Faculty Honors and Awards

Spivak Awarded Siehl Prize for Excellence in Agriculture 

[3/17/2016] Congratulations to Marla Spivak, who has been awarded the Siehl Prize for Excellence in Agriculture!

An internationally renowned bee expert, Marla Spivak is one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious Siehl Prize in Agriculture. 
The prize is awarded annually by the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. Recipients are chosen in three categories: knowledge (teaching, research and outreach); agribusiness; and production agriculture.

Marla Spivak (knowledge):  Her tireless advocacy for bees and what they do for the world’s food supply has made her a well-known speaker, but at its core her work is about understanding how bees behave, breeding new lines of disease resistant bees and finding the causes behind Colony Collapse Disorder and other threats to bees. She’s been a U of M faculty member since 1992 and thanks to her leadership, a new bee and pollinator research center will open on the U’s St. Paul campus later this year.

The 2016 Siehl Prize laureates will be honored at a ceremony in McNamara Alumni Center on the university campus on Thursday, May 26.  Their names were announced as part of the celebration of National Agriculture Week. 

The Siehl Prize was created in the early 1990s by a generous gift from New Ulm-area livestock breeder and businessman Eldon Siehl, a dedicated philanthropist who had a lifelong interest in agricultural systems. Siehl was concerned that people were losing touch with their agrarian roots and wanted his gift to ensure that achievements in agriculture would be recognized and celebrated.  Recipients receive a $50,000 award as well as a sculpture and lapel pin designed by Minnesota artist Thomas Rose especially for the Siehl Prize.
 
Media note: Photos of this year’s laureates are available at http://z.umn.edu/siehl16

Heimpel Named Distinguished McKnight University Professor

[3/27/2015] Congratulations to George Heimpel, who was named a Distinguised McKnight Professor!

Biological Control at a Crossroads in Agriculture and Conservation

In biological control, living organisms are introduced to control invasive species.  This method has been used with great success, but also carries ecological risk. Professor Heimpel is making seminal contributions in implementing this strategy to protect soybeans in the U.S. and Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands.  He is also developing conceptual models that allow a balancing of benefits and risks in biological control to arrive at best net solutions for managing invasive species.

View all 2015 Distinguised McKnight Professors

Steve Kells receives Crown Leadership Award

[11/14/14] Congratulations to Steve Kells, who was recognized by PCT Magazine in October for his contributions to the growth and development of the structural pest control industry. Steve was one of four influential leaders from the pest management industry awarded this year. Crown Leadership Awards honor professionals who have made significant contributions to the growth and development of the structural pest control industry, as well as to their local communities. If you're not a subscriber to PCT magazine, you can read Steve's interview in this attached PDF. For more about each winner, please visit PCT Online.

Bed Bug Program honored at NCB-ESA Meeting

Stephen Kells

[7/1/13] Stephen Kells, Associate Professor & Extension Entomologist, and Amelia Shindelar, Community Health Coordinator for the "Let's Beat the Bed Bug" campaign, were honored at the annual meeting of the North Central Branch (NCB), ESA meeting in Rapid City, SD, June 18th. The award, sponsored by the Board Certified Entomologists (BCE) of ESA, annually provides educational awards to innovative programs throughout the NC Region. This award was for the "Conference and Video Project" category. The Bed Bug web program and web site continues to be well received with thousands of page views monthly. The web site now includes several Bed Bug "task-sheets" translated to Spanish, Hmong, Somali and Arabic, with videos translated to Spanish, Somali, Hmong, Karen (and English). The Bed Bug program is funded by the U.S. EPA, the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture (MDA) and UofM Extension. Congratulations to Steve and Amelia!

CFANS professor wins prestigious Ada Comstock award

Karen Mesce

[1/7/13] Internationally recognized neuroscientist, Karen A. Mesce, an Entomology & Neuroscience professor, was honored Nov. 28th, as she delivered the University of Minnesota's annual Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture. As a University of Minnesota award, this is only given out once every two years to a female faculty member working in the sciences. As advertized, her lecture, "Two Brains are Better Than One: How Small Brains Make Big Decisions."  was both entertaining and information packed with novel results presented from three systems: tobacco hornworm (Manduca), honey bee and the leech. Her lecture provided an overview of her original and imaginative approach to understanding how neuronal networks develop and function.

The Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Award and Lecture was established to acknowledge and honor the scholarly accomplishments and leadership of distinguished women faculty at the University of Minnesota and to offer a forum for them to share their insights and ideas with a campus and community audience.

