Matt Thomas, ESA Fellow (2016)

Dr. Matt Thomas, professor in the Entomology Department at Penn State University, was elected as Fellow in 2016. He is recognized internationally for his work on the ecology and evolution of pests and vector-borne diseases.

Thomas is originally from the United Kingdom and obtained his B.Sc. at University College Cardiff and his Ph.D. at the University of Southampton. From 1991 to the end of 2002 he worked as a postdoc and research fellow at the Centre for Population Biology at Silwood Park, Imperial College. He then took up a position as a senior lecturer and then reader in population biology and biological control at Imperial College. At the end of 2005, he joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Entomology in Australia as a senior principal research scientist. In 2008, he moved to the U.S. as a professor of entomology at Penn State University. In 2012 he became the Huck Scholar in Ecological Entomology.

Research in the Thomas lab ( explores many aspects of the ecology and evolution of insect pests and diseases with the aim of better understanding the consequences of global change and improving the effectiveness and sustainability of pest and disease management. The research combines empirical and theoretical approaches to address issues of fundamental and applied significance. He has worked in many systems and on diverse topics, including host-pathogen interactions, predicting and understanding the impact of invasive species, biodiversity and ecosystem health, and many aspects of biological control. In recent years he has tended to focus on transferring knowledge and insights from ecology and agriculture into the public health arena. Current projects include research on the effects of environmental temperature on transmission of vector-borne diseases, understanding the consequences of insecticide resistance for malaria control, and developing and evaluating novel control tools for the development of improved integrated vector management. He currently manages a funding portfolio of around $14 million, including support from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

He published approximately 200 articles with numerous papers in “high-impact” journals. There are many examples where his research has contributed practical outcomes, reflecting a desire not only to advance scientific understanding but also to have an impact in the real world. This outcome-oriented research includes foundational work on habitat manipulations to enhance biological control (beetle banks); development of optimal use strategies for use of biopesticides in locust control; development of risk assessment frameworks for invasive species and the safe introduction of natural enemies; and development of novel tools for the management of insecticide-resistant malaria vectors (fungal pathogens and “eave tubes”). He currently serves as director of the Ecology Institute at Penn State and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Thomas is married with two teenage kids and has a fondness for English beer, classical guitars, and fishing.

(updated November, 2016)