Cañada College Invites the Community to Participate in Citizen Science Project

Mon, 28 September, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Cañada College Invites the Community to Participate in Citizen Science Project

Public volunteers needed to assist Scientists in their research on Olive Fruit Flies


Who: Cañada College Science & Technology Division, led by Adjunct Biology Professor Diego Nieto is looking for Peninsula residents to assist in its Citizen Science Project.

What: The Citizen Science Project will assist Cañada College in gathering data for olive fruit fly biological control.

Olives have traditionally been a valued community resource in the Woodside-Redwood City area. The olive fruit fly is a global pest, whose larval offspring (i.e. maggots) feed exclusively on olives. Unlike the small fruit flies commonly found in our kitchen that are only capable of depositing eggs in overly ripe or rotten fruit, the olive fruit fly targets ripening fruit to deposit eggs, which makes this robust fly especially problematic for olive growers.  As a result, nearly all unmanaged olives in San Mateo County eventually become infested, which can introduce other contaminants (e.g. bacteria) that intensify fruit rot. 

One of the reasons that this pest has become so problematic in California is that insect predators or parasites that specifically target this pest were absent In an effort to fill this void, researchers in the field of “biological control” have collected highly co-evolved parasitoids (i.e. minute wasps) from Sub-Saharan Africa, which is thought to be this pest’s evolutionary point of origin. 

Why We Need Your Help: Psyttalia lounsburyi has begun to disperse into the community surrounding Cañada College.  As it becomes more widely established in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, it will hopefully reduce the olive fruit fly population levels in olive trees found in hillsides and wild areas, urban landscapes, neighborhoods, gardens, and eventually, olive orchards.  

A collaborative “Citizen Science” project exploring the spreading of this insect in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties would greatly help researchers and community members to learn more about the scope and scale of this project.

How You Can Help:  Citizen Science is where public volunteers can assist Scientists in their research.  Scientists benefit from having a lot more data to analyze and a pool of volunteers willing to help. To participate in this project, simply follow the instructions below:

  • Collect 50 ripe or ripening olives per olive tree
  • Place olives in container immediately after collection
  • Five weeks after collection, open the rearing container, place contents onto a clean flat surface, and count the insects
  • Provide follow up information/data

Website: A more detailed description of the project can be found at  

To get involved with the project, please contact Diego Nieto at 

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Posted in: Biological Sciences, Featured, Science