The lecture took place at Cowles Auditorium (Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs) and was well attended. Congratulations Karen! Dr. Karen Mesce (L) is pictured receiving her award from Dr. Peg Lonnquist | Women's Center Director.

Distinguished Teaching Award (2010 -11)

Ralph W. Holzenthal

Department of Entomology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

"I consider myself a 'hands on' adviser, mainly because of my genuine interest in the student's research, but I hope with enough 'hands off ' to give students the freedom to follow their own course."

Insects are a source of enduring fascination to Ralph Holzenthal, a world authority on caddisflies, a group whose well-being is used to gauge the health of streams. He infuses his excitement into graduate students in every subject he touches--for example, the study of how insects are classified based on their evolutionary history. Holzenthal takes students on field trips to places like Central and South America and weaves the latest discoveries in molecular biology into the saga of how insects evolved. He has trained many students and professionals from Latin America and Africa, generating new waves of entomologists to keep alive the study of insects in those areas.

He even turns students who think they have no artistic talent into illustrators of insects, skilled in both pen-and-ink and computer-aided renditions. "...[H]e breaks myths that some materials are only comprehensible to privileged minds," says a former graduate student from Mexico.

Among his many contributions is a complete overhaul of the graduate student manual while he served as his department's director of graduate studies. But the true depth of his impact may be summed up by a former graduate student from Colombia: "One of the most important lessons I have learned from Dr. Holzenthal [is that] the forest crisis of illegal cropping, deforestation and pollution can only be stopped, and sustainable management of the aquatic ecosystems be achieved, when the spirituality and peace of communities living with nature are involved and respected."

ESA North Central Branch Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching (2011)

CFANS Teaching Award - Graduate Education (2011)

Roger D. Moon

Department of Entomology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Roger Moon is a Professor of Entomology at the University of Minnesota, Saint Paul. He earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Entomology from the University of California-Davis in 1979, and was hired to fill a new position in veterinary entomology at Minnesota in 1980. His research interests have involved the biology, ecology, and management of muscoid flies, mosquitoes, lice, true bugs, and mites associated with animals and humans. He has advised 12 students to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, and published more than 130 articles, reviews, and book chapters for scientists and the general public.

Roger Moon's teaching program serves undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at the University of Minnesota. In the 1980s, he developed Veterinary Entomology, a course for undergraduate students in the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences. He also has co-taught Insect Population Dynamics and Applied Experimental Design, two graduate-level courses for students in entomology and related programs. Dr. Moon coordinates Scientific Communication and Ethics, a team-taught course for entomology graduate students, and he also contributes 2-3 weeks of lectures in Medical Entomology and in Veterinary Parasitology, a course in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Annual enrollment in these five courses regularly exceeds 150 students per year.

Roger is a strong proponent of student-centered learning, and relies on active and collaborative learning techniques to augment traditional teaching methods. He developed and uses group testing (and teaching) instead of anxiety-producing individual exams for students in Veterinary Entomology. He also employs active learning exercises in his graduate-level courses, and integrative semester-long projects in all classes. Earlier, while Moon was Director of Graduate Studies in Entomology, he led a revision of degree program requirements for M.S. and Ph.D. students, and implemented innovative written preliminary exam procedures for graduate students to nurture their analytical and writing skills.

Distinguished Campus-based Faculty, U of M Extension (2011)

Ken Ostlie 

Department of Entomology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Ken Ostlie delivers relevant and timely Integrated Pest Management solutions to corn and soybean growers, crop consultants and the affiliated agribusiness industry. His research on the European corn borer, corn rootworm and soybean aphids are used by industry professionals and producers to reduce and eliminate outbreaks, saving millions of dollars annually. 

McKnight Land-Grant Professor (2011 - 2013) 

Brian Aukema

Department of Entomology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Forest Insect Ecology: Small Insects and Big Problems

Brian Aukema's expertise in population and landscape ecology, and biostatistics, allows him to tackle complex ecological problems concerning insect pests and forest health. His research has contributed to an expanded understanding of a particular species of bark beetle and of Warren root weevil. He is at the forefront of predicting how weather and climate change impact forest insects.

University of Minnesota bee researcher Marla Spivak receives "genius grant" from MacArthur Foundation

Marla Spivak

- Prestigious award comes with $500,000 grant -

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (09/28/2010) —University of Minnesota entomologist Marla Spivak has been named one of 23 recipients of this year's "genius grants" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Spivak, a nationally and internationally respected expert on honeybees' health, is developing practical applications to protect honeybee populations from decimation by disease while making fundamental contributions to our understanding of bee biology.

