Classical biological control of weeds can be a cost-effective, sustainable and ecologically sound way to manage exotic invasive weeds. Unqualified weed biocontrol success stories are, however, altogether too rare. Developing, using and teaching methods for quantitatively evaluating the impact of weed biocontrol treatments will increase the documentation of successful releases when it does occur, and will satisfy currently un-met planning needs. Post-release monitoring is ethically critical to ensuring accountable management of public lands and resources; monitoring is truly the only way to detect negative outcomes such as treatment failures and shortfalls, and nontarget impacts. Coordinating and participating in the search for and testing of new weed biocontrol agents based on stakeholder needs will increase weed biocontrol implementation. Basic research focused on insect-plant interactions will continue to improve the safety of this management tool, and identify biological and ecological impediments when control shortfalls occur.
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Sharlene’s interest in biological control began with her Master’s research, evaluating the suppression of stored product pests (bruchids) with a range of natural enemies. Her doctoral research examined the spatial and biotic interactions of a weed (wild oat) and insect pest (wheat stem sawfly) infesting Montana dryland spring wheat fields. A few short weeks after her dissertation defense she began working for Rocky Mountain Research Station as a post-doc, hired by Dr. George Markin (retired) to investigate the potential for operational scale weed biological control in fire affected landscapes. Sharlene briefly worked as an assistant research professor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University, Bozeman, where she retains affiliate faculty status, before returning to RMRS as a research entomologist in September 2008.