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Justin B Runyon

Research Entomologist
1648 South 7th Avenue, MSU Campus
Bozeman, MT 597177-2780
Phone: 406-994-4872
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Current Research

1. Understanding success and failure of classical biocontrol through elucidation of the underlying chemical ecology of interactions between biocontrol agents and their host plants. 2. Foreign exploration and the evaluation of potential biocontrol agents for rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea).3. Taxonomy of long-legged flies (Diptera: Dolichopodidae), especially the so-called micro-dolichopodids and New World genera of the subfamily Sympycninae.

Research Interests

Biological control is one of the few tools capable of managing widespread exotic plant invasions, which, at its most successful, can offer long-term solutions to weed problems. However, some biological control agents obtain approval and are released, but fail to impact weed populations. This is troublesome because exploration, testing, and approval for each agent take many years and is estimated to cost several millions of dollars to complete. Moreover, ineffective agents can persist and cause unwanted ecological changes in the communities in which they occur. A better understanding of the interactions between biocontrol agents and their invasive host plants is needed to identify the factors which promote or limit successful biocontrol. My approach is to apply the chemical ecology of plant-herbivore interactions to classical biological control of weeds - two fields which have largely progressed independently to date. Chemistry plays a central role in determining ecological outcomes between plants and insects, and should provide information that can be used to better predict which potential agents are most likely to be effective.

Past Research

1. Chemical Ecology of interactions between invasive parasitic plants, their host plants, and insect herbivores. 2. Biological control and chemical ecology of the tritrophic system consisting of the wheat stem sawfly, host plants, and natural enemies.3. Taxonomy and revisionary studies of long-legged flies (Diptera: Dolichopodidae).

Why This Research is Important

Invasive species present one of the greatest threats to the health and sustainability of ecosystems worldwide. This research will better position us to devise and apply biological control to address plant invasions. It will also advance our basic understanding of the ecology of plant-insect interactions and the conditions under which herbivory translates into meaningful changes in plant populations - fundamental ecological questions that hold great promise for managing invasive plants.


  • University of Virginia's College at Wise, VA, BS Biology and Mathematics, 1998
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, MS Entomology, 2001
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, Ph.D. Entomology, 2008

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Research Highlights


Biological control of invasive plants

Scientists are studying chemical ecology regarding the biocontrol of weeds and discovering that biocontrol insects affect weed chemistry in very ...


Unwanted Side Effects of Roads Are Invasive Species

Monitoring invasive plants is an important component of forest restoration


Last updated on : 01/15/2014