Spivak and the other fellows all were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future. As a new MacArthur Fellow for 2010, Spivak will receive a $500,000 "no strings attached" grant. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations and reporting requirements and offer fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. The work of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavor, according to the foundation.

"This group of Fellows, along with the more than 800 who have come before, reflects the tremendous breadth of creativity among us," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. "They are explorers and risk takers, contributing to their fields and to society in innovative, impactful ways. They provide us all with inspiration and hope for the future."

Spivak, who has been a member of the U of M College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences' department of entomology faculty since 1993, has been honored numerous times for her teaching work as well. In 2009 she was named a Distinguished McKnight Professor, an honor the University of Minnesota reserves for its highest-achieving faculty who recently have attained full professor status.

Spivak's research

Essential to healthy ecosystems and to the agricultural industry as pollinators of a third of the United States' food supply, honeybees have been disappearing at alarming rates in recent years due to the accumulated effects of parasitic mites, viral and bacterial diseases and exposure to pesticides.

To mitigate these threats, Spivak's research focuses on genetically influenced behaviors that confer disease resistance to entire colonies through the social interactions of thousands of workers. Her studies of hygienic behavior -- the ability of certain strains of bees to detect and remove infected pupae from their hive -- have enabled her to breed more disease-resistant strains of bees for use throughout the beekeeping industry.

Spivak's "Minnesota Hygienic" line of bees offers an effective and more sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides in fighting a range of pests and pathogens, including the Varroa mite, a highly destructive parasite that spreads rapidly through Western honey bee colonies. By translating her scientific findings into accessible presentations, publications, and workshops, she is leading beekeepers throughout the United States to establish local breeding programs that increase the frequency of hygienic traits in the general bee population. With additional investigations into the antimicrobial effects of bee-collected plant resins under way, Spivak continues to explore additional methods for limiting disease transmission and improving the health of one of the world's most important pollinators.

In addition to her research, Spivak leads the university's Bee Lab, which provides research and education to professional and amateur beekeepers. The university's bee research and outreach program, which has been operating since 1918, is the only one of its kind in the Upper Midwest, the top honey-producing region in the United States.

Contacts: Becky Beyers, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, bbeyers@umn.edu, (612) 626-5754

Patty Mattern, University News Service, mattern@umn.edu, (612) 624-2801

Further information can be found at:

The MacArthur Foundation - http://www.macfound.org/fellows/2010/spivak which also contains a video on Marla and her work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_0FPF1Smwk

News Articles about the award:

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA - Distinguished McKnight Professor Award 2009

Marla Spivak

Professor Marla Spivak is a world authority on honeybees, their behavior, and their services to humankind. As pollinators of one-third of all crops, bees are critical to environmental and human health. Spivak fuses basic and applied research, producing insights into basic biology while making significant differences for beekeepers. Spivak bred a widely used honeybee line resistant to disease through hygienic behavior. She is currently uncovering the antimicrobial benefits of propolis, a resin, to bees and humans. Spivak is past-president of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects' North American Section, a trustee of the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, and a member of the board of directors of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. She received the University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professor award in 1996 and a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant in 1997.  She has had continuous research funding from NSF since 1997.

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA - Distinguished Women Scholar Award 2009

Ann Fallon

Science and Engineering: Ann Fallon, entomology is a leading international figure in the field of insect molecular biology. Her work on the molecular genetics of mosquitoes is innovative, groundbreaking, and immensely valuable in the effort to understand the genetics of disease transmission. "Those little bloodsuckers," as she refers to them with unmistakable respect, kill millions of people every year. Instead of aiming to exterminate them, she approaches the study of disease-transmitting insects from the perspective of a student of biology, molecular biology, and virology. Fallon has been recognized with a National Institutes of Health research grant and a University of Minnesota Distinguished McKnight University Professorship. Additionally, the World Health Organization selected her to be a member of an international working group, Biological Control of Vectors: Prospects for Malaria Control by Genetic Manipulation of its Vectors. Fallon is a dedicated teacher and mentor whose former students have gone on to conduct cutting-edge research at prestigious institutions around the country. In addition, she has demonstrated her commitment to improving the University by actively participating in governance and representing the University at programs as varied as the White Earth Indian Reservation, Northwestern College Child Development Center, and Minnesota State Fair.