The Entomological Society of America announced the winners of its 2016 awards. The awards will be presented at the International Congress of Entomology in Orlando, Florida, September 25-30, 2016.
The following individuals are recipients of the 2016 ESA professional and student awards.
AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT--This award, which is sponsored by Syngenta Crop Protection, is based on outstanding contributions that have a direct relation to integrated pest management (IPM). Dr. Greg Loeb is professor of entomology at Cornell University, with his laboratory located at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, where he has research and extension responsibilities for grapes and small fruit crops. He received his Ph.D. in entomology from the University of California at Davis and M.S. in ecology from San Diego State University. Broadly speaking, his research focuses on species interactions involving plants, herbivores, natural enemies, and, more recently, microbes, with the specific applied goal of developing novel approaches to pest management. Along with collaborators, his research on tritrophic interactions involving leaf morphology (acarodomatia) and predatory and mycophagous mites has established new directions in plant breeding for enhancing conservation biological control.
Currently Dr. Loeb is directing considerable research effort toward developing a better understanding of the biology and management of the invasive species spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), a significant pest of soft-skinned fruit crops throughout much of North America and abroad. Projects include the chemical ecology and behavior of host finding as a basis for behavioral management, overwintering and spring biology, monitoring and decision making, interactions with microbes, including biological control with entomopathogens, mechanical control using netting, and optimizing chemical control. Other research projects ongoing in his lab include vector-pathogen interactions and biological control and pollination ecosystem services. In addition to research and extension responsibilities, Dr. Loeb co-teaches a course on grape pest management and serves as program leader for the Department of Entomology and Geneva Experiment Station.
DISTINGUISHED ACHIEVEMENT AWARD IN EXTENSION--This annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to extension entomology. Robert Wright is professor of entomology and extension IPM coordinator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he has worked since 1988. He has developed a productive research and extension program in agronomic insect pest management, which has had local, regional, and national impacts.
He received his Ph.D. in entomology from North Carolina State University, M.S. in entomology from University of Arizona, and B.A. in zoology from University of California, Santa Barbara.
At Nebraska, Wright coordinates the activities of several faculty who contribute to the statewide multidisciplinary extension IPM program, and serves as entomology coordinator and contributor to several Nebraska Extension Crop Management programs. Regionally, he co-chairs the North Central Extension Entomologist Working Group, and chaired and is an active member of NCERA 222, the USDA-NIFA multistate committee on IPM. Wright led a group of national experts on corn rootworm biology and management to obtain funding for and produce an open access webinar, "Corn Rootworm Management in the Transgenic Era," published on the Plant Management Network. He has contributed as a member of the National IPM Coordinating Committee for several years, and has frequently provided service to the USDA-NIFA IPM Centers.
Wright has been active in ESA, including service as Program Committee chair, Student Competition Committee chair, Poster Committee chair, and Membership Committee member, and at the Branch level as Program Committee chair, Local Arrangements Committee co-chair, and Executive Committee at-large member. He frequently serves as a judge for student competitions at ESA and North Central Branch ESA meetings.
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. Pete Teel, professor of entomology at Texas A&M University, has been teaching undergraduate and graduate entomology courses for 38 years. He received B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in entomology at Oklahoma State University and an M.S. in entomology at Texas A&M University. He currently teaches Occupational and Professional Development for entomology and forensic science majors as well as Acarology for graduate students. He has developed and taught capstone courses in both entomology and forensic science curricula, and a science teacher preparation course, Insects in the Classroom. Dr. Teel directed development and implementation of a 12-credit-hour undergraduate academic certificate in Public Health Entomology with an enrollment of 129 students from multiple colleges in spring 2016. He regularly engages undergraduates in research activities on topics associated with ticks or forensic science. Dr. Teel developed and regularly teaches a workshop on tick identification and foreign animal disease awareness for animal health inspectors of the Texas Animal Health Commission and USDA that are engaged in tick surveillance programs in Texas. He taught a Forensic Acarology Workshop for the North American Forensic Entomology Association, and regularly contributes programs on tick biology, ecology, and management for extension and regional beef cattle short course audiences. He directs an annual Entomology Clinic that served 145 members of the 4-H and FFA organizations in 2016. He presently serves as associate department head for academic programs, associate director of the Forensic and Investigative Sciences Program, and departmental director for the Entomology and Forensic and Investigative Sciences Honors Program.
