Although her father is in the dairy business, Blakeley had no intention of going into agriculture. Instead she entered Chico State as a psychology major. After taking a few courses from that curriculum, she took a plant science course to satisfy a general education science requirement. One of the plant science projects required her to plant and tend to a garden. As she puts it, this course changed her life; she switched majors to Crops and Horticulture and became “an accidental ag student”. The hands-on activities in her ag courses were far more exciting than the typical psychology class, which Blakeley found “boring”.
Blakeley started working as a student research assistant in her junior year and now has over four years of working on ARI projects both as an undergraduate and graduate student. As she became involved with more projects, Blakeley cultivated an interest in insects and entomology. Her enthusiasm and abilities were not lost on Dr. Betsy Boyd who recruited Blakeley to work on an ARI research project for her Master’s thesis. Her thesis project is working with an insect called psocoptera, commonly known as booklice, a tiny insect less than 2 mm long, found in almond and pistachio orchards. Almond growers have not considered these insects to be a pest, but Blakeley and Dr. Boyd suspect otherwise. Although difficult to find, Blakeley has already collected over 4,500 specimens in almond orchards with the goal of learning more about their biological role and determining if they have an economic impact on marketable yields.
When she first started in college, she had no idea about research, but soon realized she liked it. “It was like a puzzle and you learn so much.” She likes working in the lab and feels if it wasn’t for Dr. Boyd she would have never picked up research. The research experience has been valuable to Blakeley, opening new ways to learn and think about things that could be applied to classwork. With this knowledge she has gained confidence in her abilities. When finished with her thesis, Blakeley wants to work with insects in a research lab and help develop information that allows farmers to identify insects without having to depend on somebody else. She would like to use her knowledge and skills to conduct research that can be used by growers to better manage their crops.