ESA Names 2011 Insect Science Award Winners

Lanham, MD; October 12, 2011 – The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2011 awards. Professional awards will be presented at Entomology 2011, ESA’s 59th Annual Meeting, in Reno, Nevada during Monday’s Plenary Session on November 14, 5:00-6:30 p.m. ESA student awards will be presented on Tuesday, November 15, 7:30-8:30 p.m. The awardees are listed below.


Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension—This annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to extension entomology. Dr. Michael E. Gray, a native of southwestern Iowa, graduated with a B.A. in biology from the University of Northern Iowa (1977), and with M.S. (1982) and Ph.D. (1986) degrees in entomology from Iowa State University. In 1988, he began his career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Gray’s research and extension programs have been interwoven throughout his career. His research and extension programs have increased our understanding of the biology, ecology, and management of the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte. He has served in several leadership roles within the IPM arena, including IPM Coordinator, University of Illinois, Co-Director of the USDA-CSREES North Central Region IPM Center, and Panel Manager for the USDA North Central Region IPM Grants Program.

Gray has been a member of ESA since 1979 and has served this professional society in a number of leadership roles, including: Program Chair, North Central Branch Meeting, 1994; editorial board member, American Entomologist, 1990-1995; Executive Committee, North Central Branch, 1994-1997; editor, Journal of Economic Entomology, 1995-1997; Program Co-Chair for ESA’s Annual Meeting in San Diego, California, 2001; co-editor, Handbook of Corn Insects, 1999; President, North Central Branch, 2002-2003; ESA Governing Board member, Section E, 2004-2005; Chair, ESA Nominations Committee, 2004-2006; and Governing Board Executive Committee, 2004-2009. Gray served as President of ESA during the first full year of ESA’s renewal and transition to the four new Sections, working closely with the Section leadership to encourage their new empowerment.

Distinguished Achievement Award in Horticultural Entomology—Sponsored by Gowan Company, this award honors any entomologist who has contributed to the American horticulture industry. Dr. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Plant Sciences, served as an associate dean in the UC Davis College of Agricultural Environmental Sciences for 10 years.

A native of Elizabeth, N.J., he received his master’s and doctorate degrees in entomology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989. In his 30-year career, Dr. Parrella has developed an internationally recognized program focused on advancing integrated pest management and biological control for the floriculture and nursery industry.

A Fellow of ESA and Past President of the Pacific Branch, Dr. Parrella represents the Branch on the ESA Governing Board. Among his awards: ESA’s Recognition Award; inductee into the California Floriculture Hall of Fame; the Emma Lausten Horticulture Award from Rutgers University; the Virginia Tech Distinguished Alumni Award; the Alex Laurie Research Award from the Society of American Florists; and the Futura Research and Education Award from the Professional Plant Growers Association.

He has served on USDA/CSREES review panels for the Departments of Entomology at six universities. He helped draft the document that led to the USDA-ARS Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative. He has been western regional administrator for the USDA IR-4 program for the past 10 years, a pest management consultant to the American Floral Endowment, and UC liaison to the California Cut Flower Commission and the California Association of Nurserymen.

Dr. Parrella is the author of more than 375 publications and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Environmental Horticulture. He lectures all over the world.

Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching—This award is presented annually to the member of the Society deemed to be the most outstanding teacher of the year. Dr. Tanja McKay is an associate professor of entomology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Arkansas State University, where she teaches and does most of her research in the field of veterinary entomology. She is also the assistant director of the Environmental Science Program. She is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, receiving a B.S. degree (1994) from Acadia University, and an M.S. degree in entomology (1998) from the University of Manitoba. In 2002, she received her Ph.D. in entomology from Kansas State University. In the same year, she joined the staff in the Department of Entomology at the University of Arkansas as a research associate in veterinary entomology. In 2004, she joined the faculty at Arkansas State University. She also holds a partial appointment with the Department of Entomology at the University of Arkansas. She currently teaches 11 lecture and laboratory courses at ASU, including General Entomology, Medical/Veterinary Entomology, and Insect Taxonomy. She has received over $4 million in competitive funding, including two grants from the National Science Foundation to improve science pedagogy employed by 7-12 grade teachers and to improve science and technology learning by students. She also recently received a grant from NSF to provide scholarships to undergraduates and graduates in STEM disciplines. The goal of that project is to increase the completion rate of students in the STEM disciplines by recruiting, mentoring, and providing opportunities to students who might not otherwise have access to research experiences. She has produced more than 15 refereed journal articles and a book chapter. She has mentored six masters and two Ph.D students. Her current research interests include examining dog heartworm-mosquito associations using molecular diagnostics; examining nematode and fungal associations in mosquito larvae as potential biological control; and examining the spatial and temporal distribution of stored-product insects of stored rice. Dr. McKay has been an active member of the Entomological Society of America since 1998. She has served on the ESA Standing Committee on Membership (Chair, 2010), and is currently a subject editor for the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Distinguished Service Award to the Certification Program—This award encourages, recognizes, and rewards outstanding contributions to the ESA Certification Program and the professionalism of entomology. Forrest St. Aubin, a Board Certified Entomologist and nationally recognized pest management consultant, received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Missouri and Webster University. He currently serves as a consultant to the urban pest management industry and the legal profession. He has served for the past five years as Chair of the ESA-ACE testing program. Prior to engaging in pest management consulting, St. Aubin was employed for 26 years in various research and marketing positions in the pesticide chemical industry. He was the first technical editor of Chemical Times and Trends, a journal devoted to the chemical specialty industry. He is an author of many articles concerning food plant and health care pest management, structural pest control, and medical entomology. In those regards he has appeared on the programs of many state and national organizations. He is retired from the United States Army Reserve, Medical Service Corps, wherein he served as a medical entomologist. Prior to retirement, he commanded a disease vector management unit stationed in Chicago, Illinois.

Mr. St. Aubin's industry affiliations, over more than 45 years, have been many and varied. He served on the board of directors of the Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, the board of directors of the National Pest Management Association, as chairman of the Food Protection and Sanitation Committee, and as a member of the Project Development Council of that association. He was a president of the Kansas Pest Control Association and was a vice president of the Missouri Pest Management Association. In those positions, he was active in promoting the revision and strengthening of the pesticide laws of the two states. St. Aubin established and operated Summa Pest Management Services, Inc., of Overland Park, Kansas for many years, selling that company in 1993. Summa was a company dedicated to pest management services exclusively for the health care, food processing, art and antiquities preservation, hospitality, and high-tech industries.

From early 1993 until late 1997, he was director of the Division of Plant Health of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, serving two governors and three secretaries of agriculture. Among other regulatory issues, the Plant Health Division managed the licensing and certification of all pesticide applicators, urban and agricultural. Recognizing the need for civic responsibility, he served on the Johnson County (Kansas) Advisory Commission on Aging for four years and as chairman of that commission for one year. Later, he served several years on the board of commissioners of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District and as its treasurer.

Early Career Innovation Award—Sponsored by BASF, this award honors young professionals working within the field of entomology who have demonstrated innovation through contributions within any area of specialization (research, teaching, extension, product development, public service, etc.). Dr. Jonathan G. Lundgren is a predator ecologist, and his main areas of research include predator feeding ecology and nutritional physiology, integrating generalist predators within modern farming systems, the importance of biodiversity in managing pests, and carabid taxonomy and natural history. He has been a research entomologist with the USDA-ARS in Brookings, SD since 2004, and was named the lead scientist of the pest management group there in 2008. Specific research systems that he investigates include: 1) Physiological underpinnings of omnivory and feeding ecology of predatory ladybeetles (especially Coleomegilla maculata). 2) Conserving generalist predator communities in cropland using vegetational diversity, especially in GM corn and soybeans 3) Unravelling complex trophic interactions within soil-based food webs, and encouraging predation on weed seeds and insect pests. 4) The importance of endosymbionts to expanding the dietary breadth of insects. 5) The reproductive ecology of predatory Heteroptera (especially Orius insidiosus), and understanding how food quality and plant characteristics influence bug behavior. 6) The economics of conservation biological control of insect pests and weed seedbanks. Relating entomological science to the general public is a key priority of his research program, and he regularly communicates science to various stakeholder and community groups, and he has written the monthly newspaper column “The Insect Spotlight” since 2005. He was awarded the Rothbart Early Career Scientist Award by the USDA-ARS, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering, the highest government honor for this age class.

Nan-Yao Su Award for Innovation and Creativity in Entomology—Each year this award is given to an ESA member who is able to demonstrate through his/her projects or accomplishments an ability to identify problems and develop creative, alternative solutions that significantly impact entomology. Dr. Walter Leal, a professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, was educated in Brazil and Japan. He holds a doctorate in applied biochemistry from Tsukuba University, Japan, and also earned degrees in chemical engineering and agricultural chemistry.

