As a child, Christine Picard would get the jitters about critters. But as an adult, her insight into insects has led to significant scientific discoveries. But first, she had to overcome that fear.
“Growing up, I was always afraid of insects, but fascinated by them,” Picard said during the Ag+Bio+Science podcast presented by AgriNovus Indiana. “I decided that if I learned more about them that maybe I could lose some of that fear. Which I have. It’s been amazing for fear.”
Her fear-turn-fascination has helped Picard become an award-winning professor of biology and researcher at IUPUI. She is the recipient of the 2020 Research Frontiers Trailblazer Award, which recognizes outstanding IUPUI researchers who show promise in becoming nationally and internationally known for their research.
Her work focuses on the understanding and correlations between genotype and phenotypes specifically related to insects.
“I looked at the differences in some of their outwardly characteristics and try to understand what the genetic component is that drives that characteristic,” Picard told podcast and Inside INdiana Business host Gerry Dick.
In August, Picard was part of a group awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the use of insects as a viable food source for animals and people. As a member of the Center for Environmental Sustainability Through Insect Farming, Picard hopes they can find that insect farming can provide “a practical, economical and sustainable path for producing high-value protein and reducing agricultural waste.”
“The world’s population is expected to hit nine billion in 30 years,” said Picard. “The demand for food and specifically for protein is continuing to grow, and the supply will not be able to meet it.”
Picard says even with innovations in farming and agbiosciences, the ability to produce enough food and protecting the environment is not sustainable. She thinks insects could be part of the solution.
“They use less water than traditional livestock. They use less land than traditional livestock and other protein sources, and they produce less greenhouse emissions. And so those three things alone should say yes, we should be investing more in this sector and growing this sector.”