Congratulations to former Professor and Extension Specialist Dr. Mike Merchant as he was named an honorary member of the Entomological Society of America in 2020.
Merchant recently retired from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and was one of five entomologists in the nation that were named honorary members. The award acknowledges members who have served the ESA for at least 20 years outstanding work throughout their careers to advance the organization at an extraordinary level.
For 31 years, Merchant has been serving the state as Professor and Extension Entomologist working in the field of urban entomology. His responsibilities include providing county agents and the public with technical assistance on structural pest control, turfgrass and ornamental insects, and public health entomology.
Merchant’s research spanned across a wide variety of pest problems including fire ants, scale insects, spider and scorpion management, and the economics and implementation of IPM programs for schools.
He has trained dozens of pest management professionals and led establishment of the IPM Experience House training facility in Dallas. He is a co-author of the ESA publication titled IPM for the Urban Professional: A Study Guide for the Associate Certified Entomologist.
Along with colleagues Drs. John Jackman and Carlos Bogran, Merchant also developed the Master Volunteer Specialist in Entomology program. This training consists of a course which offers in-depth training in entomology to Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists and created an online outreach tool for professionals and general public called Insects in the City.
To help improve pest management training, Merchant oversaw the renovation project in 2016 that eventually became the Texas IPM House, which is a hands-on training facility for pest management professionals to learn about IPM and pests that invade homes or used structures as a source of food and shelter.
Merchant also created an interactive website called “Mosquito Safari” to help teach homeowners and businesses about proper mosquito control. During the emergence of the Zika virus, Merchant worked with Dr. Sonja Swiger to develop a statewide outreach program to educate about controlling mosquitoes and prevention of Zika in Texas. In 2016, they enlisted the help of several Extension agents, specialists, and program specialists to create and distribute materials.
Their efforts in mosquito control educational programming resulted in 339 education events, directly training nearly 140,000 people plus over 2 million media contacts engaged with the programs. In addition, 76,400 people received newsletters with Zika information and more than 11,000 printed copies were distributed throughout the state.
Merchant became an ESA member in 1982 and has attended more than 30 annual conferences and continuously active in ESA volunteer roles including student judging, helping organize the first Insect Expo, chairing and serving on multiple committees, and organizing symposia.
Merchant also served as Section F officer and then as first president of the newly formed Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology (MUVE) section. Before serving as an officer and MUVE president, he led the startup of the Associated Certified Entomologist program, which as since increased membership in the ESA and strengthened the certification program.
“Mike has impacted many professionals in entomology. However, his dedication and support of the Certification Programs for the Entomological Society of America stands out. As Certification Director, Mike recognized that professional credentialing for Pest Management Professionals could serve an important need for the industry,” said Bob Davis, Technical Services Director at BASF. “He helped drive the creation and implementation of the Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) program.”
Davis also said that with Merchant’s help, the ACE program has grown tremendously.
Consequently, ACE membership from 2004 to present grew from zero to over 1000, and is still on an upward trend,” Davis said. “The Pest Management Industry and ESA owe much to Mike for his work with the Certification Program.”
Associate Department Head for Extension Programs and Statewide IPM Coordinator Dr. David Kerns was very proud of Merchant and his accomplishments.
“Dr. Mike Merchant epitomized the perfect blend of applied research and extension outreach. He developed one of the nation’s top research driven extension programs,” he said. “Mike’s innovations, discoveries, and implementations provided better IPM based solutions to urban pest issues, and he developed premier, cutting-edge programs for delivering his information to the public. Dr. Merchant demonstrated unparalleled success with every project he pursued.”
“Mike is patient and kind and one of the best mentors I have ever had,” Extension Program Specialist Janet Hurley said. “There are times Mike and I agree to disagree, but that is rare. He is a friend, a mentor and a coworker and someone I am so blessed to call a friend. I truly want everyone to know that Mike has done a lot over his career with AgriLife Extension.”
Former student Janis Reed said that Merchant’s materials and blogs have been very helpful in her career. “Throughout my tenure in industry, I have used Dr. Mechant’s blogs and printed materials to support conversations with homeowners,” Reed said. “I could always count on Mike to be succinct, factual and use language any reader could understand. Having the large breadth of topics he’s covered over the years to use helped me to communicate with folks by using a reliable source of information.”
Reed was proud of Merchant and his accomplishments.
“I always enjoyed listening to Dr. Merchant give CEUs and other educational meetings,” she said. “He was always down to earth, approachable, knowledgeable and helpful. The industry will miss having him to call on!”
Cassie Krejci is a former student and works as an animal health specialist at MGK. She commended Merchant on his dedication to Extension and urban entomology.
“Dr. Mike Merchant has put a face to extension entomology in Texas, helping to bridge the gap between science and applied entomology for Pest Management Professionals across our State. As an allied researcher, I have always appreciated the attention Dr. Merchant gives to advances in applied entomology and the work he does to take new developments to the PMP. This award is well-deserved, as Dr. Merchant has made important contributions to our industry and continues to so.”
Kimberly Engler worked with Merchant as an IPM Program Specialist in Dallas for 8 years and currently works as the Educational Coordinator at ABC Home and Commercial Services. In those 8 years, she said that Merchant has been very helpful.
“I was privileged to work across the hall from Mike at the Dallas Center for almost 8 years. He helped me personally in so many ways from handling the media, to assisting with in person presentations and outreach programs, to helping in formatting and editing publications, and designing protocols to test pesticides and devices in the urban sector,” she said. “His attention to detail and striving to provide science based research to the general public helped shape my career providing the fundamentals for being a good scientist.”
Engler was very proud of Merchant and said his award was well-deserved.
“Dr. Michael Merchant receiving ESA’s Honorary Member is well deserved since he is a distinguished leader in both the study of Entomology and with Texas Extension programming,” Engler said. “He graciously and generously devoted his time and energy in educating Texas residents about all urban pests and IPM methods of control through his blog posts, in person presentations, online forums, newsletters and emails. Mike is a lifetime learner who constantly strives to solve urban pest problems posed by the general public and pest management professionals.”