- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
"We'd be a shadow of what we are without Jeff," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomoogy at UC Davis. The museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, which includes more than 400,000 butterflies and moths. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. The museum is named for the late Richard M.Bohart (1913-2007), noted UC Davis professor of entomology.
The cake, decorated with a monarch butterfly motif created by a local bakery, drew Smith's attention and enthusiasm. When asked to identify it, he smiled and said: "It's an iconic monarch."
Smith won a 2015 Award of Distinction from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for his volunteer service. See news story.
Kimsey, who nominated him for the award, noted at the time that Smith "has saved the museum some $160,000 over a 27-year period for his volunteer service."
“You could not ask for a better friend than Jeff Smith,” she said, mentioning that he has “brought us international acclaim and saved us $160,000 through donations of specimens and materials, identification skills and his professional woodworking skills (he creates the finely crafted specimen drawers.) This does not include the thousands of hours he has donated in outreach programs that draw attention to the museum, the college and the university.”
Kimsey, who has directed the museum since 1989, remembers when Smith joined the museum. “When Jeff was working for Univar Environmental Services, a 35-year career until his retirement in 2013, he would spend some of his vacation days at the museum. Over the years Jeff took over more and more of the curation of the butterfly and moth collection. He took home literally thousands of field pinned specimens and spread their wings at home, bringing them back to the museum perfectly mounted. To date (2015) he has spread the wings on more than 200,000 butterflies and moths. This translates into something like 33,000 hours of work!”
Now, it's much more than that, but who's counting?
Not Jeff Smith.
"Entomology is my passion," he says, "and the Bohart Museum is my cause."
(Editor's Note: The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, will host an open house, "Bark Beetles and Trees, Forest Health in California," on Sunday, Aug 27 from 1 to 4 p.m. The Bohart Museum will turn into Bark Beetle Forest Central. Planning the open house is Steve Seybold, a research entomologist with the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis, and a lecturer with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “As of last winter, bark beetles had killed 102 million trees in California during the last drought period," Seybold said. “Tree mortality in the western USA over the past 15 years caused by native bark beetles exceeded 21 million hectares, which surpasses all other disturbances, including fire." The open house is free and open to the public. Parking is also free.)