Entomological Society Announces Its 2005 Awardees

October 18, 2005, Lanham, Md. — The Entomological Society of America (ESA) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2005 awards program. The Society’s professional awards will be presented during its 2005 Annual Meeting, December 15-18, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


ESA Professional Awards

Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension — Presented annually, this award recognizes outstanding contributions in extension entomology. This year’s winner, Dr. Michael E. Merchant, BCE, has been a professor and extension urban entomologist at Texas A&M University’s Research and Extension Center in Dallas since 1989. He is a popular trainer for the Texas structural pest control and green industries, and provides pest control and pesticide safety information to northern Texas consumers. He co-developed the popular Texas Two-step Method of fire ant control, which has been adopted by numerous states and cities throughout the South. His leadership in helping develop school integrated pest management (IPM) programs in Texas has received national recognition. He has made more than 500 extension presentations and authored dozens of extension fact sheets. His Insects in the City website receives more than 3,000 visitors monthly, and he maintains an active research program on school IPM and the control of termites, scorpions, and brown recluse spiders.

Distinguished Achievement Award in Regulatory Entomology (Sponsored by the American Nursery & Landscape Association) — This award honors regulatory entomologists for their valuable contributions to American horticulture. Dr. Shashank S. Nilakhe, this year’s awardee, has conducted applied research on insects of field crops. He joined the Texas Department of Agriculture 17 years ago and has held numerous positions in that department. Currently, he is the state entomologist, advising the department on pests and other agricultural issues. His leadership, team-building ability, and relentless pursuit to accomplish results-oriented goals are well known among scientists, regulatory community, and commodity groups. His efforts have prevented numerous exotic pests from taking a foothold in Texas. Nilakhe serves on several committees of the National Plant Board, Southern Plant Board, and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Recently, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture awarded him the James A. Graham Award for Outstanding Service to Agriculture.

Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching — This award is presented annually to the ESA member deemed to be the Society’s outstanding teacher of the year. The 2005 recipient, Dr. Richard S. Zack, is an associate professor who employs innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and turns traditional lecture-style courses into hands-on, exciting experiences for his students at Washington State University (WSU). His most popular course, Insects and People, targets non-science majors and has been labeled a “must-take course” by WSU’s student-run newspaper. Zack is active in advising, recruiting, and mentoring students. As curator of WSU’s M.T. James Entomological Collection, he conducts outreach by involving students with diverse backgrounds in curatorial duties and research, as well as hosting hundreds of primary and secondary students from throughout the Pacific Northwest. His research integrates general principles of ecology and biodiversity with an applied perspective. Zack earned a B.S. from Ohio State University, M.S. from Kent State University, and Ph.D. from WSU.

President’s Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Secondary Education — This award annually recognizes educators who have gone beyond the traditional teaching methods by using insects as educational tools. The 2005 recipient, Kathleen Ferguson, has a B.S. and M.A. from Washington State University. She has taught in a variety of the sciences, including biology, advanced biology, chemistry, earth science, physical science, and environmental science, as well as leadership in Washington State for 20 years. Ferguson is active in state leadership programs and has been a student activities advisor throughout her career. She has taught and served as the science department chair and the alternative spring break advisor at Okanogan High School for the last five years. She is currently pursuing her National Board Certification in adolescent/young adult biology instruction. Designing relevant, interesting curriculum for her students is her main focus in the classroom. When not in the classroom, Ferguson enjoys endurance racing her Arabian horses, cross-country skiing, jogging, reading, and spending time with family.

Recognition Award in Entomology (Sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection) — This award recognizes entomologists who have made or are making significant contributions to agriculture. This year’s recipient, Dr. Anthony M. Shelton, received his B.A. in classics and philosophy from St. Mary’s College and his M.S. and Ph.D. in entomology from the University of California-Riverside. He began his professorial career in 1979 at Cornell University’s Department of Entomology at the New York Agricultural Research Station in Geneva. He currently is a professor of entomology and international professor at Cornell. His research and extension program focuses on developing sound insect pest management strategies for vegetables, with spin-offs for other crops. Components of the program stress insect population ecology, insecticide resistance, biocontrol, plant resistance, agricultural biotechnology, insect movement, trap cropping, and plant productivity and marketability as a function of insect infestations. Shelton won the Entomological Foundation’s Award for Excellence in IPM in 1995. For both awards, he thanks the wonderful people with whom he has worked in his laboratory and beyond.

Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology (Sponsored by Bayer CropScience) — This award recognizes and encourages innovative research in insect physiology, biochemistry, and toxicology. The 2005 awardee, Dr. Richard W. Beeman, is a research entomologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan, Kansas, and an adjunct entomology professor at Kansas State University. He has made fundamental research contributions in diverse areas, including insect genetics and genomics, insect development, and insecticide toxicology and resistance. He was the first to describe a unified homeotic gene complex in any animal, establishing a paradigm that has been extensively corroborated in many species. He discovered the existence and widespread occurrence in nature of a previously unknown class of maternally-acting selfish genes. He also contributed to the development of efficient tools for transposon-mediated germline transformation in Tribolium and produced the first high-resolution molecular recombination maps in this insect. In 2003, he co-authored the “white paper” that led to the complete genome sequencing of Tribolium castaneum, the first beetle and first significant agronomic pest insect to join the “genome club.”

ESA Student Awards

Student Certification Award (Sponsored by Springer Pest Solutions) — Instituted this year, this award recognizes and encourages outstanding entomology graduate students with interest in the mission of the ESA certification program. Neil A. Spomer, the first winner of this award, is a Ph.D. student in urban entomology under the supervision of Dr. Shripat T. Kamble at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received his B.S. in business administration and marketing in 1999 and his M.S. in urban entomology in 2005. His M.S. research focused on Temperature mediated kinetics and biological activity of Noviflumuron in the Eastern subterranean termite, Reticulitermes flavipes (Kollar). His Ph.D. research will address biochemical and toxicological studies utilizing novel chemistry of termiticides in subterranean termites. Spomer has been a member of ESA since 2002, and is currently serving on the student advisory and national awards committees of the North Central Branch. He passed the Board Certified Entomologist (BCE) qualifying and specialty exams and became a BCE intern earlier this year.

John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Awards — These awards promote interest in entomology at the graduate level and stimulate interest in attending the ESA Annual Meeting. The following 2005 winners were selected by each of the five ESA Branches:

Dr. Jaime Piñero (Eastern Branch) earned his B.S. in agronomy in Xalapa, México (1995) and his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts (2005). He also worked with tephritid flies with Dr. Martín Aluja at the Instituto de Ecología, A.C. until 1999. Through his research, the identification of a synergistic odor combination that is very attractive to plum curculios has, for the first time, provided Northeastern apple growers with an effective means of monitoring the seasonal course of immigration. Piñero received a competitive UMass graduate fellowship and the Harry A. Rosenfeld Research Award in Economic Entomology. He also has published six senior-authored, 11 co-authored refereed, and 11 senior-authored grower-oriented articles. Currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Piñero is working with ESA Fellow Silvia Dorn on tortricid moths. He has dedicated this award to the memory of Ron Prokopy (d. May 2004).

Dr. Lucasz Stelinski (North Central Branch) is a new postdoctoral researcher in the entomology department at Michigan State University, where he received his Master’s and Ph.D. He works with Drs. Larry Gut and Jim Miller. Stellinski’s research focuses on insect chemical ecology and behavior and the mechanisms underlying pheromone-based mating disruption. Currently, he is interested in understanding how mating disruption of moths by pheromones “works” so that practical applications of semiochemicals can be further improved. Stellinski is also interested in the behavior and ecology of parasitic wasps attacking flies in the genus Rhagoletis. Specifically, he hopes to tackle the question of whether populations of D. alloeum are forming distinct host races tracking the sympatric speciation of their Rhagoletis prey. Stellinski has published more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, several non-reviewed and extension articles, and one book chapter.

