Burton, who served the UC Davis Department of Entomology for 28 years as an Extension entomologist, died Jan. 22, 2015 at age 90 in Davis.
Burton was born June 3, 1924 in Omaha, Neb., the only child of John and Vesta Burton. In July 1943, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Camp Adair, Ore., to a new wartime infantry division – the 70th Infantry “Trailblazer” Division. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was discharged in April, 1946 with the rank of technical sergeant.
He wed Charlotte McKnight and they were married for more than 66 years. He earned a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Berkeley and a master's from Louisiana State University. He spent his 38-year career with the Agricultural Extension branch of the University of California. He served 10 years as an entomology farm adviser in Bakersfield, followed by 28 years at UC Davis as an entomologist specialist.
Burton was a lifetime member of Kiwanis International and an active member of the Davis Kiwanis Club. An avid golfer, he allso loved playing bridge, family board games and reading, but mostly cherished spending time with his family.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Vesta and John Burton, and his wife Charlotte Burton. He is survived by his daughters Maryn Mason (Bill) and Anice Isaacs (Bob); and granddaughters Kimberly Mason, Audra Anderson (Kory), Rebecca Mason, Ashley Nolan (Bowie).
Burton was known for his sense of humor and ever-present smile. At the celebration of life, plans call for a “Putt One for Vern” contest. In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to either The Bohart Museum of Entomology, Department of Entomology and Nematology, 1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616; The Kiwanis Family House, 2875 50th St., Sacramento, Calif. 95817; or The URC Foundation, 1515 Shasta Drive, Davis, CA 95616. Those who wish to sign a guestbook online may do so at www.wiscombefuneral.com.
In 2008, when he was 85, he was interviewed for a Department of Entomology feature story, published on Dec. 18, 2009. Vern Burton said he didn't set out to become an entomologist. Home from the World War II battlefields, he enrolled in Compton Community College and then the University of California, Berkeley.
A family friend promised him a job in his termite control business once he finished his studies. His college associates, however, couldn't envision “Vern and termites” in the same sentence. Neither could he.
“There were better things to do in life than crawling under a house looking for termites,” quipped Burton, known for his wry sense of humor.
During his career, Burton worked with crops such as alfalfa, beans, cotton, potatoes, small grains and sugar beets and helped resolve pest problems through integrated pest management (IPM) strategies and close associations with university researchers.
Burton enjoyed working with researchers like noted alfalfa seed expert Oscar Bacon, now a retired professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. “I'd help identity problems in the field and take them back to the researchers.”
“I always enjoyed helping people in ag and urban settings with their insect problems,” Burton said, “or their perceived problems.”
When Burton retired in December 1988, then Cong. Vic Fazio lauded him for his outstanding contributions to California agriculture, particularly in the field of IPM. In remarks entered into the congressional record on Jan 4, 1989, Fazio said that Burton “contributed greatly to California agriculture and to the University of California's mission for excellence in agricultural research, education and public service.”
“Mr. Burton's outstanding contributions include the development of innovative methods and strategies for nematode control in cotton, which have improved production while reducing pesticide use. He also aided in the development and establishment of treatment thresholds for green peach aphid on sugar beets and established and supervised the cotton pest management program in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1970s. That work resulted in the appropriation of permanent federal funds for an integrated pest management program.”
Other successes included “more effective and efficient control of lygus bugs and spider mites on dry beans, development of a successful pest management program on Burbank potatoes, and investigations on an aphid believed to be a serious insect pest on small grains. Mr. Burton helped prove that the aphid actually had no significant impact on grain yields and thereby insecticide use was markedly reduced.”
Fazio noted that over the years, Burton “has provided support and guidance to county programs conducted by Farm Advisors through field test pilot activities, recommendations, and suggestions for problem solutions, and printed information and participation in educational programs. He has also helped disseminate education and informative entomological information to a diverse clientele in agricultural and urban areas throughout the state.”
In the news story, IPM specialist and professor Frank Zalom was quoted: "“Vern was dedicated to California growers, and worked tirelessly to provide new and useful information to them. He understood the research-extension continuum better than most people ever could, having served the university as an extension entomologist in the county and also here on campus.”
