James R. Miller, ESA Fellow (2015)

Dr. James R. Miller, Distinguished Professor of Entomology at Michigan State University (MSU), was elected as Fellow in 2015. He is internationally recognized for pioneering research in insect physiology, chemical ecology, and behavior, which has significantly enhanced insect detection and management.

Born in 1948 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Miller's exposure to animals, plants, and nature fed his childhood appetite for biology. Rejecting Miller’s plans to farm, teachers enrolled him into Millersville University in 1966. Miller’s undergraduate research with William J. Yurkiewicz on lipid metabolism of insects, resulted in two peer-reviewed publications and acceptance into a National Science Foundation-sponsored Ph.D. program in the Department of Entomology at Penn State University in 1970 with Dr. Ralph O. Mumma. Pioneering Ph.D. research on the chemistry and physiology of the defensive agents of Dytiscidae and Gyrinidae led to a John Henry Comstock Award and an offer for postdoctoral research on moth sex pheromones with Dr. Wendell Roelofs at Cornell University in 1974. Miller joined the faculty of the Department of Entomology at MSU in 1977, where he has remained. He taught insect physiology and insect behavior. He assists teaching insect ecology, medical entomology, aquatic entomology, and international integrated pest management. Miller’s Nature and Practice of Science Graduate Seminar course has long been in demand by graduate students across MSU. Miller served from 1996–1999 as Associate Dean of MSU’s largest science college and Director of the Division of Science and Mathematics Education.

Among his research accomplishments, Miller (with collaborators) made the wind-tunnel the recommended method for quantifying insect orientational behaviors; established that resource acceptance is strongly influenced by visual and physical cues in addition to chemicals; formalized the rolling-fulcrum model of animal decision making and the push-pull tactic of pest management; expanded knowledge of what constitutes suitable habitats for African malaria mosquitoes; discovered that avermectins administered to African cattle just before the rainy season can suppress malaria epidemics; maintained and expanded mechanistically meaningful vocabulary for insect behavior; and elucidated the dominant mechanisms of mating disruption using pheromones, thereby increasing the effectiveness and economics of this tactic. Miller’s recent book, Trapping of Small Organisms Moving Randomly, promises to elevate insect pest management to a new level by enabling accurate measurement of absolute rather than relative pest density. Miller is senior author on 120 peer-reviewed publications and a principal investigator on grants totaling more than $20 million. He has been major professor for 30 graduate students and served on 125 graduate committees. He is editor of the Behavior Section of Environmental Entomology and serves on the Sea Lamprey Control Board.

Miller received the MSU Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) 2007 Professor of the Year Award and was named Distinguished Professor. He received the ESA North Central Branch Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching as well as the Award of Excellence in Integrated Pest Management. Penn State University College of Agriculture awarded Miller a Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Miller and his lifelong sweetheart, Naomi, enjoy country living and have two children and four grandchildren.

(updated November, 2016)