In the highly competitive “service award” category of the UC Davis Staff Assembly's annual 2022 Citations of Excellence program, Dyer received the second-place honor or honorable mention. The university employs some 17,000 academic and administrative staff.
Dyer, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (2018) from UC Davis, began volunteering at the Bohart Museum in 2015, advanced to a paid internship in 2016, and then in 2018, accepted his current position as the lab assistant.
Dyer overcame three obstacles: a challenging childhood, a marriage that didn't work, and the loss of his home and hometown in the 2018 raging inferno in Paradise known as “The Camp Fire.” He successfully struggled from #ParadiseStrong to #DyerStrong.
“Ninety-five percent of the town is gone,” Paradise council member Michael Zuccolillo told the San Francisco Chronicle in a news story published Nov. 10, 2018. “The remaining 5 percent of buildings are barely standing. I felt like I was living in a bad dream. It was unrecognizable. I had to keep asking, ‘Where are we?' All the landmarks are gone. Block by block, nothing. Anybody who had a house in Paradise probably doesn't anymore.”
Love of Science. Dyer today credits his “love of science” with helping him overcome life's hardships. “And now in return, he inspires others to love science,” wrote his three nominators Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey described him as “bright, gifted and personable. It doesn't matter what needs to be done in the museum, curation, insect identification, live colony care, computer or software issues, and working with student volunteers, he takes care of it. It is so rare to find someone who can do some of these tasks so well, much less all of them like he can.”
Another faculty member added this to the nomination packet: “(Brennen) is what I would generally characterize as a servant leader, defined by a philosophy and practice that aims to enrich the lives of the people. He works to build a better organization, and create a more caring environment for everyone. He is an exceptionally hard worker who is always available to assist students, staff, volunteers alike.”
An alumnus: “(Brennen) is incredible. He is intelligent, meticulous and proactive, and goes above and beyond to assist peers and colleagues. For example, when I was finishing my PhD thesis, I needed photos of insect specimens to add to my last chapter, but I had neither the time nor the skills to utilize our modern microscope to photograph specimens. He generously offered to help, and did so perfectly and quickly. If he hadn't been so reliable and proactive, I wouldn't have been able to finish my PhD in time.”
Accolades. Other comments from faculty and colleagues:
- “Frankly, we do not know what we would do without him. He is that exemplary. He is always kind, courteous, respectful, reliable, flexible, and eager to help with any project. When you ask for a favor or task from him, you can count on it being done promptly and correctly.”
- “(Brennen) steps up to difficult tasks, such as taking the lead in a landmark, three-year, federally funded project of surveying and databasing insects from three counties in the Sacramento River Delta (to date, 700 species, including 30 new species). He does it all, from organizing collections, coordinating field trips, and training interns, to helping graduate students, faculty and peers with equipment, including the GIGAmacro system and freeze freeze dryer; and assisting them with their projects and publications, such as imaging holotypes and photographing specimens for their publications. With BioQuip closed and supplies scarce, he even designs collecting equipment!”
- “He also serves as the unofficial IT specialist. (Brennen), who learned to dismantle and resassemble computers as a child, troubleshoots the office computers and printers, and assists with the website.
- “He volunteers to drive hundreds of miles to bring back collections, donations or other materials. He eagerly supports UC Davis Picnic Day, (Bohart) open houses, and UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. He engages with visitors, showing them displays, answering their questions, and encouraging them to ask more!”
- “(Brennen) strongly supports diversity, equity and inclusion. When a colleague's developmentally disabled aunt arrived for a tour, he noticed her limitless enthusiasm and curiosity for insects, so he headed to the Arboretum to bring back a male Valley carpenter bee (a blond, green-eyed bee known as a ‘teddy bear bee') and let the aunt hold it (note that ‘boy bees don't sting') before releasing it. Her joy, glee and excitement were as unforgettable as (Brennen's) kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity.”
- “(Brennen) has been an anchor to the museum, especially these last COVID years. We are a small team who tries to do big things. (Brennen) is the glue that holds everything together and gets the job done. He supports all aspects of the (workplace) from research to outreach and education. He is tireless and very deserving of recognition. He is not someone who likes to step into the limelight, but is definitely behind the scenes making everything happen smoothly. He is also just a caring and kind co-worker and sensitive to inclusivity and equity.”
In summary, the nominators wrote that (Brennen) “epitomizes the excellence of our UC Davis workforce.”
Dyer said he is humbled and honored to be singled out for the award.
