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Keywords:

  • Applied evolutionary biology;
  • gene drive;
  • genetic pest management;
  • selfish DNA

Insect- and tick-vectored diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and Lyme disease cause human suffering, and current approaches for prevention are not adequate. Invasive plants and animals such as Scotch broom, zebra mussels, and gypsy moths continue to cause environmental damage and economic losses in agriculture and forestry. Rodents transmit diseases and cause major pre- and postharvest losses, especially in less affluent countries. Each of these problems might benefit from the developing field of Genetic Pest Management that is conceptually based on principles of evolutionary biology. This article briefly describes the history of this field, new molecular tools in this field, and potential applications of those tools. There will be a need for evolutionary biologists to interact with researchers and practitioners in a variety of other fields to determine the most appropriate targets for genetic pest management, the most appropriate methods for specific targets, and the potential of natural selection to diminish the effectiveness of genetic pest management. In addition to producing environmentally sustainable pest management solutions, research efforts in this area could lead to new insights about the evolution of selfish genetic elements in natural systems and will provide students with the opportunity to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the role of evolutionary biology in solving societal problems.