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Science Council Lecture: Dan Molloy Zaps Flies and Mussels


Dan Molloy, Ph.D., knows that when he comes down to New York City from Albany, where he is the scientist emeritus at the New York State museum, he needs to spend time explaining what biting black flies and fouling zebra mussels are before telling his audience how his research helped control the pesky pests—without chemicals.

He will describe that and much more at Fordham’s 2014 Science Council Lecture titled, “Needle in a Haystack Research Projects for Environmental Protection: Two Down and One To Go.” The talk will be held on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Center Campus’s Corrigan Conference Center.

“I grew up in the Bronx, so I only knew about cockroaches and mosquitos,” he said. “The fact that this talk is giving in New York City people there don’t know about these critters, but they sure know about them in the Adirondacks.”

Black flies are tiny gnats that torment folks in the Adirondacks and zebra mussel are tiny fingernail-sized bivalves that foul water pipes and disrupt ecosystems. Molloy said that the with the Adirondacks economy dependent on tourism, the flies which bite, the muscles which cut tender feet in otherwise placid lakes scare away potential tourists.

Molloy’s lab found ways to control the two pest critters by developing environmentally safe biological control agents. But both successes require reapplications to continually knock down the next pest generation.

“A lot of communities don’t have the money to go back year after year to control the pests,” he said. “Instead of adding something every year to a lake we’d like to put something once and that thing is another live organism.”

Having spent much of his career trying to control pests in a nontoxic manner, Molloy isn’t about to introduce another organism into the environment without years of controlled studies. He said that identifying the virulent parasite that could wipe out the zebra muscle could take at least five years, while testing it for safety would take at least another five.

The point, he said, is that finding the natural enemies of the zebra muscles has larger implications for a variety of invasive species.

“This research doesn’t exist as a tiny example in a vacuum,” he said “You can uses an organism to control another organism; that’s biological control and not chemical. We don’t always have to go to the jar with the chemical in it.”

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