Joe Ballenger’s CV


University of Georgia, Athens, GA
M.S., Entomology, December 2012
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Michael Strand
Thesis Title: Microplitis demolitor Bracovirus Blocks the Encapsulation Response of Pseudoplusia includens
The mechanisms behind cytokine disruption and recovery of the caterpillar immune system after Bracovirus infection were investigated. Cytokine processing and signaling in caterpillars is unaffected by infection with a symbiotic virus carried by Microplitis demolitor encoding virulence factors used in immunosuppression of its host. One of these factors, Glc 1.8, is important in causing loss of adhesion. The expression of this protein decreases during parasitoid development without associated hemocyte recovery.

Iowa State University, Ames, IA
B.S., Entomology, Cum Laude, Spring 2010


Monsanto, St. Louis MO
Contractor (through Randstad), Supervisors: (Upon Request) November 2014-Present.

Performs diet-overlay mortality/stunting bioassays to test potential insecticidal components against different insects including Lygus and Leptinotarsa. Roles within the lab vary, but include insect rearing, growth chamber maintenance, performing experiments, and lab maintenance. More detailed explanation available upon request.

Iowa State University, EEOB, Ames, IA.
Lab Volunteer, Supervisor: (Upon Request) June 2014 – November 2014
Volunteering as a biweekly lab assistant. Daily tasks are varied, but largely involve assisting with bioassays and field work. One project is assisting with bioassays involving honeybee nutrition and viral defense. Responsibilities include feeding bees specified mixes of pollen, sampling bees for future analysis, performing Varroa mite counts, and assisting with experimental setup. Molecular work consists of RNA extractions, and measuring RNA concentrations of prepared mRNA samples. Field work consists of identifying Polistes colonies to species in situ, and relocating nests to either lab or another field site. Public outreach responsibilities include preparing individualized communications to beekeepers to inform them about pathogens found in their hives.

USDA, ARS, Stoneville, MS.
BCPRU, Supervisor: (Upon Request) March 2013 – March 2014
Daily tasks involved care of plants and insects for research purposes. Research involved creating and maintaining strains of Coleomegilla maculata for research purposes. Performed or planned crosses of lab-generated strains of C. maculata. Performed DNA extractions and ran gels for experiments. Plant care consisted of culturing Kudzu plants from field specimens, and maintaining cultured Kudzu plants in greenhouses. Lab administration, consisting of timely ordering supplies and fixing broken lab equipment, was also an important responsibility.

University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Department of Entomology, Supervisor: Dr. Michael Strand August 2010 – December 2012
Research Assistant
The mechanisms behind cytokine disruption and recovery of the insect immune system after Bracovirus infection were investigated. Insects were reared to specific stages and parasitized under close observation. Encapsulation assays were performed, which consisted of surgically inserting glass rods into caterpillars and dissecting them at different timepoints. Numerous techniques including virus isolation, western blots, fluorescent microscopy and cell isolation were used to complete the goals of the project.

USDA, ARS, Ames, IA, Supervisor: (Upon Request) May 2009 – May 2010
NCRPIS Entomology Student Researcher
Daily tasks involved building, maintaining and preparing colonies of bees for the purpose of pollination. Assisted rearing flies for pollination purposes; the introduction and rearing of queens, pest identification and disposal; deployed new colonies to field to facilitate crop pollination; specimen rearing for research purposes; developed experimental protocols to test Trichogramma as biocontrol for Galleria mellonella.
Iowa State University, Ames, IA

Iowa State University, EEOB, Supervisor: (Upon Request) Fall 2009
Student Researcher
Researched Idarnes phylogeny which consisted of utilizing molecular techniques including PCR, sequencing and phylogenetics software to retrace evolution of mutualistic and parasitic relationships in fig pollination systems

Iowa State University, Department of Entomology, Supervisor: (Upon Request) Spring 2009
Student Researcher
Researched methods of quantifying metabolism in Amblyomma americanum and flood ecology of Amblyomma americanum, investigated drowning vs gas diffusion models of underwater survival

Wal*Mart Photolab, Ankeny, IA
November 2005 – June 2010
Daily tasks involved developing pictures for customers, machine maintenance, hazardous waste management, enforcing copyright policies, monitoring inventory, training new employees, and maintaining excellent customer service. Major responsibility was developing film negatives and pictures. Developing was accomplished using a Fujifilm Minilab automated film processor, and a Frontier 370 automated picture developer. Hazardous waste was disposed using automated silver extractor. Maintenance and repair of all machines, including testing of silver extractor discharge for silver contamination, was an important responsibility.