The judging criteria in the service award category included
- Provides exemplary services to students, staff, faculty and/or general campus
- Makes notable contributions to the department and/or campus
- Creates and maintains high morale
- Embodies the Principles of Community
In all, the UC Davis Staff Assembly awarded individual honors in five categories: innovation, mentorship, service, supervision, and teaching, as well as a team award and a faculty and staff partnership award. The judges also awarded scholarships to staff and staff dependents. (See award winners)
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of eight million insects. It also maintains a live “petting zoo” (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.
A robber, aided by an accomplice, stole the entomologist's wallet containing his rent money and credit cards, his newly purchased laptop, and an external hard drive containing scientific data.
Syed Fahad Shah, a lecturer in the Department of Entomology, University of Agriculture, Peshawar, Pakistan, was without a bike Friday (it had a flat tire), and was heading home from his lab. At 11:30, as he walked along Russell Boulevard, near Lake Boulevard, west of Highway 113, he noticed a car, its emergency lights flashing, parked on the other side of the road.
“I was looking at the car and thought that maybe they have some kind of problem with the car,” the international scholar related. As he continued walking home, a man leaped from behind a tree trunk, pointed his gun at him and cocked it “to let me know it was real."
The suspect, described as about six-feet tall, between 20 and 30 years old, with curly hair and a dark bandanna covering his face, demanded, one by one, his wallet, his cell phone and then his backpack. The culprit then heaved Shah's cell phone into the field, and bolted to the car where his accomplice, the driver, awaited. The car headed west.
Shah described the car as a sedan, “Like a Corolla,” and “dark in in color with rectangular back lights.” He retrieved his phone and quickly dialed the police. “The police arrived within five minutes and recorded my statement,” he said.
His black Armour Hustle backpack contained a laptop computer delivered to him only Monday, Sept. 9 at the Bohart Museum. His most valuable possession, however, was an external hard drive containing all his research data and lectures. It is a Seagate 1 terabyte hard drive.
Shah had not yet backed up the contents. Ironically, while enroute to the United States for his May 15-Oct. 30 research sabbatical on agriculturally important insects, someone stole his laptop at the Dubai airport. “But I was happy that I had the data backed up on my external hard drive, but this time I have no backup,” he said. “I only wish for my hard drive back.”
At UC Davis, Shah is studying parasitoid wasps in the family Pteromalidae under the guidance of Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.
In an announcement to the Department of Entomology and Nematology, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology: reported that Shah “filed a police report but that probably won't help get his equipment back. The data is irreplaceable but we hope to help him replace the things stolen, so we have started a GoFundMe page to raise the needed fund."
The GoFundMe account, seeking $2000, is at https://bit.ly/2ldZ3ZF. For more information, contact the Bohart Museum at (530) 752-0493 or Lynn Kimsey at email@example.com or Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I am basically all pro-bee; whatever I can do for bees, I do it,” Mussen told the American Bee Journal in a two-part interview published in 2011. “It doesn't matter whether there is one hive in the backyard or 15,000 colonies. Bees are bees and the bees' needs are the bees' needs.”
Today a nationally awarded plaque “bee-speaks” of his work.
Mussen is the recipient of the 2018 Founders' Award from the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, presented Jan. 12 at the 75th annual American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) conference in Reno.
“He received a well-deserved rousing standing ovation!” said president Gene Brandi of Los Banos, who presented him with the plaque and praised him as a outstanding liaison between the academic world of apiculture and real world beekeeping and crop pollination.
Considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation, Mussen was known as the “pulse on the bee industry” and as "the go-to person" for consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media. Mussen retired in 2014 but continues answering bee questions. As an emeritus, he maintains an office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Previous recipients of the coveted award include the husband-wife team of James and Maryann Frazier, professor and Extension apiculturist, respectively, from Pennsylvania State University, University Park; former research leader Jeff Pettis, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beltsville (Md.) Bee Laboratory; and multi-state commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Hackenberg Apiaries, who sounded the alarm about colony collapse disorder (CCD) in 2007.
Mussen, recipient of numerous state and national awards, has been described as the “premier authority on bees and pollination in California, and is one of the top beekeeping authorities nationwide" and “a treasure to the beekeeping industry... he is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to honey bees."
Mussen served as a longtime board member of the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and a consultant for the Almond Board of California. He co-founded the Western Apicultural Society (WAS), serving six terms as president, the last one during the 40th anniversary meeting at UC Davis in 2017. He also was involved in the formation of the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA) and held the offices of president or treasurer of that association for many years.
Mussen was instrumental in the development of the Almond Board of California's Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds. The Almond Board earlier honored him with a service award, describing him as being an “authoritative and trusted source for guidance on research, technical, and practical problem solving and issues facing both industries.”
