Candidates for the Southeastern Branch Election

Southeastern Branch Elections will be held by electronic ballot and voting will open December 15, 2021 and close January 31, 2022 at 11:59 PM Eastern Time US.

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Southeastern Branch President-Elect

Kevin Chase
Bartlett Tree Research Lab

Bio: Kevin Chase is a research entomologist with the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory. He received his BSc from Shippensburg University in ecology, his MSc from Mississippi State University studying forest entomology, and his PhD from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand where he combined his passion for ecology and forest entomology. He also did a post-doc at the University of Minnesota studying bark beetles. Kevin has worked at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center, the United States Department of Agriculture – APHIS, and as a utility arborist with Arbor Metrics Solutions.

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: Kevin has been an ESA member for more than a decade. He has been part of the southeastern branch as a Member at Large (2 years) and on the sponsorship committee (2 years). For the 2021 SEB ESA meeting, he created and ran a networking event to connect graduate students with potential future employees or academic advisors. He was also on the planning and sponsorship committee for the 2021 North American Forest Insect Work Conference. Kevin has been part of writing and reviewing Best Management Practice guides for the International Society of Arboriculture.

Candidate statement: Kevin's interest in serving in this role stems from his heart of uniting people. Unification has been extremely difficult with the recent COVID pandemic and we are all trying to figure out how we as a society will function. The graduate student experience, for both advisors and students, has changed drastically and the networking opportunities that were once afforded haven't been the same in the past two years. The travel and research restrictions placed on governmental workers across all scales have impacted how these groups function. Privately owned companies are feeling the weight of a worker shortage and haven't had the opportunity to network with new potential employees. Kevin's vision for his year of service is to connect and unify entomologists across all breadths of the society and to recruit and inspire new folks into the society. He plans on doing this via in-person and virtual networking events, physical and virtual media exposure across southeastern schools, government facilities, and industry, and networking across other life science disciplines. Kevin only has one assumption if you are a member of ESA - you love insects! That is the only precedent needed to become a strong and diverse entomological branch and everyone deserves a seat at the societal table.

Scott Croxton
Nichino America

Bio: Scott Croxton is an experienced Product Development Representative for Nichino America Inc. with a demonstrated history of working in the chemical industry throughout the Southeast. Scott works in all crops including turf, ornamentals, tree crops, row crops, fruits, and vegetables. He currently covers all problems within those crops encompassing plant pathogens, insect pests, nematodes, weed management, and cotton defoliation while working with growers, consultants, private researchers, and university researchers. Scott is involved with multiple scientific and professional societies throughout the country. He especially enjoys talking with graduate students at scientific society meetings about their diverse research and interests. Scott is skilled in Research, Data Analysis, Strategic Planning, Pesticide Regulation, Crop Protection, Chemical Environmental Fate, Budget Planning, and Sales Support. His Doctor of Philosophy - PhD focused in Entomology from the University of Florida working on the movement and behavior patterns of Asian citrus psyllid as well as methods to control it. His Masters in Horticulture at Auburn University focused on the visual miscuing of thrips to prevent the spread of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus in Tomatoes.

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: ESA Member since 2010, Attended ESA national meetings from 2010-2019, Attended most SEB ESA meetings 2010-2019, Served as a nominations committee member and chair for the SEB ESA, Student competition judge at various entomological meetings, Current President-Elect of the Florida Entomological Society, Nominations committee member for the Georgia Entomological Society, Member of the American Phytopathological Society (National and Southern Division) as well as Georgia and Florida Phytopathological societies, Active member (2016-present) of Operation Backpack which makes sure school kids in the LaBelle, FL area have food to eat over the weekends

Candidate statement: My primary interest in serving this society is to increase the engagement of young professionals from all careers associated with entomology. I am a strong believer in leading by example, thus the more involved I become with the society, the more likely I am to inspire the engagement of the younger members of this society. By filling the role of President-Elect of this society I can bring a different viewpoint as a member of Industry.

Shimat V. Joseph
University of Georgia

Bio: Dr. Joseph is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist at the Department of Entomology, University of Georgia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 2010 and did his Post-Doctoral studies at the University of Georgia and Virginia Tech. Before joining the University of Georgia in 2017, he was an IPM advisor on the central coast of California with the University of California (2012-2017), where his research and extension program focused on economic pests of cool-season vegetables and small fruits. Dr. Joseph’s current research focuses on the biology, ecology, and management of arthropod pests and beneficials in ornamental and turfgrass systems. He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed publications and over 100 extension articles.