A pioneer in the field of insect communication and on the cutting edge of research, he employs innovative approaches to insect olfaction problems. His work examines how insects detect smells, communicate with their species, detect host and non-host plants, and detect prey. Dr. Leal has designed and synthesized complex pheromones from many insects, including scarab beetles, true bugs, longhorn beetles and the citrus leafminer. He and his lab discovered the secret mode of the insect repellent DEET.

A native of Brazil, Dr. Leal is a Fellow of the ESA and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served as president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE) and of ESA’s Integrative Physiological and Molecular Insect System Section. He received ESA’s 2008 Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology; ISCE’s 2007 Silverstein-Simeone Award; and the highest medals of honor from the Entomological Society of Brazil and the Japanese Society of Applied Entomology and Zoology. Under his tenure as department chair, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked the department number one in the country. Leal has published his work in more than 161 peer-reviewed journals in the general field of insect pheromones, insect chemical communication, and insect olfaction, many widely cited by his peers. He has 28 Japanese and two U.S. patents.

Recognition Award in Entomology—Sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection, this award recognizes entomologists who are making significant contributions to agriculture. Dr. Steven E. Naranjo is a research entomologist, research leader and acting center director with the USDA-ARS Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, AZ. His interests include conservation of natural enemies, population ecology, and IPM of cotton and other arid-land crops. His goal is to develop comprehensive IPM programs through study of insecticide selectivity, development of biological control based economic thresholds and sampling aids, study of insect flight behavior and movement, identification of source-sink relationships for pest and natural enemy populations within agroecosystems, determination of potential pests of new industrial crops, and study of non-target effects of transgenic crops. Dr. Naranjo holds a Ph.D. in entomology from Cornell University, an M.S. in entomology from the University of Florida, and a B.S. in zoology from Colorado State University. He was a key architect in the development and implementation of a highly successful IPM program for sweetpotato whitefly in Arizona cotton that has been widely adopted in other parts of the world and has contributed to reducing insecticide use by nearly 90% and saving Arizona cotton growers more than $210 million over the last 15 years. He has authored over 180 scientific papers, books, and book chapters and made numerous invited presentations at professional conferences, symposia, and academic institutions. Dr. Naranjo served as co-editor-in-chief of the international journal Crop Protection from 1995-2006 and is currently a subject editor for Environmental Entomology, covering the Transgenic Plants and Insects section. Dr. Naranjo holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona.  

Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology—Sponsored by Bayer CropScience, this award was established in 1996 to recognize and encourage innovative research in the areas of insect physiology, biochemistry, and toxicology in the broad sense. Dr. John Carlson received his A.B. degree in biochemistry at Harvard in 1977, and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Stanford in 1982. For three years he carried out postdoctoral work at Stanford, and for 25 years he has been on the faculty at Yale, where he is currently Higgins Professor. His laboratory identified the first insect odor receptor genes and the first insect taste receptor genes. He has elucidated at the molecular and cellular levels some of the basic principles by which insects encode odors and tastants. He has compared odorant receptor repertoires of insect species that have different ecological needs. His previous awards include the Yale College Dylan Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence in Natural Sciences (1998), a McKnight Investigator Award (2000), the Silverstein-Simeone Award from the International Society for Chemical Ecology (2004), a Senior Scholar Award from the Ellison Medical Foundation (2004), the R. H. Wright Award for Olfactory Research (2005), and the Genetics Society of America Medal (2011). He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Eleven of his Ph.D. students have won awards for their doctoral dissertations. He has served on the editorial board of Insect Molecular Biology since 2000.  


Student Activity Award—Sponsored by Monsanto Company, this award is presented annually to recognize a student for outstanding contributions to the Society, his/her academic department, and the community, while still achieving academic excellence. Dr. Ashfaq A. Sial completed his Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr. Jay F. Brunner at Washington State University in 2010. For his Ph.D., Ash worked with tree fruit growers to develop sustainable IPM programs that utilized reduced-risk chemicals by characterizing the toxicity profile of novel, reduced-risk chemistries, assessing the risk of resistance evolution, and determining the resistance mechanisms. He has 11 peer-reviewed publications while several others are in the process. Ash has given 31 research and extension presentations at professional meetings, plus seven invited talks and seven posters, and he has won several awards for outstanding presentations. Ash has authored or co-authored several successful research grants, and volunteered his time and expertise to review grants and manuscripts. Ash has demonstrated tremendous leadership in ESA student activities, including the Linnaean Games and Student Debates, and he has organized several symposia at the regional and national levels. Ash served the Society as Co-Chair (2009) and Chair (2010) of the ESA Committee on Student Affairs, and represented the student membership on several ESA committees, including the Program Committee for the 2010 Annual Meeting. Ash has been recognized for his excellence in academic and professional activities by several awards, including the John Henry Comstock Award, the WSU President’s Award, the WSU Excellence Award, the Dr. William R. Wiley Award, and the Dr. C. C. Burkhardt Graduate Student Award. Currently, Ash is working as a post-doc with Dr. Kent M. Daane at the University of California, Berkeley. There, he is investigating ecological relationships between mealybugs (the vector) and grape leafroll virus (the pathogen). Ash is also working with California grape growers to develop sustainable IPM programs for mealybugs utilizing novel control tools such as mating disruption and reduced-risk chemicals, as well as biological control.