HENRY & SYLVIA RICHARDSON RESEARCH GRANT--This grant provides research funds to postdoctoral ESA members who have at least one year of promising work experience, are undertaking research in selected areas, and have demonstrated a high level of scholarship. Dr. Rob Morrison is originally from Mesa, Arizona. He received his bachelor of arts from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, where he majored in biology and minored in German. After several internships, including in the wetlands of Florida, he received his master's degree from the University of Munich in Germany, where he majored in ecology, evolution, and systematics, and studied the evolutionary biology between two closely related species of ants. Finally, Dr. Morrison received his Ph.D. from the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University, where he helped to develop an integrated pest management program for the asparagus miner. That research included investigating the development, chemical ecology, and natural enemies of the asparagus miner.
Dr. Morrison is currently a postdoctoral research entomologist at USDA-ARS and is working at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia. He is researching an integrated pest management program for the invasive brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). In particular, this includes evaluating an attract-and-kill tactic in apple, and other behaviorally based management and monitoring strategies. Dr. Morrison has over a decade of experience in helping to develop IPM programs for pests in vegetables and tree fruit, with 18 peer-reviewed publications, 100+ presentations, and more than $7 million in extramural funding.
He is happily married to his best friend, and in his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and spending time with his cats and friends.
RECOGNITION AWARD IN ENTOMOLOGY - This award recognizes entomologists who are making significant contributions to agriculture. Dr. David G. Riley, a professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia, is the 2016 recipient of the ESA Recognition Award in Entomology. He began his professional career at the University of Georgia as a student worker in the Institute of Ecology, graduating in 1981. He then spent two years as an agricultural extension Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, South America. He obtained an M.S. in entomology at North Carolina State University in 1986, researching bean leaf beetle, and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Florida in 1990, researching pepper weevil. He has worked as a vegetable research entomologist throughout his career, first at Weslaco, Texas, Texas A&M University and, since 1996, at the University of Georgia, Tifton Campus. He is currently the president of the Southeastern Branch of the ESA. Also, he is the graduate coordinator for the master's in plant protection and pest management degree, in which he has developed and taught graduate courses. He has served as major professor for 17 graduate students, served on 13 other committees, and coordinated 44 programs. He has served as principal investigator for research grants totaling $4,085,788, with over $6,061,374 in total grant involvement. Dr. Riley has authored or co-authored 86 refereed journal articles or book chapters, 32 refereed experiment station/extension publications, and 96 proceedings or experiment station reports, and has presented more than 310 invited and submitted papers at professional meetings. His career has focused on providing practical solutions for complex pest problems in high-value vegetable crops.
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 or her projects or accomplishments an ability to identify problems and develop creative, alternative solutions that significantly impact entomology. Dr. Coby Schal is the Blanton J. Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University. He has a B.S. from SUNY-Albany, a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas (with Bell), and postdoctoral training at the University of Massachusetts (with Cardé). He was assistant and then associate professor of urban entomology at Rutgers University. Dr. Schal's chemical ecology projects include cockroach sex and aggregation pheromones, roles of microbes in mosquito and sand fly oviposition, cuticular lipids in various insects, and the neuronal basis of sugar aversions in cockroaches. Research on cockroach-produced allergens also includes their biology, intervention strategies to mitigate their pervasiveness, and studies on the impacts of environmental interventions on health outcomes in asthmatic children. The Schal Lab has also been investigating the recent resurgence of bed bugs, through collaborative research in population genetics, chemical ecology, and pest and resistance management. Dr. Schal's research has been funded by EPA, HUD, NIH, NSF, USDA, private foundations, and industry, and he has published over 260 refereed papers. He has served as subject editor and on the editorial boards of six journals, and on the ESA Governing Board. Dr. Schal has mentored 35 graduate students and 36 postdoctoral researchers. He teaches Insect Behavior, Urban Entomology, and Chemical Ecology. Recent honors include Distinguished Achievement Award in Urban Entomology, ESA's Recognition Award in Urban Entomology, Fellow of ESA, Fellow of AAAS, NCSU's Outstanding Research Award and Outstanding Adviser Award, Silverstein-Simeone Award from the International Society for Chemical Ecology, and the Holladay Medal--NCSU's highest honor.