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: I have been a member of ESA for the past 16 years. During that time, I have held various professional leadership positions, including a member of the nomination committees at the southeastern branch-ESA 2018-2021 and the resolution committee of the Georgia Entomological Society 2018-2021. I am currently the chair of the nomination committee for the southeastern branch of ESA. In addition, I have volunteered to judge many graduate student papers and posters in the National, and Pacific, and Southeastern branch-ESA in the past ten years. I have also served as a reviewer on many ESA journal articles.

Candidate statement: Students and early-career scientists are a critical component of the ESA community and will shape the future of ESA. My emphasis will be to enhance student participation in the various governing committees, organizing symposiums and interaction sessions to listen to their thoughts and ideas. From being a student member to a regular member of ESA, I value ESA in helping me develop into a successful entomologist. I think that ESA will continue to provide the same opportunities for the student and early-career members. If elected, I would encourage the formation of student and early-career forums, such as discussion groups. These forums will serve as a platform to share and discuss recent entomological issues based on data and the experiences as a student or early-career member regardless of their background.


Southeastern Branch Member-at-Large

Olufemi Ajayi
Tuskegee University

Bio: Listed below is my education biograph. B. Agric (from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria in 2008). MSc (Entomology) (from Auburn University in 2015). PhD. (Entomology) (from Auburn University in 2020). Listed below is my employment biograph. Employed as Postdoctoral Associate at Alabama State University (from 2020 – 2021). Employed as Postdoctoral Associate at Tuskegee University (from 2021 till date). My areas of interest include Integrated Pest Management, Urban Entomology, Plant-Insect Interaction, Insect Physiology, and Insect Chemical Ecology. My accomplishments in Entomology include the publication of seven articles in peer-reviewed journals, several awards in ESA student poster competitions (ICE 2016 & ESA-SEB 2019), and student debates (ICE 2016 & ESA 2017).

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: Listed below are my past ESA activities and other volunteer roles/services. ESA member since January 2013. Participated in ESA student debates (2013 – 2018). Participated in ESA Linnaean Games (2014 – 2016). Participated in student volunteer positions at ESA conferences (2014 – 2019).

Candidate statement: I, Olufemi Ajayi, hereby declare my interest in serving as ESA-SEB member-at-large. This volunteer position will present me the opportunity to serve the entomological organization in whatever role. It will offer me the avenue to interact with fellow entomologists having a great passion to serve the organization, thus working with the organization to achieve its goals of serving the entomological community. If elected, I would like to accomplish working as a teammate with my colleagues in representing the organization in the scientific community, and provide needed service to the community. Furthermore, I will serve in any assigned committee such as the Committee on Ethics and Rules, Committee on the Common Names of Insects, Committee on Awards and Honors Canvassing, Committee on the Insect Calendar, Committee on Leadership Development, and Committee on Science Policy. I will also carry out duties that the Governing Board may delegate to me in accordance with the laws of the organization.

Kaushalya Amarasekare
Tennessee State University

Bio: Dr. Kaushalya Amarasekare is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville, Tennessee. She received her Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Florida and completed postdoctoral training at Oregon State University. She has been at TSU since 2015 and teaches Entomology, mentors graduate and undergraduate students, and conducts research and state-wide Extension programs. Her research program focuses on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and the effects of insecticides on natural enemies. The overall goal of her program is to promote IPM in Tennessee and popularize Entomology among minority students. Dr. Amarasekare has 22 peer-reviewed publications and made 65 research presentations at professional meetings. For her accomplishments, she was honored as the TSU’s College of Agriculture Outstanding Young Researcher in 2019.

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: Dr. Amarasekare has been a member of ESA since 2001. She has served the ESA as a peer-reviewer of ESA journals and judge and moderator of student competitions. She has participated in numerous ESA symposia at the regional and national levels and presented her research at the National, Southwestern, Pacific, and Southeastern branch meetings since 2001. Dr. Amarasekare has published most of her research in ESA journals. She is the past president of the Tennessee Entomological Society and currently serves as a member of its advisory board and on the award and nomination committees. She has served the TES as the President, President-elect, Program Chair, and Awards and Local Arrangement Committee Chair. Dr. Amarasekare has actively participated in the Tennessee Academy of Science as a judge and moderator of student competitions and presented her research at its annual meetings.

Candidate statement: Dr. Amarasekare has been an ESA member for the past 20 years. She is honored to be nominated for the ESA Southeastern branch member-at-large position. If elected, she will strive to make the branch more inclusive for minority students and minority-serving institutions. She will seek ways to increase minority student membership and participation in the ESA meetings both nationally and regionally in the Southeastern Branch. She is dedicated to promoting Entomology to minority undergraduate and graduate students through teaching, training, and mentoring them in research and Extension activities. As an Entomology faculty member serving at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), she is committed to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in the field of Entomology. If elected, she will do her utmost to work with other members to realize the goals of our branch.

