Patrick V. Vail, ESA Fellow (2003)

Dr. Patrick V. Vail (deceased 8 February 2004), a research entomologist for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), was elected as Fellow in 2003. He received national and international recognition for his basic and applied research on entomogeneous viruses, insect pathology, and the development of methods for pest management.

Dr. Vail was born on 16 November 1937. He received his B.A. and M.S. degrees from California State University in Fresno (CSUF). He subsequently began doctoral studies at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and obtained his Ph.D. in 1967. He was among the first graduate students in entomology at UCR. In 1966, as a staff member at the USDA-ARS Boyden Entomology Laboratory at UCR, Vail discovered the nucleopolyhedrovirus, which he isolated from the alfalfa looper.

Dr. Vail worked on many problems in entomology and insect physiology, but concentrated on the practical needs of agriculture. Much of his research during the 39 years of his professional career (as part of the USDA-ARS), dealt with pest management and alternative methods of insect control. His research on the nucleopolyhedrovirus changed classical views about the specificity of baculoviruses. He also developed in vitro methods for nucleopolyhedrovirus production and plaque assay. The virus is important in agriculture research and as an expression vector for producing unique biologically active compounds in human and veterinary medicine and biology. He contributed over 200 research papers in scientific journals and other publications, including many technical publications. During his career, he provided technical leadership for complex, comprehensive and productive research programs on vegetable, cotton, and postharvest insects. Vail was head of the Insect and Pest Control Section of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria, from 1975–1978 with responsibilities in tsetse fly and tropical fruit fly programs. He was director of the ARS Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Fresno from 1982 until his retirement in February 2003. He held many positions in regional and national societies and was the President of the Pacific Branch of the ESA in 1989. In 1992, Dr. Vail was one of three USDA scientists to be assigned to the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

For his efforts on behalf of research and agriculture, Dr. Vail received the USDA-ARS Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award in 1995 and the United Nations Environmental Programme Certificate of Appreciation. In 1996, he received the USDA Award for Personal and Professional Excellence from the Secretary of Agriculture. In 1998, Patrick received the College of Science & Mathematics Distinguished Scholar/Outstanding Alumnus Award from CSUF. In June 1999, as a member of The Japan Varietal Testing World Trade Organization Group, Dr. Vail received the Secretary of Agriculture’s Honor Award for Personal and Professional Excellence for exceptional performance, creativity, and perseverance in successfully challenging Japan’s varietal testing trade restrictions.

Vail enjoyed travelling with his wife, Susan, and visiting their three daughters. He had several hobbies including tennis, fishing, and constructing large radio-controlled airplanes.