- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
That would be world-renowned honey bee geneticist Robert Eugene (“Rob”) Page Jr., the 2018 recipient of the Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Award, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His work includes the book, The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution, published by Harvard University Press in 2013.
Page will deliver the Leigh seminar--appropriately titled "In Search of the Spirit of the Hive: a 30-Year Quest"--at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29 in the International House, 10 College Park, Davis.
With close ties to UC Davis, Page received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and served as a professor and chair of the UC Davis entomology department before capping his academic career as the Arizona State University (ASU) provost. He maintained a honey bee breeding program managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, for 24 years, from 1989 to 2015.
Now provost emeritus of ASU and Regents Professor since 2015, he continues his research, teaching and public service in both Arizona and California and has residences in both states. He plans to move to California in December.
Page focuses his research on honey bee behavior and population genetics, particularly the evolution of complex social behavior. One of his most salient contributions to science was to construct the first genomic map of the honey bee, which sparked a variety of pioneering contributions not only to insect biology but to genetics at large.
His contributions to the California beekeeping industry--notably the Page-Laidlaw Closed Population Breeding theory--are legendary, says bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University and formerly of UC Davis, where she managed the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. "This has offered a practical system of stock improvement for honey bees, used worldwide. My career has been based upon applying this theory to develop and maintaining a population of Carniolan bees, now in their 36th generation."
"Often there is a large gap between research and industry interests and the impacts can be slow to be realized,"Cobey said. "The beauty of this system is that it is practical and addresses the unique challenges of honey bee stock improvement."
Traditional animal breeding models do not apply well to honey bees, Cobey explained. "Queens mate in flight with numerous drones and selection is based upon complex behaviors at the colony level. Rob's work in the behavior of social insects and contributions toward mapping the honey bee genomic opened new doors in bee research."
A native of Bakersfield, Kern County, Page received his bachelor's degree in entomology, with a minor in chemistry, from San Jose State University in 1976. After receiving his doctorate from UC Davis, he began his career at The Ohio State University, in 1986 and then returned to Davis in 1989 to accept an associate professor position in 1989. He served as department chair from 1999 to 2004, when he was recruited to be the founding director of the School of Life Sciences of ASU. His career advanced to dean of Life Sciences; vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and provost.
Among his many honors:
- Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Awardee of the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award (the Humboldt Prize - the highest honor given by the German government to foreign scientists).
- Foreign Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.
- Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- Elected to the Leopoldina - the German National Academy of Sciences (the longest continuing academy in the world)
- Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.
- Fellow of the Entomological Society of America.
- Awardee of the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Fellowship.
- Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.
- Fellow, Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation, Munich, Germany, September 2017-August 2018
The Leigh seminar memorializes cotton entomologist Thomas Frances Leigh (1923-1993), an international authority on the biology, ecology and management of arthropod pests affecting cotton production. During his 37-year UC Davis career, based at the Shafter Research and Extension Center, also known as the U.S. Cotton Research Station, Leigh researched pest and beneficial arthropod management in cotton fields, and host plant resistance in cotton to insects, mites, nematodes and diseases. In his memory, his family and associates established the Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar Entomology Fund at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. When his wife, Nina, passed in 2002, the alumni seminar became known as the Thomas and Nina Distinguished Alumni Seminar.
For information on the Rob Page seminar, contact Nicole Brunn at email@example.com. A reception is planned for 3 p.m.