Selina Bruckner
Auburn University

Bio: As a nature enthusiast, I was thrilled to join the Institute for Bee Health at the University of Bern, Switzerland for my undergraduate and Master's degree. For four years, I was able to conduct both individual and collaborative research on the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on the health of honey bees and native bees in Bern. For my PhD, I joined the Bee lab at Auburn University, Alabama in 2017. While I continued to investigate the effects of neonicotinoids on honey bee health, I added the ectoparasitic Varroa destructor mite to my research focus due to its importance in the beekeeping industry. In 2018, I got the chance to collaborate with the Bee Informed Partnership on their annual national honey bee colony loss and management survey. Since then, I assist in duties like survey design and data analyses. After 3 humid field-work summers, I earned my PhD in 2020 and am now a Post-Doc at the AU-Bees Lab. Because I discovered a passion for Extension during my PhD, my current research is focusing on beekeeper education. I am interested in how and where beekeepers seek information, and how different learning environments may affect their knowledge gain and behavior change. As a Post-Doc, I am also mentoring a graduate student who conducts experiments on applied Varroa mite management. I truly enjoy being able to engage with and teach stakeholders, while also doing field work.

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: ESA activities: I have been a member of ESA since 2017 when I moved to the United States and attended the national meeting in Denver. Since then, I have participated in one South-Eastern Branch meeting (2018), and three national meetings (2018, 2020 [virtual], and 2021). At this year's national ESA meeting in Denver, I have volunteered to moderate a presentation session and be a judge for a student competition session (10-minute presentations) Also, I am excited that I was able to participate in the ESA PACT initiative as a mentee this year. Other activities: President-elect of Auburn's Post-Doc Association Member of the DEI committee of Auburn's College of Ag

Candidate statement: ESA is an organization that makes a great effort to connect entomologists across the country that are at different stages in their career. I believe that the branches are extremely useful in promoting connectivity and fostering collaborations between entomologists in the same region. I greatly value collaborative work and efforts to provide learning opportunities to a diverse audience. I have benefitted from many ESA opportunities, now I want to help create them for others. And how better to do that than to serve as a branch officer? As an early-career professional, I represent the next generation of entomologists. For successful future events, our opinions and feedback need to be part of regional branch committee discussions. Ultimately, I hope to assist in the branch’s decision-making processes and event planning to provide valuable learning opportunities to other entomologists.

Michael Goldman
University of Florida

Bio: I have over three decades of experience in the environmental health and safety space, and I have personally experienced and mitigated a wide range of natural and business-induced hazards and regulatory violations across the United States and Canada.

My expertise ranges from large-scale manufacturing and construction operations, solid and hazardous waste transport and management, remediation of EPA Superfund sites, audit and gap analysis, plus setting up OSHA, EPA, and DOT compliant management systems and certified training programs.

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: Member since 2020

Candidate statement: My goal is to apply entomology to workplace health and safety and reduce injuries from bites and stings and reduce the transmission of disease.

Cynthia Perkovich
Tennessee State University

Bio: Dr. Cynthia Perkovich received her Master’s in entomology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her thesis focused on pioneering insect species diversity in a recently conserved bog ecosystem. She continued her education with a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Kent State University in May 2021. She was awarded the Graduate Student Senate Research Award at Kent State University in both 2019 and in 2020. She was also awarded the Herrick Ecology Research Grant in 2019. Her research focused on plant-insect coevolutionary interactions and theory. Dr. Perkovich analyzed the effects of insect herbivory on induced chemical defense production in oaks as well as how changes in phytochemistry altered insect herbivore growth and development. In 2019, she received the Kent State Graduate Student Senate Award for her outstanding presentation on the effects of tannin and nutrient ratios in the diet of Lymantria dispar. She has also published novel research on the effects of above-ground insect herbivory on below-ground ecosystems. This work showed that the location and intensity of aboveground herbivory altered root morphological structures. She used unique, novel methods analyzing phylogenetic relationships of oaks to determine that the traits expressed in response to insect herbivory were not phylogenetically restrained in the oak genus. Her Ph.D. work on plant-insect interactions has been published in top academic journals such as Oikos, Ecology and Evolution, Ecosphere, and the Journal of Chemical Ecology. Following graduation, she was hired to work on a multi-state project investigating the management of flatheaded borers in orchard, nursery, and landscape trees led by the Tennessee State University Nursery Research Center. The primary focus of her research is on how flatheaded borers respond to tree stress, including the effects of plant volatiles on insect host location. She remains active in other collaborations with entomologists working on a wide range of topics, including periodical cicada morphology and ecology. She was asked to give the keynote speech on interactions between periodical cicadas and forest trees at the 2021 Tennessee Entomological Society Annual Meeting. In addition to Dr. Perkovich’s research efforts, she is an active member of the Tennessee Entomological Society and the Entomological Society of America. In 2021, she was selected for the PACT (Professional Advancement Career Training) Initiative where she actively works with entomologists from a range of fields on personal and professional development. She served as a moderator in the P-IE Chemical Ecology session of the 2021 ESA Annual Conference. Also at the 2021 ESA conference, she served as a judge for student oral and poster competitions, and a volunteer worker at the registration desk. Dr. Perkovich also serves as a reviewer for ESA and ecology journals. Dr. Perkovich actively engages non-scientists in insect science. She holds a position as one of the Tennessee Entomological Society’s publicity team where she actively seeks new members. She also publishes interesting insect knowledge and pictures to social boards for the Tennessee Entomological Society to get non-scientists interested in the insects around them. In addition, she works on collaborations with nearby schools to get young students interested in science in general, and more specifically interested in plant-insect interactions.

