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Title: The optimal control of dynamic pest populations
Author: Hackett, Sean
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 6678
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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In the management of agricultural insect pests, short-term costs must be balanced against long-term benefits. Controls should be selected to account for both their immediate and downstream effects upon the demography and genetics of the pest, enabling suppression today without threatening suppression tomorrow. The iterative, algorithmic method of dynamic programming can provide optimal solutions to problems of this type, in which actions are taken sequentially and each action may influence those which follow it. However, this approach is fundamentally constrained with regards to the magnitude of the problems it may solve. As questions of insect pest management can be subject to ecological and evolutionary complexities, this may place them beyond the scope of dynamic programming. When it is the intricacies of a problem that are of interest, it may be more productive to utilise approximate dynamic programming (ADP) methods which can attempt problems of arbitrary complexity, although at the expense of no longer guaranteeing optimality. In this thesis I first challenge a dynamic programming algorithm with the management of a hypothetical insect pest feeding upon a transgenic insecticidal crop. The model explores how different realisations of fitness costs to resistance influence the algorithms suggested actions. I then apply a brute-force variant of ADP, a lookahead policy, to the management of a stage-structured, continuously reproducing pest population. This was to explore the extent to which an algorithm with a limited temporal perspective is able to balance the timetable of pest demography against the timescale over which insecticidal sprays and bisex-lethal sterile insect releases unfold. This same decision framework is then applied to a modified problem in which resistance to insecticidal toxins may evolve and releases are now male-selecting. This was used to assess the efficacy with which simple lookahead policies utilise a control with delayed benefits (the male-selecting releases) and possible constraints on their capacity to respond to resistance evolution. Dynamic programming and ADP methods offer a versatile toolbox for accounting for the potential impacts of the evolutionary and ecological peculiarities of particular pests upon control decisions.
Supervisor: Morrison, Neil ; Bonsall, Michael Sponsor: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Counci
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Insect pest management ; Ecological modelling ; Dynamic programming