RECOGNITION AWARD IN INSECT PHYSIOLOGY, BIOCHEMISTRY, & TOXICOLOGY--This award, which is sponsored by Apex Bait Technologies, Inc., recognizes and encourages outstanding extension, research, and teaching contributions in urban entomology. Dr. Gerhard Gries is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University (SFU). He received his Ph.D. in forest entomology from the Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen (Germany) in 1984. Supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, he joined Dr. John Borden's laboratory at SFU in 1986. After a two-year limited-term appointment, he became a tenure-track faculty member in 1991, reaching the rank of full professor in 2000. He is currently in the 13th year of an industrial research chair on Multimodal Animal Communication Ecology, supported by Scotts Miracle-GRO and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The chair's research embraces most sensory modalities (olfaction, vision, audition, vibration, magneto-reception, and infra-red sensing). A recent highlight was the identification of the bed bug aggregation pheromone, comprising five volatile attractants and one nonvolatile arrestant. Dr. Gries has graduated 39 master's and 11 Ph.D. students, published 240 peer-reviewed research articles (including 41 with undergraduate students as co-authors), filed 24 patent applications, and produced 13 scientific films on beetles, hoverflies, and aphids in collaboration with the Institute of Scientific Film in Germany. He has received over $9 million of research support as a principal investigator and currently runs a large laboratory with 13 graduate students, three research associates, and many undergraduate students, often recruited from his Insect Biology class. His passion for teaching was recognized by SFU in 1994 through an Excellence in Teaching Award.
RECOGNITION AWARD IN URBAN ENTOMOLOGY--This award recognizes and encourages outstanding extension, research, and teaching contributions in urban entomology. Dr. Michael F. Potter is extension professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, specializing in pests impacting people, buildings, and property. He received his B.S. in entomology from Cornell, and M.S. and Ph.D. in integrated pest management from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the University of Kentucky in 1991, Potter was the national technical director for Orkin. Before that he worked in the agrichemical industry for Union Carbide/Rhone-Poulenc.
Dr. Potter's full-time extension program provides cutting-edge aid and advice to millions of clients worldwide including homeowners, multifamily housing, schools, hospitals, food, pharmaceutical and manufacturing facilities, businesses, museums, zoos, parks, government agencies, and especially the professional pest control industry. He has been a keynote or invited speaker at hundreds of professional meetings, and is routinely interviewed by news organizations throughout the world. He is the only contemporary academician to be honored with the National Pest Management Association's career Pinnacle Award as well as being inducted into the Pest Control Hall Of Fame.
Dr. Potter has also collaborated on societally important research. He was instrumental in pioneering perimeter treatment with nonrepellent termiticides that simplified how termites are managed throughout the world. He also collaborated on seminal research involving barrier treatment for mosquitoes in residential settings. For the past 15 years, Dr. Potter and his University of Kentucky research colleagues have worked on the front lines of the global bed bug resurgence, providing insight and direction to federal and state agencies, organizations and institutions, and the public. In 2013 he was named Provost's Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Kentucky.
THOMAS SAY AWARD--This ESA award acknowledges significant and outstanding work in the fields of insect systematics, morphology, or evolution. Dr. Thomas J. Henry is a research scientist and curator of Hemiptera with the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, ARS, USDA, at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He has a B.S. from Purdue University, an M.S. from the Pennsylvania State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. With 40 years of experience in the systematics and evolution of Heteroptera, or true bugs, especially those in the family Miridae and superfamily Lygaeoidea, Dr. Henry continues to be prolific with more than 245 research publications, including four books and 17 book chapters.