Student Certification Award—Sponsored by PestWest Environmental Science, this award recognizes and encourages outstanding entomology graduate students with interest in the mission of the ESA certification program, and to promote the understanding and importance of the program. Abdul Hafiz Ab Majid is a Ph.D candidate in the Urban and Molecular Entomology Laboratory of Dr. Shripat Kamble at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where his research focuses on the molecular ecology and population genetics of subterranean termites in Nebraska. Hafiz received his B.S in biology and vector/parasite management in 2005 and his M.S. in urban and industrial entomology in 2008 from Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia. Hafiz is a fellow at the School of Biological Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, under the Academic Scheme Training Staff Program. He has participated in a wide variety of research projects on urban pests such as termite baiting, termite foraging behavior and ecology, liquid termiticide application, insecticide degradation, cockroach management and control in sewer systems, and evaluating liquid and gel bait insecticides for nuisance ants and cockroaches. He has been an ESA member since 2008 and a BCE-Intern since 2009.

Hafiz has authored or co-authored seven peer-reviewed publications and has contributed more than 20 oral and poster presentations at various professional meetings and conferences. Hafiz has volunteered his services in BCE programs, serving on the PM&C Audit Committee and helping to expanding the Certification Program beyond U.S. borders. He also does volunteer work at the Nebraska Urban Pest Management Conference.

Hafiz’s long-term research goals are to integrate insect toxicology, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, bioinformatics, and molecular biology to conduct novel research to address basic and applied entomological questions in urban insect pest management at the molecular level.

John Henry Comstock Graduate Student AwardsThese six awards are given to one graduate student from each ESA Branch to promote interest in entomology and to stimulate interest in attending the ESA Annual Meeting.

Dr. Casey D. Butler (Pacific Branch) is an R&D scientist at Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. He is a recent Ph.D. graduate from the University of California, Riverside (UCR). Casey’s interest in entomology began with 4-H, which led him to Purdue University where he completed his B.S. and M.S. degrees in entomology. At UCR, Casey earned his Ph.D. for the development of management strategies for the potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli (Sulc), in southern California. The potato psyllid is a major pest of solanaceous crops in North and Central America, as well as New Zealand. Potato psyllid causes yield loss by direct feeding on crop plants and by transmitting a bacterial pathogen (Candidatus Liberibacter psyllaurous). The goal of Casey’s research is to build the foundation of integrated pest management against this pest. The first step of his research was to develop sampling plans that accurately and efficiently estimated the number of potato psyllids in agricultural fields. Next he developed pest management strategies to move away from the reliance of broad-spectrum insecticides to more targeted chemical tools, host plant resistance, and biological control. Casey has received several awards, which include 19 scholarships, Purdue’s School of Agriculture Award of Excellence, UCR’s James and Margaret Lesley Annual Prize, the Harry Scott Smith Biological Control Award, and the Entomological Foundation’s Kenneth and Barbara Starks Plant Resistance to Insects Graduate Student Research Award. Casey has given over 20 research and poster presentations and has 13 refereed publications.

Todd M. Gilligan (North Central Branch) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management at Colorado State University under the advisement of Dr. Paul Opler and Dr. Boris Kondratieff. His dissertation, entitled “Tortricids of Concern to United States Agriculture: Systematics, Biology, and Diagnostics,” is focused on protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive Lepidoptera by providing adult and larval identification resources, novel molecular diagnostics, and phylogenetic analyses of tortricid pests and related species. Todd’s research has led to extensive field work in Europe, Australia, and Africa, assisted by an assembly of international collaborators and funded by a $200,000 self-authored grant from USDA/APHIS/PPQ/CPHST. Much of his time is spent working closely with molecular biologists to develop DNA-based identification tools while continuing to focus on the importance of traditional taxonomy. Todd has authored or coauthored ten peer-reviewed publications, including a 300+ page book on olethreutine moths, and he maintains a website dedicated to tortricid taxonomy ( He has presented research at 13 meetings, has organized an international symposium on Tortricidae, and has presented guest lectures at both the university and professional level. Prior awards include the Entomological Society of America’s President’s Prize in Systematics and Evolution, the Lepidopterists’ Society’s Harry K. Clench Award, and the Colorado State University Ynez Morey/Chuck Reagin Memorial Entomology Scholarship.

