Dr. John D. Stark, ESA Fellow (2022)

Dr. John D. Stark is a professor of entomology and environmental toxicology at the Washington State University, Puyallup Research and Extension Center. He is also the director of the Washington Stormwater Center.

Stark grew up in New York and attended Syracuse University and the SUNY Syracuse College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the same time. He received a B.S. degree in biology from Syracuse and a B.S. degree in forestry from SUNY. He then attended Louisiana State University, where he was awarded an M.S. degree in entomology. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii in entomology and pesticide toxicology.

After graduating from the University of Hawaii, he worked with Dr. Roger Vargas (deceased), USDA-ARS, in Hawaii studying the ecology and control of Tephritid fruit flies. Three years later, he was hired by the Entomology Department of Washington State University (WSU) as an assistant professor of entomology/environmental toxicology.  

At WSU, Stark studied the effects of pesticides on nontarget organisms. In reviewing the way that EPA develops ecological risk assessments, using surrogate species in place of endangered species, he found that the risk assessment process for pesticides had a major flaw. There is an assumption that toxicity data developed for one surrogate species can be used to protect all other species in a group, such as fish. He discovered that this is not correct. Variable life history traits among species greatly influence a species' susceptibility to stressors, including toxicants. For example, if there are two populations of 100 individuals, one of rats and the other of elephants, and each population is exposed to a stressor that reduces each population by 50%, the recovery time of each population back to the original 100 individuals is not the same. The rats obviously recover faster than the elephants, indicating that equal negative impacts affect species differently. Based on this concept, Stark developed a new risk assessment approach that relies on the use of demography and population modeling to evaluate the effects of pollutants on populations. His work was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and from it, he was invited to submit a review article in Annual Review of Entomology. Stark also published a book on demographic and modeling approaches to protect endangered species.

Additionally, Stark works on the effects of pesticides and chemicals found in stormwater runoff on Pacific salmon. He also works on evaluating the effects of herbicides on endangered butterflies in California.

Stark was invited to give briefings to Congress on pollution issues associated with salmon and stormwater in 2014 and 2016.

Stark received the Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology from the Pacific Branch of ESA in 2001 and 2011 and the C.W. Woodworth Award in 2005. The WSU College of Human and Natural Resources Sciences awarded him the Excellence in Research Award in 2010. Stark has published more than 140 scientific papers and numerous book chapters, and has given over 75 invited talks at national and international conferences.