Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor Award in Excellence Winners Were Announced for Entomology

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Carla Smith, left, received the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence in the business and operational staff category. Photo by Rob Williams.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas –A member of the administrative office at the Department of Entomology and one collaborative partnership are starting the New Year off right as they received the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence d

The Saltcedar Team, center, received the Vice Chancellor Award in Excellence for their outstanding work in controlling salt cedar.

The Saltcedar Team, center, received the Vice Chancellor Award in Excellence for their outstanding work in controlling salt cedar.

uring the Centennial Conference in January.

Administrative Services Officer Carla Smith received the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence in the business and operational staff category and the Salt Cedar Biological Control Team received the Vice Chancellor Award in Excellence in the Team category during the awards ceremony in College Station.

Smith has served the department in her current capacity since 2007. Before her entomology appointment, she served from 1993-2007 as administrative coordinator for the Texas Institute for Advancement of Chemical Technology at Texas A&M. Carla began working for Texas A&M in 1991 for TEEX.

“Carla works diligently with regard to all facets of the department and her expertise spans all roles within administration,” Department Head Dr. David Ragsdale wrote in his nomination letter for Smith. “She is readily accessible to the faculty, staff, and students and strives to make sure that everyone has the resources necessary to complete their jobs.”

Ragsdale also noted that Smith was very essential to the Department and dedicated to keeping everything running smoothly.

“Carla is the ‘go to’ senior staff member who keeps the departmental enterprise moving forward,” he wrote. “Without her leadership, the bits and pieces of the department would not work in unison and the wheels would fall off the bus.”

In addition to Smith, the Salt Cedar Biological Control Team received the award for their work in developing, implementing and evaluating a sustainable biological control strategy for salt cedar that will benefit Texas for years to come.

The team, which consists of Texas A&M AgriLife Research entomologists Dr. Jerry Michels and Dr. Allen Knutson, Michels’ research assistant Erin Jones, and AgriLife Extension entomologist Dr. Mark Muegge, established several populations of the introduced salt cedar leaf beetle in all of the major watersheds of West Texas and provided technical assistance and education to landowners and managers on using biological control to the invasive species. Following a 10-year effort, the leaf beetles are now well established in all of those watersheds, according to the nomination letter.

The beetles defoliate salt cedar trees during the summer. With repeated defoliation, trees deplete their energy stores and slowly starve to death. As a result, branches die back, the canopy shrinks, and after several years of repeated defoliation, many trees will begin to die.

“The achievements of the Salt Cedar Biological Control Team illustrates the value of Extension and research programs working together, with AgriLife Research providing applied and basic research results to support the key mission and AgriLife Extension faculty implementing programs by networking with and educating stakeholders about the risks and ultimate benefits of biological control,” Ragsdale said.

Dr. Mike McWhorter, international training specialist and Associate Director for Training Programs at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, along with the Veterinary Epidemiology, Diagnostic Detection and Outreach team, also received the Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence in the category of International Involvement.

McWhorter, who is an adjunct professor in the Department was recognized along with Heather Simmons, education and outreach theme leader, National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (Texas A&M AgriLife Research), Amy Swinford, microbiology branch chief, Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory; Sandy Rodgers, assistant section head for serology, TVMDL; Tom Hairgrove, program coordinator for livestock and food animal systems, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and TVMDL; and Floron Faries Jr., professor and Extension specialist, FAZD and AgriLife Extension.

The Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence is the highest employee award given by Texas A&M AgriLife. Established in 1980, the awards program recognizes the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty and staff across the Texas A&M AgriLife agencies.

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