Submitted by editor on 6 March 2020.

Antonino Cusumano has joined Oikos as a Subject Editor, welcome! He is a post-doc at the Laboratory of Entomology in Wageningen University, The Netherlands. We are very happy to have him join our team! Find out more about his interests and expertise in the interview below.


Personal webpage: https://www.vcard.wur.nl/Views/Profile/View.aspx?id=71824&ln=eng

Twitter: @__Antonio__

Keywords: parasitoid symbionts, plant-insect-microbe interactions, oviposition-induced plant volatiles, insect chemical ecology


1. What's your main research focus at the moment?

At the moment my main research focuses on the ecology of multi-trophic interactions and how symbionts associated with  carnivore insects can shape the strength of plant-insect interactions. Plants are not alone when interacting with herbivore and carnivore insects because microbial symbionts can act as “third players”  modulating plant responses to herbivory.  A group of common carnivore symbionts are polydnaviruses, which are associated with about 40.000 endoparasitoid species. Polydnaviruses are injected along with the parasitoid eggs into a caterpillar hosts and profoundly modify their physiology or behavior. By injecting viral particles into caterpillars, I experimentally manipulate the herbivore phenotype and investigate the consequences at the plant-insect interface at different levels of biological integration

2. Can you describe your research career? Where, what, when?

I completed my PhD in 2010 at the University of Palermo, Italy where I studied interspecific competitive interactions between parasitoid species. In my early-post doc I investigated plant responses against insect egg deposition in a tri-trophic perspective focusing on the role of oviposition-induced plant volatiles as chemical cues mediating attraction of egg parasitoids.   In 2016 I moved to Wageningen University as Marie-Curie individual fellow where I started exploring how parasitoid symbionts affect plant-insect interaction across four trophic levels. In 2018 I spent one year post-doc at the University of Montpellier, France to further study the mechanistic aspects underlying the direct and indirect effects of parasitoid-associated viruses on plants. From 2019 I came back in Wageningen to continue my research line on top-down effects of symbionts associated with  parasitoids in plant-based food webs

3. How come that you became a scientist in ecology?

I have always liked insects, particularly butterflies, since I was a child. The real trigger was probably during the MSc insect ecology course when I fell in love with them

4. What do you do when you're not working?

During my free time, I enjoy drawing and painting, especially oil on canvas. I like to read books and watch documentaries about the “old masters” of painting. Recently I realized that digital artwork is also fun.