Dr. Kenneth Raffa, ESA Fellow (2012)

Dr. Kenneth Raffa, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was elected as Fellow in 2012.  He is internationally recognized for his research on processes affecting population dynamics of forest insects, especially tree defense, tritrophic signaling, and symbioses.

Ken was born in Irvington, NJ, in 1950, and grew up near Wilmington, DE.  He received his B.S. from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia in 1972, his M.S. from the University of Delaware in 1976, and his Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1980. He assisted with insect and disease surveys for the U.S. Forest Service in Asheville, NC in 1973 and 1974. He was a Research Biologist with DuPont from 1981–1985, where he investigated antifeedants, elicitors of plant defense, and insecticide resistance management. He joined the faculty at UW in 1985, and was named Beers-Bascom Professor of Conservation in 2010.

Dr. Raffa’s program emphasizes cross-scale interactions and feedbacks in ecological systems, and applying this information to improve natural resource management. His work on a variety of bark beetles, defoliators, and root insects has contributed to our understanding of the bioactivity and ecological significance of inducible tree defenses, plasticity in host selection by herbivores, chemical signaling among herbivores and natural enemies, and microbial mediation of plant-insect interactions.  Interdisciplinary collaboration is an essential component of this research, and many dozens of outstanding partners have driven these advances.  Raffa has published over 275 refereed papers and reviews.  He has received recognitions such as ESA’s Founders’ Memorial Award, the International Society of Chemical Ecology Silverstein-Simeone Lecture Award, and the Spitze Land Grant Faculty Award.

Raffa teaches courses on insects and disease in forest resource management, plant-insect interactions, and scientific presentation, all highly popular yet challenging classes at UW-Madison. He has likewise engaged in extensive outreach, discussing forestry issues through a variety of media, constituent, and agency outlets, and insect biology in elementary schools. He has mentored 30 graduate programs and 14 postdoctoral associates, and engaged over 200 undergraduates in independent research projects and other hands-on experiences. His students have earned numerous honors for their contributions, including two ESA Comstock awards. They have gone on to highly successful university, government, and corporate careers, and remain among his closest friends.  Raffa has personally mentored 7 assistant professors on their routes toward tenure.

Raffa has served as a subject editor for Ecology and Forest Science, organized the Symbiosis subsection of Environmental Entomology, and served on two CSRS panels, APHIS’s study committee on tree genetic engineering, the NRC’s study on the future of pesticides, and two USDA and six NSF grant panels.  He has served on UW’s Faculty Senate, numerous campus and departmental committees, and the Madison Parks Commission.  He serves on several state committees dealing with natural resources such as Wisconsin’s Council on Invasive Species, is president of his neighborhood association, and coached girl’s softball and women’s tennis.  Ken and his wife Anne married in 1981 and have two daughters, Annie and Cathy. They enjoy paddling, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, music, and being with friends.

(Updated, August 2013)