Dr. Deirdre Prischmann (Pacific Branch) completed her B.A. in biology from Alfred University in New York in 1997, after receiving a National Merit Scholarship. In 2000, she completed her M.S. in entomology from Oregon State University, where she worked with Dr. Brian A. Croft on the effects of surrounding vegetation on mite densities within vineyards. In 2005, she received her Ph.D. in entomology from Washington State University (WSU), where she worked with Dr. David G. James on the biocontrol of spider mites on wine grapes, focusing on the impacts of pesticides and generalist-feeding phytoseiid mites. Prischmann has written six nonfiction books for grade-school children, and has been honored with awards from the WSU Association of Faculty Women, the WSU Department of Entomology, and the American Society for Enology and Viticulture.

Dr. James W. Austin (Southeastern Branch) recently received his Ph.D. in entomology from University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where he worked on the molecular identification, biogeography, and phylogenetics of subterranean termites. He received his M.S. and B.S. in entomology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Texas A&M University (TAMU), respectively. He is currently a postdoctoral research associate working under the supervision of Dr. Roger Gold at TAMU’s Center for Urban and Structural Entomology. Austin has won several awards, including a 2000 J. William Fulbright Fellowship where he conducted research on Middle Eastern termites in Turkey, the 1998 Jefferey P. La Fage Memorial Award, the 2003 Larry Larson Leadership Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture Distinguished Ph.D. Scholar. An ESA member since 1991 and a BCE since 1994, he has 16 refereed publications.

Matthew Yoder (Southwestern Branch) is originally from Rosthern Saskatchewan, Canada. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and his Master’s at Texas A&M University (TAMU). His dissertation research, also being conducted at TAMU, focuses primarily on the systematics of diapriid wasps (Hymenoptera: Diapriidae), though he is also interested in the evolution of the order Hymenoptera as a whole. Yoder has been involved with the development of a range of informatics-based utilities that are used by the TAMU insect collection, the systematics group at TAMU, and colleagues from a number of laboratories throughout North America. In addition to his extensive web-based contributions, he has published papers on both the morphological and molecular aspects of his systematics research and presented his work at national and international meetings.

Normand R. DuBois Memorial Scholarship (Sponsored by Valent BioSciences Corporation) — This award encourages research by graduate students directed toward biologically based technologies to protect and preserve forests in an environmentally acceptable manner. This year’s recipient, Andrew D. Graves is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota (UMN) under the advisement of Dr. Mark E. Ascerno (UMN) and Dr. Steven J. Seybold (U.S. Forest Service, Davis, California). Graves’ research interests in forest entomology focus on the chemical ecology of bark beetles (Scolytidae). He is currently studying the effects of bark beetle pheromones, semiochemicals from competing insects, non-host volatiles, and most recently, plant hormones on the flight response of bark beetles and subcortical associates in Alaska. Ultimately, he is interested in the application of naturally produced compounds as management tools to reduce tree mortality. In addition to his education and research, Graves is serving as the president of the Department of Entomology’s student organization, Frenatae, and as the teaching assistant for the forest and shade tree entomology course.

Student Activity Award (Sponsored by Monsanto Company) — This award recognizes an ESA student member for outstanding contributions to the Society, his/her academic department, and the community, all while achieving academic excellence. Thomas Eickhoff, the 2005 awardee, is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln investigating potential sources of genetic resistance to sap feeding insects on warm-season grasses under the direction of Drs. Frederick Baxendale and Tiffany Heng-Moss. In addition to his Ph.D. research, he is a full-time research technician in the Department of Entomology, overseeing his laboratory’s insecticide evaluation program which has generated more than $280,000 in grant support. Eickhoff also has volunteered twice as a graduate teaching assistant, presented invited lectures at 14 extension programs, and published 31 research and extension publications. In ESA, he has served as chair of the Committee on Student Affairs and was an active member on the Program Committee and Committee on Strategic Planning. In 2004, Eickhoff organized and moderated two student symposia at the ESA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Founded in 1889, ESA is a non-profit organization committed to serving the scientific and professional needs of more than 5,700 entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. ESA's membership includes representatives from educational institutions, government, health agencies, and private industry. For more information on ESA, please visit http://www.entsoc.org.