In Memoriam: Richard H. Shukle

In memory of our friend and colleague Dr. Richard H. Shukle,
May 11, 1946 to December 29, 2015.

By Brandon Schemerhorn

Rich grew up in Sacramento CA, where he graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree from California State University-Sacramento with a major in Biology and minor in Chemistry.

Rich enlisted with the United States Marine Corps, serving as a 1st Lieutenant during the Vietnam conflict. He and his wife Gracie were united in marriage on August 31st, 1974.

Rich entered into a Ph.D. program at the University of California-Davis and earned his doctorate in 1980. His Ph.D. in Entomology focused on insect physiology and biochemistry of the American cockroach. He was a postdoctoral associate in the department of Entomology at Purdue University until 1982 where he investigated the effects of insecticidal plant proteins on tobacco hornworm.
Rich joined the Agricultural Research Service within the United States Department of Agriculture in 1982, first as a Research Associate and then as a Research Entomologist and also became an adjunct Professor in the Purdue Department of Entomology, West Lafayette IN.

Rich’s work throughout his career addressed a variety of topics. In his early career, his work on English Grain Aphid characterized the feeding behavior and mechanisms for transmitting Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus to wheat. Rich was one of the pioneers who investigated the toxicity of individual defense proteins on insect development using artificial diet.Although Rich had many collaborators throughout his career with whom he investigated biochemical processes of several different insects, the main focus of his research dealt with interactions between wheat and its major insect pest, the Hessian fly. He was the first to use biochemical techniques to characterize digestive enzymes in the gut of Hessian fly larvae andmolecular genetics to identify and annotate key genes in the Hessian fly genome involved in processes such as digestion, detoxification, and signal transduction. He demonstrated that the larval midgut is the target for plant defenses against the insect. A major contribution was his work showing that virulent larvae can rescue avirulent larvae residing on the same wheat plant. Rich was also integral in revealing larval salivary components that damage plants or induce plant defenses.

As a colleague, Rich will be remembered for the great dedication and scientific rigor with which he approached all his work. He was always generous and thoughtful when approached for help with a research problem, and he took great satisfaction from supporting the wheat breeding community’s efforts to combat insect pests.

Rich had diverse interests outside of work. He enjoyed many outdoor activities including fishing, hunting deer and birds, cross-country skiing and backpacking with his son, John and his Springer Spaniels. He had a love of gardening and also culturing of orchids, an interest he shared with his father. Rich will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues, his wife Gracie, son John, daughter-in-law Catherine and two young grandsons, Jack and Max.

A memorial scholarship fund has been established in Rich’s name through the Department of Entomology at Purdue University. In lieu of flowers, monetary donations may be made to the Department noting that it is for the “Richard H. Shukle Memorial Scholarship”. The Department address is: 901 W. State St., West Lafayette, IN 47907.