Students, Faculty Receive Awards and Nominations During Southwestern Branch Meeting

The graduate and undergraduate Linnaean Teams.

The graduate and undergraduate Linnaean Teams. Submitted photo.

The Department of Entomology’s faculty and students received very high honors during this year’s Southwestern Branch of the Entomological Society of America’s 66th annual meeting during the week of March 25-29 in Albuquerque.

Members of the Texas A&M Graduate Linnaean Team won first place after defeating the undergraduate team during the final round of the Linnaean Games. Graduate members Fabian List, Mackenzie Tietjen, Joanie King, and Mark Janowiecki, won against the undergraduate team, which consisted of Dayvion Adams, Jeffrey Barbosa, Betty Hernandez, and Aria Deluna. The teams faced off against each other after several rounds with other universities within the Branch during the competitions.

Alex Payne, center, with her award. Also pictured is Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley.

Alex Payne, center, with her award. Also pictured is Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley. Photo by Edmond Bonjour.

Both the graduate and graduate teams will be heading to the national Linnaean Games at the Annual Meeting in Vancouver in November. “I couldn’t be more proud of being able to bring our two teams, not just one, to the national games this year,” Linnaean Team coach Dr. Juliana Rangel said.

Three graduate students placed in their talks during the meeting’s ten-minute oral presentation student competitions. These included Alex Payne, which took first place for her presentation titled “Synergistic effects of in-hive miticides and agro-chemicals on honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony growth” while Mackenzie Tietjen received second place for her talk titled “A comparative evaluation of questing height between populations of Ixodes scapularis in the northern and southern United States.”

Mackenzie Tietjen, center, with her award. Also pictured is Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley.

Mackenzie Tietjen, center, with her award. Also pictured is Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley. Photo by Edmond Bonjour.

“This award shows Alex’s dedication and her attention to detail when it comes to preparing presentations and preparing content, as well as her demeanor during the presentations itself,” Rangel said. “She has become one of the best student speakers that I have seen in our department in a long time”

Jocelyn Holt, center, with her award. Also pictured with Holt is Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley.

Jocelyn Holt, center, with her award. Also pictured with Holt is Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley. Photo by Edmond Bonjour.

Jocelyn Holt received third place for her talk titled “Characterization of the sugarcane aphid microbiome in the continental US.” Payne is a Ph.D. student in Dr. Juliana Rangel’s lab while Tietjen and Holt are Ph.D. students in Dr. Raul Medina’s lab.

“I think Jocelyn’s work on the sugarcane aphid is providing timely information that is increasing our understanding of this emerging sorghum pest,” Medina said. “Jocelyn is a gifted PhD student when it comes to communicating her findings to the public. Not only she is objective and clear but she also succeeds in conveying excitement about her research questions.”

“Mackenzie’s work is increasing our understanding of the ecology, behavior and population genetics of the black-legged tick in the Southern US. Her results are providing information that will help us understand the reasons that may explain the wide variation in Lyme disease cases within the US.  Mackenzie is an excellent speaker,” he said. “She is precise and clear and has the ability to present complex information in an understandable fashion. It is no surprise she got an award for her talk!”

Dr. Craig Coates, center, with Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley. Photo by Edmond Bonjour.

Dr. Craig Coates, center, with Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley. Photo by Edmond Bonjour.

Senior Makaylee Crone also received the Undergraduate Student Achievement in Entomology Award and former Ph.D. student Freddy Ibanez received the John Henry Comstock Award. Crone is a biomedical sciences major that is working in Dr. Juliana Rangel’s lab as an undergraduate researcher.

“I was very excited that Makaylee got the student award,” Crone’s mentor Dr. Juliana Rangel said. “It was really a great example of how someone can come into the lab without any previous experience and research and then flourishing in just one or two years. That is really rewarding for me a mentor and I am incredibly proud of her.”

Dr. Greg Sword, center, with Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley. Photo by Edmond Bonjour.

Dr. Greg Sword, center, with Dr. Manuel Campos-Figueroa, left, and Dr. Justin Talley. Photo by Edmond Bonjour.

Dr. Greg Sword was nominated by the branch for the Entomological Society of America’s Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management while Dr. Craig Coates was nominated for the ESA Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching. These awards will be announced during the 2018 ESA, Entomological Society of Canada, and Entomological Society of British Columbia joint annual meeting that will be held in Vancouver on November 11-14.

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