DENVER—Several of the Department of Entomology’s undergraduate and graduate students received high recognition for their work during this year’s Entomological Society of America annual meeting at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
The conference, which was held from November 5 through 8, allows entomologists to learn the newest research and collaborate with others from across the United States and many international attendees. It is the largest gathering of Entomologists in the world with 3,700 in attendance this year. Our students competed in various poster and oral presentation competitions on their research.
The Texas A&M Undergraduate Linnaean Team took first place after defeating Ohio State University during the final Linnaean Games competition. The team consisted of Sam Shook, Dayvion Adams, Shelby Kilpatrick, Bret Nash, and Jeffrey Barbosa. The team pushed their way to the top by defeating both graduate and undergraduate teams from top colleges, such as Purdue, LSU, and Ohio State.
Linnaean Team coach Dr. Juliana Rangel was very pleased with the team’s progress during the tournament. “We practiced twice a week when the semester started. In the last few weeks, we practiced three times a week, so they were studying to the best of their ability, so I think that helped a lot.”
She also was very surprised and proud of the team’s success. “It’s almost unbelievable and surreal,” Rangel added. “I was very happy.”
In the ten minute paper competition, several of the Department’s students received top honors for their research presentation in their respected section. The students include the following:
- Ashleigh Faris – Ph. D. student: 1st place Oral- Medical, Urban, Veterinary Entomology-Diptera, Flies
“Who Where, and when? A survey of Texas blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae)”
- Karen Poh – Ph. D. student: 1st place Oral – Medical, Urban, Veterinary Entomology, Diptera, Mosquitoes – “Effects of prior temperature and precipitation on West Nile virus infection in Culex quinquefasciatus Say in Harris County, Texas”
- Mackenzie Tietjen – Ph.D. Student: 1st place Oral- Medical, Urban, Veterinary Entomology, Ticks and Urban Pests “The mystery of the immature stages of Ixodes scapularis in the south: Where are they?”
- Pierre Lau-Ph.D. Student: 1st place Oral – Plant-Insect Ecosystems, Apiculture “Determining the minimum number of pollen grains needed for accurate honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony pollen pellet analysis”
- Alex Payne-Ph.D. Student: 1st place Oral- Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology, Pollinators “Are honey bees (Apis mellifera) feeling antsy? Ants as possible reservoirs of honey bee pathogens.”
- Chloë Hawkings- Ph.D. Student: 2nd place – Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology, General Physiology “The influence of brood on the transcriptional profiles in the brain of the worker red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta)”
- Liz Walsh – Ph.D. Student – 2nd place Oral – Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology, Pollinators “Honey bee (Apis Mellifera, L.) queen rearing environment affects behavior and physiology”
- Ricardo Mariño-Perez – Ph.D. Student: 2nd place Oral, Systematics, Evolution, and Biology, Acari, Araneae, Opiliones, Orthoptera, Phasmatodea, and Phthiraptera “An illustrated key to the Pyrgomorphidae genera of the world (Orthoptera: Caelifera).”
- Makaylee Crone-Undergraduate: Second Place Oral – Medical, Urban, Veterinary Entomology and Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology “The effects of pyriproxyfen exposure on honey bee (Apis mellifera) sucrose sensitivity”
- Emily Hildinger-Undergraduate: First Place Oral– Plant-Insect Ecosystems, Miscellanceous – “Assessing the importance of blow flies as potential pollinators in our ecosystem”
“I am so proud of Chloë ’s second place in her ESA section. She did an excellent job, her presentation was flawless,” Hawkings’ faculty advising chair Dr. Cecilia Tamborindeguy said. “It is a well-deserved reward. Chloe is not only excelling in her PhD work, but also she is engaged in different outreach and professional development activities.”
Faris’ faculty advising chair Dr. Aaron Tarone was also proud that she won and said that it was a well-deserved award for her.
“I was proud to learn that Ashleigh had won an award for her talk at ESA,” Tarone said. “She had an interesting story to tell about a project that she put a lot of work into. It was nice to see her hard work pay off.”
Rangel was very proud of her students and their hard work.
“We invested all of all of our time in working together to improve each person’s presentation. I was very happy to see that was the case because it was very competitive,” she said. “It has been my best ESA meeting. This was very special and a very positive meeting for all of us.”
“Mackenzie succeeded in presenting her data in an engaging fashion.She used her results to inform her audience about the importance of ecological factors in explaining disease incidence,” Tietjen’s faculty advising chair Dr. Raul Medina said. “Her results have provided information that is helping us to better understand the ecological factors that contribute to the difference in Lyme disease incidence between the the North East and Southern US.”
In addition to the ten minute presentations, several students and former students received special awards during the meeting. Former Ph.D. student Chong Chin Heo was honored with the John Comstock Award. Heo, who received his Ph.D. in entomology in 2016 and currently is a faculty member at the Faculty of Medicine at Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia and has also worked as a research officer at the Institute for Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur.
“I found Chin’s thirst for knowledge to be exceptionally hard to quench. He was always reading and discussing scientific publications with other students and faculty,” Dr. Jeff Tomberlin said.
“He was a blast to watch develop as a doctoral student in my lab.”
As of 2017, Heo has published 43 peer-reviewed journal articles, one book and chapter of a book, as well as delivered over 70 platforms and poster presentations at local and international conferences.
“I believe the Comstock Award is such a wonderful recognition of Chin’s efforts. And, I know he is humbled by his selection to receive it,” Tomberlin said. “I know moving forward that he will be a great ambassador for the Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, and the Entomological Society of America.”
Ph.D. student John Gordy also was honored with the Larry Larson Graduate Student Award for Leadership in Applied Entomology during the event. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas A&M University under Drs. Michael Brewer and Mo Way and works as a County Extension Agent in Fort Bend County in the Rosenberg area.
Walsh was also recognized for her research with the Jeffery P. La Fage Student Award for Applied Research on Social Insect Pests. The award is given to exceptional PhD students that show exemplary work in their research on social insects with an applied emphasis. Walsh was awarded for her work on mandibular gland pheromones on honey bee queens and how the queen’s rearing environment impacts her on a physiological level and behaviorally on the workers.
Ashleigh Faris also was recognized for receiving the 2017 Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology’s Student Travel Award and Dr. Megha Parajulee also was recognized for serving as president of the International Branch of the Entomological Society of America.