Meghan Vankosky, research scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Follow @vanbugsky on X.
Follow @vanbugsky on X.

Meghan Vankosky, a research scientist in field crop entomology with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), works at the Saskatoon Research and Development Centre (RDC). She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alberta and completed her PhD at the University of Windsor. After completing her PhD, Vankosky spent a year in California on a postdoctoral project. She now lives in Saskatoon with her four-year-old standard poodle, Flurry.

Where did you work before AAFC?

Before AAFC, I worked at the University of California at Riverside. I was there one year as a postdoctoral researcher. While there, I collaborated on a release program for a parasitoid to control Asian citrus psyllid, which is an important pest of all kinds of citrus. Asian citrus psyllid, also known as ACP, vectors a disease that kills citrus trees – the disease has no cure and all infected trees eventually die. In California we were trying to slow down the spread of the insect (and the disease) by starting a biological control program.

What got you interested in this area of work?

Well, like many young people, I had no idea that being an entomologist was even a career option. When I started university, I had decided I was going to med school, but realized in my first year that I was not cut out for it.

In my second year I took a selection of courses. One of them was the introduction to entomology and it just went from there. Some fortuitous choices and some good luck and I ended up with an awesome co-mentor for my master’s program, Dr. Lloyd Dosdall, who sadly passed away a few years ago. I learned a lot from him and from other mentors in entomology.

Tell us a bit about what you are working on at AAFC.

Since I came to AAFC in Saskatoon, the biggest project I have been part of (and now co-lead with Jennifer Otani) is the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN). Jennifer and I collaborate closely with the provincial entomologists in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and we have funding support from nine different industry groups, including Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA) and the Agriculture Development Fund.

One of the major activities of this project is to maintain and expand our records of the annual population densities and distribution of key pests of Prairie crops, including bertha armyworm, cabbage seedpod weevil, diamondback moth, grasshoppers, pea leaf weevil, wheat midge and wheat stem sawfly.

These are the major pests we monitor each year. The monitoring data is used to develop the annual risk maps available on the PPMN website. We aim to have the maps ready to share online in December or January, so that we can talk about them at winter outreach events and so that farmers can use them when planning for the next growing season. The maps can be used to estimate insect-related risk to crops going into the next growing season.

Through the PPMN and our current funding, we are also trying to do more lab research to understand better the biology and population dynamics of some of these insects. We are also partnering with Dr. Boyd Mori, University of Alberta, to better understand if there are any risks of resistance development in the insect populations we monitor. Insecticide resistance can affect how we manage insect pests, and we would like to try to add that as a layer to our mapping exercise.

There are a lot of moving parts and pieces to this project, and it is highly collaborative. We have a lot of people who help collect data and share information with us so that we can put the maps together and keep historical records. The historical records are valuable, as we can use them to build models that can help us to predict and understand how insects respond to changing climate. We hope that the PPMN is a helpful tool that farmers and agronomists use to find reliable information about insects in general and about what insects could be a problem in their crops.

What can you say about the value of farmers providing funding and support to your organization?

It gives us an advantage in terms of our ability to do work that is for the public good and that will have a direct benefit to farmers. I think a lot of the work we do at AAFC and in university agriculture programs is all beneficial to agriculture, but knowing that the funds are coming from farmers towards research that aligns with the problems they are facing helps close that loop a little bit faster and bring that information back to farmers.

It is valuable that organizations like MCA have farmer board members as it provides clearer communication in terms of research priorities. I can write my proposals geared to what the research priorities of the organizations are, which are based on what farmers need.

How does that farmer funding and support directly benefit farmers?

A big piece of all the work we are doing with this project through the PPMN is providing information to farmers on a regular basis through our weekly updates and our insect of the week articles, and at the end of every season with insect risk maps. The funding also helps get us, as researchers, to outreach events where we can talk about our research with farmers and agronomists. These conversations not only allow us to share new information but provide us with helpful feedback.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Doing many different things! I learned all kinds of needle and handicrafts from my grandmothers and my mom growing up, so I do a bit of crocheting and cross stitching and I am learning how to embroider. I took up paint by numbers again during the pandemic, which is something I hadn’t done for years. I like to take my dog to obedience classes and learn how to teach him different things. Also, since the pandemic, I started building Lego again. Now that I am an adult and I have disposable income, my Lego collection is growing and growing. 

How do you celebrate agriculture?

I think by being an entomologist. I grew up on a cattle farm in west central Alberta. I am grateful that I grew up on a farm and had that experience, but I did not want to farm as an adult. I am very grateful that I can give back to agriculture and celebrate it by still working in agriculture by studying insects. I am glad that I can do research that I enjoy and that brings benefits to agriculture.

What gets you most excited about your work?

The insects and the people. The insects are very interesting, and we have a really great team of people here in Saskatoon. The entomology community across Canada is top notch. There are so many great people who work in this field who we collaborate with and learn from. That is what gets me excited about what we are doing.

Follow Meghan (@vanbugsky) on X.

Visit to find weekly updates and insect of the week articles during the growing season, and risk maps at the end of the season.