Shortly after he retired, both the CSBA and WAS created an Eric Mussen Honorary Award to present to its outstanding members.
For 38 years, Mussen wrote and published the bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, and short, topical articles called Bee Briefs, providing beekeepers with practical information on all aspects of beekeeping. His research focused on managing honey bees and wild bees for maximum field production, while minimizing pesticide damage to pollinator populations.
Mussen worked closely with Cooperation Extension, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, researchers in the UC system, researchers at the USDA/ARS honey bee laboratories at Beltsville, Md.; Baton Rouge, La.; Tucson, Ariz., Weslaco, Texas, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
Highly sought by the news media for his expertise on bees, Mussen has appeared on the Lehrer Hour, BBC, Good Morning America, and quoted in the New York Times, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times, among others.
“Eric is a worldwide authority on honey bees, but no problem is too small and no question too involved for him to answer,” said the late Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey prior to Mussen's retirement. “He devotes his research and extension activities to the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. Eric helps growers, consumers, UC Farm Advisors, agricultural commissioners, scientists, beekeepers, researchers, pesticide regulators, 4-H'ers, and state and national agricultural and apicultural organizations. He ignites their interest in maintaining the health of bees, cultivates their friendship, and generously gives of his time and intellect.”
Highly honored by his peers, Mussen received the 2006 California Beekeeper of the Year award, the American Association of Professional Apiculturists' 2007 Award of Excellence in Extension Apiculture, the 2008 Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America; the 2010 statewide Pedro Ilic Outstanding Agricultural Educator, and was a member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the 2013 team award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
His other awards include the 2013 Alexander Hodson Graduate Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota; and the 2014 Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Extension from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).
As Extension apiculturist, he served on various committees and task forces of state and national organizations, reviewed numerous manuscripts for journals; reviewed annual research proposals to the California State Beekeepers' Association, the Almond Board of California, and the National Honey Board; and reviewed Small Business Innovation Research applications at the federal level. He assisted U.S. beekeepers in writing letters to receive compensation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their CCD bee losses.
During his tenure as Extension apiculturist, Mussen traveled to beekeeping clubs throughout the state, addressing some 20 beekeeping organizations a year. For the last 10 years, Mussen conducted the California State 4-H Bee Essay Contest, disseminating guidelines, collecting entries and chairing the judging.
A native of Schenectady, N.Y., Mussen credits his grandfather with sparking his interest in insects. His grandfather, a self-taught naturalist, would take his young grandson to the woods to point out flora and fauna. As a child, “my only concern was what if, by the time I went to college and became an entomologist, everything we wanted to know about insects was known,” Mussen related.
Mussen turned down a football scholarship at Harvard to attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in entomology. This is also where he met Helen, his wife of 48 years. He holds a master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. His doctoral research focused on the epidemiology of a viral disease of larval honey bees, sacbrood virus. "During those studies I also was involved in studies concerning sunflower pollination and control of a microsporidian parasite of honey bees, Nosema apis," Mussen recalled. "Now a new species of Nosema has displaced N. apis and is even more difficult to keep subdued."
William Hutchison, professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota, commented in 2013 that Mussen tackled many new challenges--mites, diseases, and Africanized honey bees, to name a few--to enhance the pollination success of California's diverse agricultural cropping systems, with considerable emphasis on almonds. In brief, he is in demand, and he continues to be a primary source for objective information on honey bee health and pollination in California.”
Today, in between his family commitments (he and his wife have two sons and two grandchildren) Mussen engages in birding, singing doo-wop and reviewing grant proposals: he reviews funding proposals for Project Apis m., which makes funding decisions and handles the funds for the National Honey Board and other entities; and serves on the scientific review panel for the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) organization, which reviews funding requests of tech teams.
(Editor's Note: the new Extension apiculturist is Elina Lastro Niño, who holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University.)
Mussen, considered by his peers as one of the most respected and influential professional apiculturists in the nation, will receive the award March 1 at the California Small Farm Conference in San Diego. It is one of two annual awards memorializing Ilic, a Fresno County small-scale farm advisor who died in 1994. The other award, for outstanding grower, goes to Jay Ruskey of Calimoya Exotic Fruits of Goleta, Santa Barbara County. The company, which Ruskey founded in 1991, grows and markets California cherimoyas and other exotic fruits.
Mussen and Ilic worked together as members of the Small Farm Work Group in serving the statewide agricultural community, said nominators Larry Godfrey, Extension specialist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the department.
“They were alike in many ways: their dedication, enthusiasm, high energy, friendliness, their commitment to small-scale and family farming, and the easy-going way they imparted information on a diversity of projects, solving a multitude of problems—and sometimes at a moment's notice,” Godfrey said.