His systematic research, emphasizing the discovery of new characters and their evolution, leads to descriptions of new taxa, revisionary studies, phylogenetic analyses, and refined classifications. His 1997 phylogenetic analysis of the Pentatomomorpha has had major impact in understanding the higher classification of the Lygaeoidea, including justification for elevating 10 subfamilies to family status, and resulted in a monograph of the Berytidae of the Western Hemisphere and a cladistic analysis of the berytid genera of the world.
Dr. Henry's research has provided new insights regarding the role of plant bugs as predators, and his extensive fieldwork has provided valuable information on plant bug zoogeography and host selection. His research has led to the discovery and descriptions of one new family, three new tribes, 37 new genera, and more than 275 species new to science. He currently is co-editor of the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington and president-elect of the International Heteropterists' Society.
STUDENT ACTIVITY AWARD--Sponsored by Monsanto Company, this award is presented annually to recognize a student for outstanding contributions to the Society, his or her academic department, and the community, while still achieving academic excellence. Theresa Cira is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota, advised by Dr. Bill Hutchison. Her research focuses on sustainable pest management and invasive insect biology in multiple agricultural systems. In Minnesota, she studies the cold hardiness and management of the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys. In Vietnam, she has also explored the invasion biology of agricultural pests, with particular focus on insect vectors of pathogens in cassava. Additionally, she is pursuing a minor in science, technology, and environmental. Theresa received her B.S. in entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Theresa enjoys volunteering in her department and community, and for ESA. She was a member of the ESA-Student Transitional and Early Professional (STEP) committee for two years before becoming the chair. During that time she helped organize Lunch & Learns and symposia, and establish new awards to benefit the ESA-STEP community. She has served as a session moderator and judge at branch and national ESA meetings. Within her department, Theresa is active in the entomology graduate student organization, previously elected secretary and vice president. She is the student representative on the curriculum committee and volunteers at the outreach booth at the Minnesota State Fair. In addition, she volunteer-taught the labs for an undergraduate IPM course for three years. She enjoys mentoring undergraduate students through the research process, from grant writing to publication. Two of her student mentees have presented their research at multiple ESA meetings and successfully submitted their work for publication.
LILLIAN & ALEX FEIR GRADUATE STUDENT TRAVEL AWARD IN INSECT PHYSIOLOGY, BIOCHEMISTRY, OR MOLECULAR BIOLOGY--This award aims to encourage graduate students working with insects or other arthropods in the broad areas of physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology to affiliate with ESA's Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Section and to attend the ESA Annual Meeting or an International Congress of Entomology. Zachary DeVries, a native of Auburn, Alabama, began his collegiate career at Auburn University. To explore his interest in the natural world, Zach pursued a degree in biology while gaining both laboratory and field experience in both fish ecology and herpetology. Zach completed his B.S. degree in zoology with a minor in statistics in 2011. Upon completion of his B.S., Zach began pursuing his master's degree in entomology at Auburn University, working with Dr. Art Appel. His research focused on the physiology of urban pests, such as silverfish, firebrats, and bed bugs. His work has led to some interesting discoveries about the metabolism of these species as well as numerous collaborations with other departments and universities. Zach completed his master's degree in 2013.
Zach is currently a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, where he is studying the physiology, behavior, and management of urban pests under the direction of Dr. Coby Schal. Zach's dissertation encompasses a number of topics, including bed bug host attraction, host-associated divergence among bed bug lineages, and German cockroach management and health effects. Through his work, Zach hopes to improve the management of both bed bugs and German cockroaches by acquiring and integrating both basic and applied knowledge. Finally, Zach would like to thank both the Entomological Society of America and the Feir family for their support.
LARRY LARSON GRADUATE STUDENT AWARD FOR LEADERSHIP IN APPLIED ENTOMOLOGY--This award, which is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, recognizes Dr. Larry Larson's role as a leader and pioneer in insect management and carries that legacy to the next generation of leaders in applied entomology. Ashley Leach graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. in entomology. While an undergraduate, she was a research assistant in multiple entomology laboratories. After graduation, she scouted tree fruit for the agrichemical company, CHS, Inc., and was a technician for the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program.