Itai Opatovsky (International Branch) became interested in entomology as a child growing up in Kohav-Yair, Israel. Following five years in the Israeli Defence Force, he studied biology at Ben-Gurion University, and continued with an M.Sc. in environment and ecology under the supervision of Prof. Yael Lubin. Itai then worked at the Gilat Research Center with Dr. Phyllis Weintraub. Now enrolled in a Ph.D program, he is studying interactions between agrobiont and immigrant spider species in wheat fields and their effect on pest populations. Itai has won a BARD fellowship to learn molecular techniques in the laboratory of Prof. James Harwood (University of Kentucky), has thrice received the American Arachnological Society Research Award, and received a Sigma Xi Research Award in 2011. He lives in Midreshet Ben-Gurion in the Negev desert with his wife Jenia.

Julien M. Beuzelin (Southeastern Branch) attended the Université de Rennes 1 in France, where he received a B.S. in cell biology and physiology. As an undergraduate, he studied nematodes, aphids, and pathogens attacking vegetable, melon, and carrot productions. Julien received his M.S. in crop protection from the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Rennes, France. For his M.S. research, he worked with Drs. T. E. Reagan (Louisiana State University) and L. T. Wilson (Texas A&M University), where he assessed on-farm efficacy of reduced-risk insecticides and aspects of biological control for sugarcane borer management in sugarcane and rice. Julien recently completed his doctoral studies in the Department of Entomology at Louisiana State University with a minor in applied statistics. His dissertation research focused on ecology and integrated pest management of stem borers of sugarcane and rice, and involved extensive stakeholder interactions with farmers and county extension agents. His research involved on-farm and greenhouse non-crop hosts, cultural practice, and hurricane impact studies. Julien also studied sugarcane cultivar resistance to aphids, insecticide resistance in the sugarcane borer, and induced resistance to the fall armyworm in conventional and transgenic cotton. Since beginning his Ph.D. studies in 2006, he has published 17 peer-reviewed research articles, 10 reports for Arthropod Management Tests, and numerous extension papers. He was named the LSU Department of Entomology L.D. Newsom Outstanding Ph.D. Student, was recognized for the Robert T. Gast Best Ph.D. Oral Presentation from the ESA Southeastern Branch, and he has won the ESA’s President’s Prize.

Dr. Akito Kawahara (Eastern Branch) was raised in Japan and the United States, and gained an appreciation for entomology during his childhood in Japan. He completed his undergraduate degree in entomology at Cornell University in 2002. He graduated with a master’s degree in entomology from the University of Maryland in 2007. He continued as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at Maryland, and completed his dissertation in July, 2010. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, researching the radiation of amphibious and carnivorous Hyposmocoma case-making moths. His interests include the systematics of Lepidoptera, molecular phylogenetics, and cultural entomology. For his dissertation, he specialized in the molecular phylogenetics, systematics, and life-histories of a leaf-mining moth superfamily (Gracillarioidea). He is expected to begin as an assistant professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville in 2011. 

Dr. Hsiao-Ling Lu (Southwestern Branch) obtained her B.S. and M.S. in entomology from the National Chung-Hsing University in Taiwan under the guidance of Drs. Kuang-Hui Lu and Wu-Chun Tu. She later completed her Ph.D. in August 2011 under the advisement of Dr. Patricia V. Pietrantonio at Texas A&M University. Her research with Dr. Pietrantonio focused on the characterization of key receptor proteins (vitellogenin receptor, short neuropeptide F receptor, and insulin receptors) involved in regulation of reproduction in the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Hsiao-Ling's dissertation work improves current knowledge of social insects and contributes to research in the fields of insect physiology, molecular biology, and social insect biology. She has six peer-reviewed publications and one book chapter. Her works have been presented at national and international scientific conferences. Hsiao-Ling has received the Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research Award, the Mark Lu Educational Foundation of Hualien scholarship, and several presentation awards. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 6,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are students, researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, and hobbyists. For more information, please visit