DAFVM Spotlight Employee: David Cross

David Cross merges his love of the outdoors with his passion for science as a research associate.

“This job combines my interests in the living world around us with the satisfaction of teasing out a few of Mother Nature’s secrets, even if the discovery process is sometimes happening only in small increments,” he explained.

David is used to working on a small scale.

“For several years our research has been looking into the genetics and temperature limits of invasive ants,” he said. “We’ve mostly been researching the imported fire ant and more recently, the tawny crazy ant. This crazy ant is a relative newcomer to Mississippi that has reached such high population densities in spots as to be very bothersome to homeowners and costly to industry.”

This research involves collecting samples, and recently allowed David to apply the skills used in one of his hobbies: woodworking.

“When we needed to collect many hundreds of a new pest ant, I couldn’t find an appropriate commercially available device. I tinkered in my shop and devised a mechanical aspirator from inexpensive parts that allowed us to get as many ants as we might possibly need,” he shared.

David enjoys the variety his job affords.

“For weeks I may be hunkered down in the lab trying to map out genetic differences for the species of insect for our project. The next month, I may be presenting our findings at a conference or, more enjoyably, spending time collecting new material in the field, whether in the far reaches of Mississippi or nearby states,” he said.

He also likes hearing from students who are now involved in scientific careers.

“We have had more than our fair share of excellent student workers who have contributed their time and talent to the research done in our lab,” he observed. “Occasionally, I hear back from them how the experiences they’ve had here, or techniques they learned made them better biologists or medical technicians, etc. That’s always a plus for me.”

In addition to woodworking, David enjoys hiking, kayaking, photography and cycling. He has been happily married for 16 years to Juliet Tang.

Editor's note: The Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Spotlight Employee profiles are provided by the Office of Agricultural Communications at Mississippi State. For more information, please click here.

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