Ashley is currently in her second year at Cornell University's Department of Entomology, where she is finishing an M.S. degree with advisor Brian Nault. Her research project evaluates an integrated pest management strategy that combines cultural control, chemical control, and host-plant resistance to reduce onion thrips infestations in onion. Ashley also is heavily involved in SAGES, the graduate student organization at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. After graduation, Ashley will pursue a career in cooperative extension or industry.
JOHN HENRY COMSTOCK GRADUATE STUDENT AWARDS--These 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.
EASTERN BRANCH COMSTOCK WINNER--Heather (Connelly) Grab is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Entomology at Cornell University. Her research approach integrates large-scale field studies with new molecular techniques in order to develop integrated management strategies that promote synergy between the conservation of ecosystem services and agricultural productivity. Her dissertation project investigates the influences of landscape simplification on pollination and biological control services provided by wild insects to strawberry production in New York. Specifically, her work focuses on understanding how farm level diversification and incorporation of wildflower strips may potentially buffer the negative impact of simplified landscape contexts. Heather has been particularly active in advocating for native pollinators and other ecosystem service providers, giving talks based on her dissertation research at more than 35 venues including both grower extension services and public science outreach. She expects to graduate with her Ph.D. this spring, and is currently looking for postdoctoral opportunities in landscape ecology, pollination biology, or biological control. In her free time, Heather runs a small organic farm with her husband, producing vegetables and raising chickens, ducks, pigs, and dairy goats.
INTERNATIONAL BRANCH COMSTOCK WINNER--Kiran Gadhave is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Georgia (UGA). He has pursued his master's degrees from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and from Cornell University, and his Ph.D. from the University of London. So far, he has published seven peer-reviewed papers, five as a lead and two as a contributing author, in leading entomology, ecology, and microbiology journals. Two of his papers are currently being revised, and two more are in preparatory stage for the submission to Ecology and Soil Biology and Biochemistry (invited review) journals. In his academic pursuits, he has won four prestigious scholarships, a poster prize, and 10+ travel awards and field study grants. His research in the past few years has focused on microbes-plant-insect interactions, beginning with insect- and plant-associated bacteria and moving more recently to plant viruses. For his Ph.D., he has worked on a multidisciplinary research project investigating the interactions between soil bacteria, plant-insect herbivores, and higher trophic levels. This work showed that plant-associated bacteria have dramatic effects in altering endophytic bacterial community, altering life history of the cabbage aphid, and reducing the populations of cabbage aphid in field conditions. Over the years, he has communicated his research through nine oral (four invited in symposia) and five poster presentations, and has built a number of collaborations with leading experts across the globe. His current research at UGA seeks to explore vector-virus-natural enemy interactions in cucurbit systems through an array of behavioral, biochemical, and molecular techniques, with an ultimate aim of reducing vector populations and viral incidences. While advancing his quest in understanding how a suite of microbial species shape host (plant and insect) interactions in manipulated and natural settings, his future research seeks to exploit the potential of these microbial players in addressing major ecological and agricultural issues.
NORTH CENTRAL BRANCH COMSTOCK WINNER--Anthony "Justin" McMechan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) under the supervision of Dr. Gary Hein, with an August 2016 graduation date. In addition, he graduated in May 2016 from the Doctor of Plant Health (DPH) Program at UNL. DPH is a professional program designed to develop plant practitioners with broad expertise and experiences across all disciplines that impact plant health and the comprehensive management of plant production systems. The combination of these doctoral programs has allowed Justin to take an interdisciplinary approach in his dissertation research to address risk assessment of over-summering hosts for the wheat-mite-virus complex in winter wheat. Internships through the DPH program also provided extensive experience in extension programming, the incorporation of technologies for disseminating information, and the development of interactive software to demonstrate field-to-field movement of mites and virus. Justin's philosophy is that growers do not encounter production issues from a single discipline, hence we should make every effort to understand, develop projects, and provide solutions that address issues at the multidisciplinary level. Justin recently accepted a position as extension assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the goal of developing an interdisciplinary research and extension program with a focus on integrating crop protection and management of cropping systems in eastern Nebraska. Justin has authored/co-authored eight research publications, and he has given 20 scientific presentations (four invited). He has won several oral and poster competitions at ESA, NCB-ESA, NC-APS, and ASA-CSSA-SSSA meetings. Justin has been active in the department's graduate student organization and departmental teaching and outreach activities.
