- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Agrawal, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell with a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology, will deliver the Founders’ Memorial Award lecture at the ESA’s 61st annual meeting set Nov. 10-13 in Austin, Texas.
The recipient of this annual award addresses the conferees to honor the memory and career of an outstanding entomologist. Agrawal has selected Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005), best known for her work with mimicry, and a pioneer in the area of insect chemical ecology.
Agrawal researches plant-insect interactions, including aspects of herbivory, community ecology, phenotypic plasticity, chemical ecology and coevolution. Research projects include work on local biodiversity, ecology of invasive plants, the biology of Monarch butterflies, and the evolution of plant defense strategies.
From the ESA site:
"Dr. Agrawal’s research accomplishments cover the key areas of arthropod community genetics, real-time evolution of plant defense against insects, phylogenetic ecology, plant neighborhood-insect interactions, and insect colonization and induced defense. Over the course of his career to date, he has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers in high-profile journals such as PNAS, Science, and Nature, and he has edited two key books on insect ecology."
"In the relatively new area of arthropod community genetics, he has addressed natural selection on milkweed defensive traits and how plant genetic variation in these traits influences insect community structure and coexistence. In the area of real time evolution of plant defenses against insects, he has shown that the suppression of insect damage causes the evolution of decreased plant resistance and increased competitive ability. His work in the area of phylogenetic ecology uses a comparative biology approach to address problems ranging from the controls on the success of invasive species to phylogenetic signatures of coevolution. And in the area of plant neighborhood-insect interactions, his ongoing research seeks to partition the relative importance of direct, associational, and trait-mediated effects of competing plants on milkweed and its insect fauna."
Rothschild, a British natural scientist and a leading authority on fleas. authored a book on parasitism, Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos. Her father was entomologist Charles Rothschild, whose collection of fleas is in the Rothschild Collection at the British Museum.
"She is best known for her work with mimicry, and she conducted classic studies on the role of carotenoids in insect mimicry," according to information posted on the ESA website. "In addition to her work cataloging the famous Rothschild flea collection, Dame Rothschild was also a pioneer in the area of insect chemical ecology. Her work in particular on mimicry and sequestration of toxic compounds by insects was outstanding. Nature conservation was extremely important to her, and she lobbied strongly in favor of nature reserves."
Agrawal was at UC Davis in January of 2012 to deliver a seminar on "Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Defenses." His abstract: "In order to address coevolutionary interactions between milkweeds and their root feeding four-eyed beetles, I will present data on reciprocity, fitness tradeoffs, specialization and the genetics of adaptation. In addition to wonderful natural history, this work sheds light on long-standing theory about how antagonistic interactions proceed in ecological and evolutionary time."
Nearly 3,000 entomologists are expected to attend Entomology 2013. ESA, which has some 6500 members, is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. It was founded in 1889.