Also active in entomological organizations, Burton served as president and secretary-treasurer of the Northern California Entomology Club and as secretary-treasurer of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
Although born in Nebraska, Vern spent his childhood in several states: Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois before his father, in the tire business, moved his family to Los Angeles in 1939.
Young Vern joined the Army fresh out of high school and completed basic training in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, where he would meet his future wife, Charlotte.
He said his three years in the Army proved to be “a great educational experience and quite an adventure for someone just out of high school.” He landed in Marseille, France on Dec. 15, “the day the Germans launched the Battle of the Bulge. “I went overseas as a squad leader and came back as a platoon sergeant,” he recalled.
Burton attended Compton in 1946-1948, completing lower division requirements before enrolling at UC Berkeley. He interrupted his UC Berkeley studies in April 1951 to accept a Kern County Farm Advisor position, which he held until September 1960. He completed his 1960-1988 career an Extension entomologist based at UC Davis.
Burton and his wife, a retired 20-year accountant with the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology Department, moved to the University Retirement Community, Davis, in 2004.
In his early retirement years, he served as a lieutenant governor in 1992-93 of Division 7, Kiwanis International; worked four years in the UC Davis Medical Center gift shop and helped with the Kiwanis Family House at the Med Center. He traveled with his family, played golf and fished.
A favorite activity since childhood was “to get up early and go fishing in the morning and fry it for breakfast the same day.”
Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and now emeritus, recalled Vern as a “dedicated scientist with a terrific sense of humor.” They shared office space with two other scientists on the third floor of Briggs Hall.
Vern claimed that bees would always single him out for special attention, Mussen said.
Said Burton: “Whenever I'd watch a honey bee demonstration in alfalfa and clover fields (which bees pollinate), honey bees would find me and deposit their stinger. I'd stay out of the fields if they just moved in the honey bees.”
“There's a place for honey bees in this world and I acknowledge that,” he said, tongue-in-cheek.
(Editor's Note: the Davis Enterprise contributed to this report. See obituary.)
The two emeriti professors from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology were among five honored at the event. Also honored were Dickson recipients/emeriti professor Daniel Anderson of the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources; Martha Macri of the Department of Linguistics; and Peter Schiffman, Department of Geology. (See web page.)
UC Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, Provost Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, and emcee Bill Rains, past president of the UC Davis Emeriti Association, praised them for their work.
Thorp was singled out for the distinguished emeritus award for his outstanding scholarly work and service accomplished since his retirement in 1994. "Dr. Robbin Thorp should be the first scientist to be cloned," said emcee Rains, quoting James Cane of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan.
Thorp, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1964 and achieved emeritus status in 1994, is a state, national and global authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, contribution of native bees to crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
Since his retirement, he has compiled an exemplary record for his research, teaching, publications, presentations, and advisement services, sharing his expertise with local, statewide, national and international audiences. In his retirement, he has published 68 papers and is the first author on 15 publications. He received several prestigious awards: the 2013 outstanding team award, with several colleagues, from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, and the 2010-2011 Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship, UC Davis. Thorp is the North American regional co-chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bumblebee Specialist group. He is a member of 10 professional societies, including the International Society of Hymenopterists.
Thorp maintains his office and research headquarters in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus. Among his latest publications: he co-authored two books published in 2014: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.
Thorp spends much of his time in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses collections critical to his bee identification work. He identifies species and regularly volunteers at the open houses and other event.
Thorp is an integral part of The Bee Course, an annual 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Field Station near Portal, Ariz. He has taught there since 2002 (the instructors are all volunteers), and even though he is 81 years young, he plans to continue teaching there. (See more on the departmental web page.)
Hugh Dingle. an international authority on animal migration, received a Dickson award to help fund his research on monarch butterflies, “Monarchs in the Pacific: Is Contemporary Evolution Occurring on Isolated Islands?” Monarch butterflies established just 200 years ago in remote Pacific islands are undergoing contemporary evolution through differences in their wing span and other changes, he believes.
Dingle, author of two editions of “Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move,” said his previous studies reveal that migrant and resident monarchs exhibit different wing shapes. He will be working with community ecologist Louie Yang and molecular geneticist Joanna Chiu, assistant professors in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, to examine the ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in three islands where contemporary evolution might be expected. The islands are Oahu (Hawaii), Guam (Marianas) and Weno (Chuuk or Truk).
