovative not only for its findings about life history traits of small grain aphids but because of the way that we handled the lack of consistently reported units of error (e.g., the standard error of the measurement) when modeling meta-data.

August 2009. Colorado State University's Agricultural Experiment Station just published our technical bulletin that discusses the displacement of Russian wheat aphid Biotype 1 by Russian wheat aphid Biotype 2, which discusses the spread of a new and virulent (to wheat) biotype of this aphid and its impacts on wheat breeding.

July 2009. Frank Peairs and I just received a grant from USDA-CSREES Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to start work on developing outbreak prediction models for the improvement of Russian wheat aphid pest management strategies across many of the Great Plains states.

April 2009. My first color figure was just published in the Journal of Economic Ento
mology within an article entitled "Modeling Spatial Variation of Russian Wheat Aphid Overwintering Populations in Colorado Winter Wheat" based on modeling work with Thomas Holtzer, Frank Peairs and Phil Lester. This figure depicts modeled Russian wheat aphid densities within a winter wheat field in Eastern Colorado.