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Brust helps create grasshopper app

November 20, 2015

Mathew Brust Mathew Brust

CHADRON – Dr. Mathew Brust, Chadron State College life sciences professor, played a major role in providing research for a website behind the launch of a new app, Grasshoppers of the Western U.S., which helps ranchers, farmers and scientists identify 76 common rangeland grasshopper species in the field.

This diagnostic tool helps landowners and managers decide whether the grasshoppers they find are ones they should be concerned about or not. After that, the landowners can do further research to calculate the estimated cost of lost vegetation compared to the cost of treatment, Brust said.

“The economic importance of the app comes in its usefulness to ranchers and farmers who visually survey their land, estimate the number of grasshoppers per square yard and then use the app to help them decide when, and if, to spray for an infestation based on predominant species and their economic importance,” Brust said.

The Lucid mobile app was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Identification Technology Program (ITP) in Fort Collins, Colorado, in cooperation with an Australian company, Identic.

Brust was a key figure in building Edition 3 of the Grasshoppers of the Western U.S. website during his doctoral program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 2004 to 2007 while he was also a research assistant for the USDA. During this period, he contributed photos and detailed descriptions of about 12 species of rangeland grasshoppers. Features included in his descriptions include the taxonomy of adult and immature stages, plant preferences and geographical range.

Amanda Redford of ITP coded and designed Edition 4 of the website. ITP, part of the Plant Protection and Quarantine division of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, produces digital resources, websites, apps, and digital images to support the identification of plant pests.

Brust, working with a student advisee, Sean Whipple, helped make Edition 4 a reality by contributing photos and writing descriptions of several new species. Brust also edited older descriptions on the fact sheets that allow users to confirm identified grasshoppers.

Redford, whose team has developed over 40 identification tools, said Brust was the driving force behind Edition 4, helping ITP provide users access to current information and educate the public about grasshoppers.

“He’s so enthusiastic. His passion for this project is the reason Edition 4 exists. This website is unique because it has been updated so many times and a number of people have participated in it. Mat provided the influence to make sure everything came together. It was a long process and took a lot of hard work,” Redford said.

Brust is quick to acknowledge the role of the late Dr. Robert E. Pfadt, a University of Wyoming professor, who is nationally recognized for his foundational work in the 1994 Field Guide to Common Western Grasshoppers. Redford said the majority of images on the tool are Dr. Pfadt’s slides that Brust scanned to create digital images.

“It was honor to be able to handle his slide collection,” Brust said. ”I’m probably the only other person besides him to do so.”

Brust is proud of his affiliation with ITP.

“It’s neat to see how this has grown. It’s kind of an honor. I’m proud to be part of this and get to work with these people. Chris Reuter worked on it before me and Nelson Foster, a CSC Distinguished Alumni, did too. I hope this site keeps improving and growing when I’m done,” Brust said.

The apps are available for the iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices at USDA APHIS @ iTunes App Store and USDA APHIS ITP @ Google Play Store.

—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator

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