“This is the necessary first step in a long-term analysis of the evolutionary ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies on remote Pacific islands,” said Dingle, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Animal Behavior Society.
Dingle said the monarch, widely distributed “for eons” in the New World, is fairly new to the Pacific islands and to Australia. “In addition to North America, the monarch occurs as a resident throughout the Caribbean and Central and northern South America—and probably as a migrant farther south. One of the more intriguing aspects of its distribution is that beginning in the early part of the 19th century, it spread throughout the Pacific all the way to Australia, where there are now well-established migratory and non-migratory populations.”
Dingle speculates that the monarchs arrived in the Pacific islands with their host plant, milkweed, which was valued at the time for its medicinal properties. Some of the islands are extremely isolated, he said.
An analysis of a monarch population in Hawaii shows that resident monarchs have shorter, broader wings than the long-distance migrants. The Hawaii butterfly wings were shorter than the eastern U.S. long-distance migrants, but “not so short-winged as the residents in the Caribbean or Costa Rica, which have been present in those locations for eons, rather than the 200 years for Hawaii.”
“If there are indeed wing shape changes associated with evolution in isolation, are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency?” Dingle wonders. “Are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency? Examples of such traits might be changes in flight muscle physiology, changes in photoperiodic diapause response, changes in the characteristics of orientation ability and its relation to antennal circadian rhythms, or changes in the reproductive capacity or tactics (re-colonization of ‘empty' habitats is no longer part of the life cycle).
Dingle published the second edition of “Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move” (Oxford University Press) in November 2014. It is the sequel to the widely acclaimed first edition, published in 1996. National Geographic featured Dingle in its cover story on “Great Migrations” in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on “Why Do Animals Migrate?” (See more on the departmental web page.)
Preceding the ceremony, Chancellor Katehi presented a progress report on UC Davis, which is ranked No. 9 in the nation's top 10 public universities in rankings released last fall by by U.S. News & World Report. This is the fifth consecutive year that UC Davis has been ranked in the top 10 U.S. public universities.
The UC Davis community includes more than 34,000 students, some 4,100 faculty and other academia, and 17,400 staff. The incoming fall class drew nearly 80,000 applicants, she said.
The UC Davis annual research budget totals more than $750 million. Among the other statistics: UC Davis ranks No. 1 in the world for teaching and research in the area of agriculture and forestry, according to QS World University Rankings.
Katehi said that UC Davis is planning now for the next 30 years, not the next five. "What kind of university will make us proud?" she asked. "What we do today will define us in 30 years."
"Where are we going to be in 30 years?" she asked. "We need to draw a path to get there. We need to know where we're going to be so we can get there."
She thanked the UC Davis Retiree Association for its continuing support. The association was established in 1989 to provide retired academics of UC Davis/UC Davis Health System or other UC campuses living in the Davis/Sacramento area with opportunities for continuing interest in and support for the excellence of UC Davis, according to Sue Barnes, director of the Retiree Center.
The event, presented by the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and the Department of Entomology and Nematology, will feature keynote speaker Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight Professor, University of Minnesota and a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. Spivak will speak on "Helping Bees Stand on Their Own Six Feet."
The educational program is designed for beekeepers of all experience levels, including gardeners, farmers and anyone interested in the world of pollination and bees, said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center. In addition to the speakers, a display in the lobby will feature graduate student research posters, books, t-shirts, and the latest in beekeeping equipment. The registration, $75 general admission and $15 for students, covers the continental breakfast, lunch and post-event reception.