University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Teaching Assistant Fall 2010
BIOL 1107/1107L – Taught introductory biology with laboratory including basic enzymology, PCR and other molecular techniques as part of a hypothesis-driven writing intensive course. Assisted students in performing experiments, interpreting data and writing reports.

Teaching Assistant Spring 2011
ENTO 2010 – Assisted with introductory entomology, Insects in the Environment.

Teaching Assistant Fall 2011- Fall 2012
ENTO 3650/L – Taught 2 sections of Medical Entomology laboratory with an emphasis on insect identification to family or genus level. Mosquito larval and adult identification was a major part of the course.

Teaching Assistant Summer 2012
ENTO 3650/L and ENTO 3140/L – Taught Medical Entomology and Insect Natural History in Ecuador as a study abroad course. This class was taught in a field situation with a major emphasis being placed on identification and ecology of medically important insects. Sociological issues relating to medical entomology were discussed in field situations with professors and teaching assistants.

Iowa State University, Ames, IA
Student Teacher Spring 2010
Biology 211 – Largely responsible for maintenance and upkeep of laboratory equipment and specimens. Assisted students with performing dissections and experiments.



Entomology Today 2014-Present

I occasionally contribute entomology articles for the Entomological Society of America blog. These articles vary widely in subject, but typically revolve around insect physiology. Many posts on this website will be cross-posted here.
Lovejoy Elementary Guest Speaker April 11 2014
Gave speech about insect biology to 2nd grade audience. Speech described how insects were economically important. Speech also discussed changes which occur during metamorphosis, and how these changes were relevant to insect biology. The speech ended with a 30-minute Q&A about insects. Topics covered ranged from ecology to biochemistry.

Volunteer Contributor at Biofortified 2010-Present
I typically write about insect biology from the angle of a molecular biologist. Topics I’ve discussed include head lice medications, transgenic crops, insect phylogeny, and other topics related to agriculture. For every line of research I discuss, I try to make my post relevant to the everyday lives of readers. I try to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of papers, while putting a positive spin on the topics I discuss.

Insect Zoo Curator Fall 2010-Fall 2012
Responsible for care of live invertebrates used in outreach programs. Specimens consisted of a large variety of arachnids and insects which consisted of both predatory and phytophagous specimens. Animals included tarantulas, cockroaches, millipedes, centipedes, etc. Also prepared cages and specimens for transport and off-site events.

Entomological Society of America, Reno, NV December 2011
Annual Debate Team: Can Organic Agriculture Feed the World?

University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Bug Camp Assistant (20 elementary students) Summer 2012
Annual Insect Zoo Spring 2012
2011 Insectival Fall 2011

Iowa State University, Ames, IA
ISU Entomology Club Spring 2008-Spring 2010
ISU Entomology Club, Secretary Fall 2009-Spring 2010


Entomological Society of America Meeting, Reno, NV December 2011
Winner: Best Overall Debate Team

University of Georgia, Athens, GA
H.O. Lund Entomology Club, Vice President of Insect Curation Fall 2010–Fall 2012
Responsibilities consisted of caring for live specimens used in outreach projects. The zoo’s inventory consisted of roughly 10-20 species at any given point.


Entomological Society of America Meeting, Knoxville, TN November 2012
Title: Microplitis demolitor Bracovirus blocks hemocyte response to PSP

University of Georgia, Athens, GA
H.O. Lund Week Spring 2012
Title: Microplitis demolitor Bracovirus blocks hemocyte response to PSP


Weldon, S., Perkins, G., Ballenger, J., Pulakkatu thodi, I. (2013) Organic agriculture cannot alleviate the projected food and water shortages in the American society. American Entomologist, 59 (4). 219-221.

Allen, M. and Ballenger, J. (2014) Genetics and Characteristics of a Pigmentation Defective Laboratory Strain of the Lady Beetle, Coleomegilla maculata. Advances in Entomology, 2, 161-166. doi: 10.4236/ae.2014.24024.


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