Spotted Wing Drosophila Communication

EESC delivers accurate, credible, understandable information to help protect Oregon’s fruit industry from a tiny, terrible invader.

Situation

When a tiny, invasive fruit fly from Asia was first identified in Oregon in 2009, growers worried for their crops. Spotted wing drosophila (SWD) threatened their livelihoods. Without detection and control measures, Oregon's small and stone fruit industries could lose $31 million per year (Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, University of California).

Growers needed credible information to know the most effective actions to take. OSU researchers trusted long-standing relationships with EESC to help them get the word out to the agricultural industry.

Our Approach

EESC’s communication strategy was swift and far reaching.

  • First, EESC’s public information team wrote a news release, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, to immediately alert growers and gardeners.
  • That was followed with an Extension publication that described the pest in more detail.
  • As research moved forward rapidly, so did the reporting, landing on the front page of the Sunday Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper.
  • With about four months of intense research and reporting, EESC also developed a cover story for Oregon’s Agricultural Progress magazine, which has a circulation of 12,000.

As researchers began to understand how to control this new invader, they needed to reach gardeners as well as commercial growers. EESC’s multimedia team worked with OSU entomologist Amy Dreves to create a series of YouTube instructional videos on detection and control methods for gardeners. And EESC’s publishing team worked with Dreves and her colleagues on OSU’s SWD research team to develop additional Extension publications on recognizing fruit damage caused by the fly and protecting gardening fruits from it.

In early 2013, EESC checked in with OSU entomologist Vaughn Walton, who said the fly would likely hit record populations that year. So EESC worked with him to write a news release to alert growers—without alarming them—so they would know to spray their crops. EESC also posted alerts on social media. Portland and Eugene TV stations broadcast the story, and the message quickly spread online, reaching growers and gardeners.

Results and Impact

EESC’s responsiveness and multifaceted communication outreach strategy yielded results:

  • The instructional YouTube videos were viewed more than 5,000 times.
  • The three OSU Extension publications have more than 17,000 downloads.
  • Forty outlets, including The Oregonian, The (Bend) Bulletin, KGW-TV, KMTR-TV, Capital Press, and The Associated Press, picked up the April 2013 “record population” news release.

Walton said the news release helped growers protect their crops because it alerted them to the need to apply pesticides earlier than normal. He also said EESC worked with researchers to make sure the information growers received was accurate, understandable, and credible.

"EESC played a helpful role and knew the most effective ways of sharing information,” said Walton.

Tiffany Woods, who leads EESC’s public issues education team, said this communication strategy shows how EESC works as a team.

“Our efforts are also an example of how we build long-term relationships with faculty,” Woods said. “Year after year, they know they can come to us when they want to get the word out about their work. They can trust us to get it right.”

Partners

OSU spotted wing drosophila research team; Oregon Department of Agriculture