Mussen educates the beekeeping industry and general public with his bimonthly newsletter, from the UC Apiaries, which he launched in 1976. Since 1976, he has also written Bee Briefs, addressing such issues as diseases, pesticides and swarms. Both publications are on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.
“Eric is a worldwide authority on honey bees, but no problem is too small and no question too involved for him to answer,” Godfrey said. “He devotes his research and extension activities to the improvement of honey bee health and honey bee colony management practices. Eric helps growers, consumers, UC Farm Advisors, agricultural commissioners, scientists, beekeepers, researchers, pesticide regulators, 4-H'ers, and state and national agricultural and apicultural organizations. He ignites their interest in maintaining the health of bees, cultivates their friendship, and generously gives of his time and intellect.”
With the decline of the honey bee population and the increase of the mysterious colony collapse disorder, his expertise is now more highly sought than ever,” Godfrey pointed out. “Any threat to honey bees is a threat to agriculture and a cause for his concern and a desire to assist. He is the only Extension Apiculturist in the UC system and in many regards, functions as the Extension entomologist for apiculture in the western U.S. and indeed, much of the country.”
Mussen was named the California Beekeeper of the Year in 2006, won the American Association of Professional Apiculturists' Award of Excellence in Extension Apiculture in 2007, and in 2008 he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
In 2009, Mussen served as president of the Western Apicultural Society, an organization he helped found in 1977. He delivered the keynote addresses at the 2009 California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and the 2009 American Honey Producers' Association conventions. In addition, he provides leadership roles in the CSBA, the California Bee Breeders' Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, American Honey Producers' Association, National Honey Board, American Beekeeping Federation, American Association of Professional Apiculturists, and the Northern California Entomology Society, among others.
“Yet he is just as open to answering a question about Nosema to a beginning beekeeper or responding to a child's question about queen bees as he is to helping a commercial beekeeper with 15,000 hives, or engaging in intricate scientific research,” Godfrey said.
Mussen periodically speaks to some 20 beekeeping organizations a year, taking time from his busy schedule (often on the weekends and evenings) to travel to all parts of California and beyond, the nominators said. Mussen also mans the honey-tasting table at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day, where he encourages patrons to sample honey and ask questions. He displayed an observation hive at the 2008 and 2009 Dixon May Fair, where he answered questions from fairgoers.
Mussen, who is the UC Davis representative to the California State Apiary Board, offers input to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, particularly with the pesticide registration group. Lately he assisted U.S. beekeepers in writing letters to receive compensation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for their CCD (colony collapse disorder) bee losses.
Mussen works closely with Cooperation Extension, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, researchers in the UC system, researchers at the USDA/ARS honey bee laboratories at Beltsville, Md; Baton Rouge, La.; Tucson, AZ; Weslaco, Texas, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
Mussen serves on various committees and task forces of state and national organizations, reviews numerous manuscripts for journals; reviews annual research proposals to the California State Beekeepers' Association, the Almond Board of California, and the National Honey Board; reviews Small Business Innovation Research applications at the federal level; and is requested to comment on promotion evaluations for university and USDA researchers.
For the last 10 years, Mussen has been in charge of the California State 4-H Bee Essay Contest, disseminating guidelines, collecting entries and chairing the judging. The state winner advances to national competition.
Mussen was also lauded for his work with the news media. He has been interviewed by the BBC, Lehrer Hour, Associated Press, National Public Radio, Good Morning America, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, KGO Radio, Boston Globe and scores of other media. Two of his videos on bee health appear on the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site and Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. An hour-long video on colony collapse disorder is on the national eXtension Web site.
Ilic, a native of Chile and a 1964 graduate of the University of Chile, came to the United States in 1965 on a California Farm Bureau scholarship and worked as a farm laborer. He continued his education at California State University, Fresno. He joined the UC Cooperative Extension in 1976 as a small-farms advisor. He died at age 50 in Fresno County.
The Pedro Ilic Awards single out individuals who carry on Ilic's work. According to the award criteria, each honoree
- envisions what can be done and has the imagination, energy, and intellect to translate that vision into a successful activity
- is part of the solution, not of the problem; critical in thinking, but constructive in approach
- is an advocate and risk taker
- is an effective teacher, instills self-esteem in others and constantly encourages others;
- is a dedicated professional who believes in his or her work
- has determination, exuberance, high energy, and genuine friendliness for all people, with the conviction that the smallest is as important as the biggest
- has high personal and family values.
The California Small Farm Conference, set Feb. 28-March 2, is an educational conference that includes on-farm tours, focused workshops, general educational sessions and opportunities for peer networking.