PACIFIC BRANCH COMSTOCK WINNER--Dr. Rebecca Schmidt-Jeffris received her Ph.D. in entomology from Washington State University in 2015, under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Beers. She received her B.S. in biology from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, in 2010. Her prior studies have focused on improving sustainability in agriculture by understanding factors that affect pest and natural enemy populations in perennial and annual cropping systems. Rebecca's primary interests are using conservation biological control and landscape ecology to inform integrated pest management practices. Her dissertation research investigated phytoseiids as biological control agents in apple orchards and included augmentative releases, diversity surveys, behavioral and pesticide bioassays, phenology monitoring, and the investigation of tritrophic interactions. The research indicated that changing pest management practices had substantially altered the predatory mite community, which now includes a previously rare species. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University, working with Brian Nault to investigate the effects of landscape and management practices on European corn borer populations in vegetable and field crops. Rebecca enjoys participating in ESA and has chaired the Student Affairs Committee, and is currently the co-chair of the ICE Student Affairs Committee and represents the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Section on the Student Transition and Early Professional Committee. In these roles, she has organized many events, including symposia, the Student Debates, the Branch text messaging competition, and a Lunch and Learn. Rebecca has received the ESA Student Activity Award and the Pacific Branch Leadership Award. She hopes to eventually serve the agricultural community as a professor with a research and extension appointment, or in USDA-ARS.
SOUTHWESTERN BRANCH COMSTOCK WINNER--Derek A. Woller began his entomological journey in Texas as a high school senior after taking up insect collecting as a hobby and has been deeply involved in the field since. After traveling across the U.S. and back again to obtain two other degrees, he is now pursuing his third degree as a Ph.D. candidate under the guidance of Dr. Hojun Song in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University. Derek's primary interests are taxonomy and systematics, with possible aspirations of becoming a curator or collections manager of an insect collection. He also derives much satisfaction from teaching, having taught seven unique courses at two universities. Additionally, he has been invited to give presentations on his research and insects, in general, to classes from kindergarten to college, for seminars, and in symposia at ESA conferences and beyond. He has also co-organized multiple symposia focused on orthopteroids at ESA conferences. Derek is heavily engaged in entomological outreach and passionately believes such educational endeavors are one of the best ways to generate interest in insects and science.
Derek's dissertation research is focused on unraveling the evolutionary history of a group of grasshoppers known as the Puer Group, consisting of 24 species (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplus). Tiny and flightless, they inhabit scrubby, xeric habitats in the southeastern United States (primarily Florida) and are predominantly separated into species by their highly divergent male genitalia, similar to Darwin's famed finches and their unique beaks. Based on observational evidence, this geologically young group appears to have speciated via geographic isolation and genitalia evolution. This means the Puer Group makes an excellent living laboratory to better comprehend the biological black box that is speciation, which Derek is attempting to do by synergistically combining taxonomy and systematics, biogeography, ecology, genetics, geometric morphometrics, sexual selection, and 3D reconstructions.
SOUTHEASTERN BRANCH COMSTOCK WINNER--Dr. Blake Wilson began his career in entomology working as a laboratory assistant during the final semester of his undergraduate work at Louisiana State University (LSU). After receiving his B.S. in biology, Blake began his M.S. thesis in entomology/experimental statistics under Dr. T. E. (Gene) Reagan. Blake's thesis research focused on host plant resistance and insecticidal management of the Mexican rice borer in sugarcane in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. In 2013, Blake began his Ph.D. studies in entomology at LSU under Dr. Reagan and Dr. Julien Beuzelin. Blake's dissertation research focused on development of pheromone trapping strategies for monitoring and management of the Mexican rice borer. Blake received his Ph.D. in May of 2016, and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in sugarcane entomology at LSU. His research experience also includes IPM of stem borers in sugarcane, rice, bio-energy feedstocks, and conventional and transgenic corn. He has also studied management of the sugarcane aphid in sugarcane and grain sorghum. During his career, Blake has been active in research and extension activities for two of Louisiana's most important commodities, sugarcane and rice. He has published 10 peer-reviewed research articles, 10 Arthropod Management Test reports, and numerous extension publications. His research has been presented more than 40 times at professional society meetings in addition to many extension outreach presentations. Blake has previously received the Kirby L. Hays Award for outstanding M.S. student and the ESA President's Prize.
