Founders' Memorial Lecture

Dr. Thomas C. Baker, a distinguished professor of entomology and chemical ecology at Penn State University, has been selected to deliver the Founders’ Memorial Award lecture at Entomology 2015, the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) to be held November 15-18, 2015 in Minneapolis.

The Founders' Memorial Award was established in 1958 to honor the memory of scientists who made outstanding contributions to entomology. Each year at ESA's Annual Meeting, the recipient of the award delivers the Founders' Memorial Lecture, the topic of which is always a deceased entomologist.

At Entomology 2015, the lecture will focus on Dr. Harry Shorey, a pioneer of sex pheromone research and applications. Dr. Shorey's discovery of mating disruption was an important contribution to integrated pest management and environmental protection. His research led to the use of synthetic pheromones for reducing the damage caused by many destructive moth species in North America, particularly the gypsy moth and the pink bollworm. He and his work will be the subject of Dr. Baker's lecture entitled "Love At First Sniff: Harry Shorey and the Dawn of the Age of Pheromones."

"Harry Shorey was in every sense of the word a founder of the science of pheromone biology," said ESA Vice President May Berenbaum. "Among his considerable contributions, he pioneered the methods that formed the basis of current practice and established many of the basic principles that still today guide investigations into chemical communication among insects. The lasting impact of his work is evidenced by the fact that papers he published four decades ago are still cited (multiple times every year) today!"

Dr. Baker was stimulated by Dr. Shorey's research, and he literally followed in his footsteps when he was hired to replace Shorey at UC Riverside after his resignation in 1978. Baker worked in Shorey’s office, sat in Shorey’s old chair, and worked in Shorey’s old lab on some of the same research questions that Shorey had initiated in the 1960s.

Just as Dr. Shorey blazed a trail in elucidating basic principles and translating basic knowledge to practical applications, Dr. Baker throughout his illustrious career has done the same. Among the fundamental contributions he has made is the correction and refining of the concept of active space, which was found wanting when he demonstrated incontrovertibly that semiochemicals do not travel in a cloud but rather travel as pulsed strands or filaments, a finding that has led to new insights into male moth behavior as well as to innovations and improvements in pheromone trap design. Like Shorey, Dr. Baker is best known for his work on Lepidoptera, but he has also made important contributions to understanding pheromonal communication in a wide range of taxa, including, among others, beetles, flies, and even crustaceans.

Like his eminent predecessor, Dr. Baker has made pheromones the focus of an integrative research effort, expanding understanding from the level of the olfactory receptor to the level of landscape-scale flight behavior. He has also advanced the field by anchoring the study of pheromones firmly within the context of evolutionary biology and by contributing to the understanding of the role played by pheromone blends in reproductive isolation and speciation.

Dr. Baker's lecture will be delivered during the Entomology 2015 Awards Ceremony.