University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 6, No. 1/1996
Stemming a swarm of locusts     
     There's nothing like an outbreak of locusts to get an
entomologist's blood pumping.
     Just ask Alan Schroeder, Delaware '82, '84M, one of the
world's foremost experts on locust control.
     "It's surreal. It's incredible," he says. "There are
billions and billions of insects filling the sky and swirling
around you. For an entomologist, it's an awe-inspiring sight to
see nature's tremendous potential. For the local African farmer,
of course, it's horrifying."
     Schroeder is part of a team that is helping farmers mitigate
the horrors that swarms of locusts have inflicted for millennia
on Africa's drier regions. As a technical adviser to the U.S.
Agency for International Development's Africa Emergency
Locust/Grasshopper Assistance Project, he works with African
governments, the United Nations and other multinational
organizations to control locust outbreaks before they become full-
blown plagues that devastate crops.
     It's a dream job for a kid from upstate New York who pursued
his childhood fascination with bugs and other small creatures all
the way to a doctorate in entomology.
     "It's interesting to be working on one of the nine plagues
listed in the Old Testament," says Schroeder, who spearheads
training of African farmers and crop-protection officers in
emergency pest management. "I get to do a lot of traveling in
Africa and work on local problems that have regional and
international implications."
     From his hometown of Sidney, N.Y., Schroeder's road to
exotic places like Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso- where he lived for
eight months in West Africa-passed through Newark, Del.
     At UD, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1982 in the combined
majors of entomology and plant pathology, which turned out to be
excellent preparation for a career in crop protection. He pursued
his master's degree in entomology under the guidance of Doug
Tallamy, professor
of entomology and applied ecology.
     After earning his doctorate at the University of Illinois,
Schroeder became a postdoctoral fellow with the International
Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico City in 1990. He
worked there for 10 months before winning a fellowship from the
American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS).
     The AAAS, through a joint program with the Agency for
International Development (AID), gave Schroeder his introduction
to Africa. He worked on developing international agricultural
networks there and on assessing a major regional project to
improve production of agricultural crops in semi-arid regions.
     "We were able to collect information that showed how
breeders had improved crop varieties to withstand drought,
disease, poor soil conditions and all sorts of environmental
stresses," Schroeder said.
     In 1993, he became a freelance consultant, and one of the
jobs he worked on was the Locust/Grasshopper Assistance Project.
After a year of freelancing, he accepted a full-time position on
the project.
     Today, Schroeder is based in Washington, D.C., but he
travels frequently to Africa, where he has visited more than 30
countries. He says he believes that the money spent by the U.S.
government on foreign aid programs through USAID-less than 1
percent of the national budget-is having a positive impact that's
well worth the expense. "We're providing humanitarian assistance
to countries with problems that are beyond their control," he
     The locust assistance project is producing results. A large
outbreak in 1994, for example, did not become a widespread
plague, due in part, he believes, to the quick response of the
United States and other donor countries.
     The first line of defense is a network of farmers, nomads
and others who report local outbreaks so the information can be
passed through to agricultural officials for possible control
measures. If control is warranted, AID helps coordinate
international assistance, which includes airlifting supplies
ranging from radios to survey and monitoring equipment to
     Although his work with the locust project places many
demands on his time, Schroeder, who enjoys flying for fun, soon
hopes to be hopping in a plane to visit family, friends and
interesting places. He's also an amateur archeologist who walks
through freshly plowed fields in search of Native American
     His first love, however, is entomology, coupled with the
opportunity to help people in need. "It's a challenging and
rewarding job," he says. "I was in Ethiopia during an outbreak in
the fall of 1993, and a farmer kept saying, 'Please help us.'"
                                  -Marylee Sauder, Delaware '83