Past ESA activity or other volunteer service: I have been an active member of ESA since 2017. I presented a poster presentation in Denver in 2017, and gave oral presentations in Vancouver, virtually during 2020, and in Denver this year (2021). I am an active member in the plant-insect ecosystem section who I have moderated sessions for at annual conferences. I also have volunteered my time at annual conferences as a student competition judge (both posters and oral presentations) and worked the registration booth. During my PhD, I also joined the Ecological Society of America and the Botanical Society of America where I volunteered at annual conferences to help with registration and setup. I recently moved from Ohio to Tennessee where I have taken on a more active part in several societies, including the Tennessee Entomological Society where I am currently working on the Publicity team where I do outreach to local Tennesseans to contact new members and provide information about achievements in entomology on our Facebook page. I recently joined the Tennessee Academy of Sciences where I judged student oral competitions at the 2021 annual conference.

Candidate statement: I am Dr. Cindy Perkovich, and I would like to use my skills and experiences to help direct the future of the southeastern branch of the Entomological Society of America. I am a hardworking and overachieving academic that can bring new ideas and direction to this society. My current position as a postdoctoral researcher on a multi-state project has provided me with the necessary skills to fill the member-at-large position for the southeastern branch of ESA. I have experience with widespread collaborations working with ESA members from across the US, ranging from Oregon State to Florida. Working with collaborators from different geographical locations, I have developed excellent time management skills and experience with many different demographics. The southeastern branch of ESA covers 9 states in the US, and 2 territories outside the US. This branch needs officers that understand the challenges of working in different time zones and working with diverse cultures. Furthermore, I have experience working with other entomologists from a range of fields. I have taught entomology lectures to undergraduate students and worked on projects investigating ecological theories of plant-insect interactions, integrated pest management, insect effects on crop production, and studies on insect morphology. This experience is essential for the southeastern branch to operate as members belong to a variety of fields in entomology including agriculture, private industry, research, and teaching just to name a few. One of the main duties of a professional society is to assist in propagating healthy and active public relations. For the southeastern branch of the ESA, the member-at-large may be tasked with public relations and reaching out to the non-scientific community. I have served on the publicity team for the Tennessee Entomological Society. I have been successful in reaching out to Tennesseans and engaging them in the projects and activities of the society. In today’s political atmosphere, it is important now more than ever, for scientific communities to build bridges between research and public view. This is an initiative that I strongly believe in. In this position, I would work to promote entomological research and publicize the importance of insects in our changing environment. Insect populations are on a decline, and substantial efforts need to be made to bridge the gap between research and the public so we can begin to address issues of climate change and globalization in an effective way. The concept of unitization applies to our branch of entomologists as well. Scientists need to work to increase communication with the public. As a community of entomological researchers and educators, we have the resources of diverse members to utilize and build better, more informative means of communication. I would work to form tasks that bring diverse entomologists together in teams, addressing environmental and agricultural issues that the southeastern United States is facing. In my efforts to create better public relations, I would propose leading the SE regional initiative to get more entomologists to share their science with a public audience. This is a great opportunity for me to also get more students and early career professionals interested in outreach programs in their local communities. Other platforms could also be used to reach the public such as “Ask an entomologist” forums where we encourage the public to converse with scientists and for scientists to interact with the public. Using informal and fun social platforms is a great way for scientists to practice speaking with the public and will also allow the public to see entomologists as everyday people who are interested in insects. I believe that I can provide perspectives to the SE Branch Executive Committee from an early career perspective and that I can learn more from working with experienced branch leaders. As an early career professional (ECP) in entomology, I am looking for opportunities.

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