8 to 9 a.m.: Registration and continental breakfast
8 a.m.: Welcome and introductions by Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, and Michael Parrella, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
9:15 a.m.: "Helping Bees Stand on Their Own Six Feet" by keynote speaker Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight Professor, University of Minnesota and a 2010 MacArthur Fellow
10 a.m.: "Sociality as Key to Understanding Responses to Pesticides in Honey Bees" by bee scientist Brian Johnson, assistant professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
10:45 a.m.: Break
11 a.m.: "Combined Effects of Viruses and Nutritional Stress on Honey Bee Health" by bee scientist Amy Toth, assistant professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Department of Entomology, Iowa State University
11:45 a.m.: Lunch in foyer. Graduate student poster presentations, and educational exhibits
1:30 p.m.: "Best Management Practices to Support Honey Bee Health," by Extension Apiculturist Elina L. Niño, Department of Entomology and Nematology
2:15 p.m.: "Lightning Round Talks." Up to eight speakers planned. Each speaker will give a 5-minute overview on a single topic
3 p.m.: Break
3:15 p.m.: "Neonicotinoids" by Nigel Raine, professor and Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph; Ontario, Canada
4 p.m.: "Enhancing Forage for Bees" by pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
4:30 p.m.: "Introduction to the Hӓagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven," by manager Christine Casey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
4:45 p.m.: Board buses to Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road for tours and closing reception
6:30 p.m.: Symposium ends
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has provided generous funding. To register, access this page. For more information, contact Amina Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org
The seminar takes place from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall and will be hosted by one of his collaborators, Santiago Ramirez, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology.
"Communication between the sexes by means of chemicals is widespread among insects including bees," Eltz writes in his abstract. "In most cases, bee pheromones are endogenous in the sense that they are produced from simple metabolic precursors. However, in the neotropical orchid bees (Apinae, Euglossini) the males have replaced endogenous pheromones by a wide range of environmental volatiles harvested from plants and other odoriferous sources in their habitat."
"Male orchid bees collect complex blends of volatiles in a way similar to 'enfleurage' of the traditional perfume industry, and later broadcast such 'perfumes' during courtship display," he says. "In my talk, I show how male orchid bees manage to accumulate chemically species-specific perfumes in variable odor 'markets.', shed light on the mechanisms and circumstances of perfume signaling, and discuss the evolutionary causes of perfume making."
Eltz studied biology at the University of Würzburg, Germany, and Duke University, Durham, N.C., with a focus on animal ecology and evolution. He received his doctorate at the University of Würzburg; his dissertation was on "Ecology of Singles Bees (Apidae, Meliponini) in Lowland Dipterocarp Forests in Sabah, Malaysia, and an Evaluation of Logging Impact on Populations and Communities."
He has studied in Panama, Malaysia, Australia and Mexico, receiving fellowships or employed as a visiting scientist.
Plans are to record the seminar for later posting on UCTV seminars.
For the remainder of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars, access this page.
Reisen was nominated by the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District for "his special and significant contributions to the field of mosquito and vector control."
"Dr. Reisen's career spans over forty years during which he has published over 260 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters in the field of medical entomology," wrote nominator Craig Downs, general manager of the Contra Costa MVCAC District.
"Throughout his career, Bill has directed projects studying the vector competence of mosquitoes for newly introduced viruses, established new surveillance testing paradigms, and initiated complex interactive networks, sharing surveillance data with mosquito control agencies and public health officials to speed mosquito control response times and to minimize disease risk to humans. Several examples of his continual scientific contributions include: the effects of climate variation on arthropod-borne pathogen transmission, modeling efforts for predicting arbovirus risk, the application of insecticides for reducing the disease burden of West Nile virus in California, the use of liquid suspension array technologies for the identification of mosquito blood meals and his keen observation of the role of stagnant swimming pools as breeding sites for Culex spp. vectors in Sacramento County.”
Internationally known for his mosquito research and publications spanning more than four decades, Reisen is now a professor emeritus with the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (PMI), School of Veterinary Medicine. He is the former director of the Center for Vectorborne Diseases (CVEC). He serves as the editor of the Journal of Medical Entomology, and has advised many graduate students affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, PMI or CVEC. He is currently assisting in the completion of four doctorate and one master thesis.
Read more about Reisen's career on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.
Meritorious service awards may be conferred on MVCAC members or non-members "who have made special and significant contributions to the field of mosquito or vector control in the State of California," according to the award criteria.
Reisen is one of only three UC recipients of this statewide award since 1981. William C. Reeves (1916-2004), UC Berkeley emeritus professor of epidemiology, and Bruce Eldridge, former director of the statewide UC Mosquito Research Program, based at UC Davis, and now professor emeritus of entomology, earlier received the award.