Joseph Elkinton, Entomologist and Professor of Environmental Conservation
When the Entomological Society of America, Entomological Society of Canada and Entomological Society of British Columbia gather next week for their joint annual meeting, they will spend an afternoon celebrating the work of UMass Amherst professor of environmental conservation Joseph Elkinton.
Elkinton, an entomologist who came to UMass in 1980, has been awarded more than 270 grants and authored more the 220 research articles, reviews and books during his career. He has also trained dozens of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Elkinton has focused his career on the population dynamics and biological control of invasive forest insects, and currently focuses on winter moth, hemlock woolly adelgid, Japanese knotweed and emerald ash borer.
On Nov. 16th, Elkinton’s colleagues and former students will meet in a symposium titled Inspiring Ecological Rigor in the Study of Forest Insects: Celebrating the Career of Joseph Elkinton. “I am honored because two of my former graduate students have organized this event,” says Elkinton. “It will review all 45 years of the work I have done with my wonderful colleagues.”
“This symposium is a wonderful recognition of Elkinton’s long and highly impactful research career,” says Paige Warren, professor and head of the Department of Environmental Conservation at UMass. “His work on biological control of forest pest insects has made major advances in the field of population ecology. Through his leadership in addressing the kinds of insect pests that can kill trees, Elkinton has also made a tremendous difference for the environmental and economic health of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I am so pleased to see Elkinton’s work receive this recognition.”
Warren also notes that one of Elkinton’s most notable successes has been the successful control of the winter moth, whose larvae defoliate or remove the leaves from trees. This feat is remarkable, as biological control is notoriously difficult to accomplish, and it may be the sole example of its kind. The moths were defoliating as many as 89,000 acres (56 square miles, or roughly twice the area of Amherst) of forest per year from 2003 – 2015. The moths also swept across apple, blueberry and cranberry farms, causing crop losses and costing growers in time and pesticide application.