STUDENT TRANSITION AND EARLY PROFESSIONAL (STEP) AWARDS
STEP OUTREACH AND PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AWARD--This award honors a student transition or early professional working within the field of entomology who has demonstrated excellence, leadership, and creativity in outreach and public engagement. Adrian Smith is the head of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as well as a research assistant professor of biology at North Carolina State University. His research centers on how insect societies have evolved and function. He specializes in studies of ant chemical communication and behavioral ecology. His research has yielded the discovery and description of new chemical compounds, the fastest insect movements ever documented, and more curious observations such as the function of grappling-hook hairs on the back of ant larvae.
Adrian holds a B.S. in biology from Florida State University where Prof. Walter Tschinkel was his research mentor. His Ph.D. is from Arizona State University, where he studied under Professor J?rgen Liebig and Professor Bert Hölldobler. His postdoctoral work was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with Professor Andrew Suarez.
His science communication efforts center on the production of new media about scientific discoveries and the scientists who make them. These efforts include the "Age of Discovery" podcast, which is long-form interviews with notable biologists about their career paths and motivation in science, as well as the "Explained by the Author" YouTube video series, which features biologists presenting their primary scientific research papers in a three- to five-minute short film.
STEP EXTENSION AWARD--This award is given to a student transition or early professional who excels in entomological extension. Dr. Lauren Diepenbrock is a postdoctoral research scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Hannah Burrack at North Carolina State University. She earned a B.A. in biology at the University of Missouri, an M.S. in science education at Syracuse University, an M.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology at Florida State University, and a Ph.D. in plant, insect, and microbial sciences at the University of Missouri.
Dr. Diepenbrock's current research focuses on the management of the invasive fruit fly, Drosophila suzukii, in North Carolina berry crops. Recent projects include evaluation of on-farm insecticide-based management programs that meet various market needs of growers, understanding the role of non-crop host plants in the local persistence of D. suzukii, and exploring within-crop microhabitat use by this pest.
In addition to research, Dr. Diepenbrock is actively involved with the local grower community, presenting research findings at commodity meetings, field days, and via social media, and developing training materials to involve blackberry pickers in the management process. She also participates in local outreach opportunities, volunteering at the annual BugFest event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and mentoring a local high school student.
STEP RESEARCH AWARD--This award recognizes a student transition or early professional who has made outstanding research contributions to the field of entomology. Dr. Nicholas Teets started as an assistant professor of entomology at University of Kentucky in January 2016. He received a B.S. in zoology from Miami University in Ohio and a Ph.D. in entomology from Ohio State University with David Denlinger. Dr. Teets recently completed postdoctoral training with Dan Hahn at University of Florida, where he was supported by a USDA fellowship.
Dr. Teets' primary focus is the overwintering biology of insects, and he uses an integrative approach that combines physiology, cell and molecular biology, and functional genomics to tackle a variety of questions. As a graduate student Dr. Teets revealed key insights into the mechanisms of rapid thermal acclimation, and he also participated in an NSF-funded project addressing adaptations to extreme environmental conditions in the Antarctic midge, the world's southernmost insect and only insect endemic to Antarctica. As a postdoc, Dr. Teets continued his research on insect overwintering biology and also received funding from USDA to develop strategies for improving the stress tolerance and performance of insects used in the Sterile Insect Technique. At University of Kentucky, three areas of emphasis for the Teets lab will be 1) the cell signaling mechanisms that mediate rapid adaptations to low temperature, 2) the genetic and physiological mechanisms of extreme freeze tolerance in insects, and 3) strategies for improving the stress tolerance and field performance of beneficial insects. As a teacher, Dr. Teets strives to make molecular and genomic concepts accessible to students from all disciplines.