- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, praised Page as “a pioneer researcher in the field of behavioral genetics, an internationally recognized scholar, a highly respected author, a talented and innovative administrator, and a skilled teacher responsible for mentoring many of today's top bee scientists.”
“Robert Page is arguably the most influential honey bee biologist of the past 30 years,” Nadler wrote in his letter of nomination. The award, administered by the UC Davis Emeriti Association, honors outstanding scholarship work or service performed since retirement by a UC Davis emeritus.
Page will receive the award--a plaque and a cash prize of $1000--at a luncheon hosted by Chancellor Gary May on Monday, Jan. 28 in the UC Davis Conference Center. Two recipients of the Edward Dickson Emeriti Professorship Award—Caroline Chantry and Anthony Phillips (both pediatrics)--also will be honored.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989 and served as the chair of the Department of Entomology from 1999 to 2004, the year he gained emeritus status and the year Arizona State University recruited him for what would be a series of top-level administrative roles. He continues his research, teaching and public service in both Arizona and California, but now resides in California, near Davis, with his family.
Page is known for 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.
At UC Davis, he maintained a honey bee-breeding program for 24 years, from 1989 to 2015, managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. They discovered a link between social behavior and maternal traits in bees. Their work was featured in a cover story in the journal Nature. In all, Nature featured his work on four covers from work mostly done at UC Davis.
His work has garnered a significant impact in the scientific community through his research on the evolutionary genetics and social behavior of honey bees. He was the first to demonstrate that a significant amount of observed behavioral variation among honey bee workers is due to genotypic variation. In the 1990s he and his students and colleagues isolated, characterized and validated the complementary sex determination gene of the honey bee; considered the most important paper yet published about the genetics of Hymenoptera. The journal Cell featured their work on its cover. In subsequent studies, he and his team published further research into the regulation of honey bee foraging, defensive and alarm behavior.
In addition to his pioneering work on the first genetic map of any social insect--demonstrating that the honey bee has the highest recombination rate of any eukaryotic organism mapped to date--Page was personally involved in genome mappings of bumble bees, parasitic wasps and two species of ants. His most recent work focuses on the genetic bases to individuality in honey bees; demonstrating genetic links between pollen and nectar collection, tactile and olfactory learning characteristics, and neuroendocrine function. This work provides the most detailed understanding to date of the molecular and genetic bases to task variation in a social insect colony.
He has authored than 250 research papers, including five books: among them The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution, published by Harvard University Press in 2013. He is a highly cited author onsuch topics as Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination, and division of labor in insect societies. His resume shows more than 18,000 citations.
In 2004, Page was recruited by ASU as the director of the School of Life Sciences of Arizona State University (ASU). He organized three departments--biology, microbiology and plant sciences, comprising more than 600 faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff--into one unified school. As its founding director, he established the school as a platform for discovery in the biomedical, genomic and evolutionary and environmental sciences. He also established ASU's Honey Bee Research Facility.
His ASU academic career advanced to a number of titles: dean of Life Sciences; vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and university provost. Today he holds the titles of provost emeritus of ASU and Regents professor emeritus, as well as UC Davis department chair emeritus, professor emeritus, and now distinguished emeritus professor.
Page's colleagues laud his strategic vision, his innovative leadership, and his stellar contributions to science.
James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, who continues to work with Dr. Page on research projects, describes him as "one of the most gifted scientists, administrators, and teachers I have had the privilege to know in 30 years in academia.”
Colleague Bert Hoelldobler, an ASU professor of life sciences, said Page is “the leading honey bee geneticist in the world. A number of now well-known scientists in the U.S. and Europe learned the ropes of sociogenetics in Rob's laboratory.”
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, former manager of the Laidlaw facility and now of Washington State University, praised Page's major contributions to the beekeeping industry, including the Page-Laidlaw Closed Population Breeding Theory. This has offered a practical system of stock improvement for honey bees, used worldwide, she said. “It's a challenge, as the queen mates in flight with numerous drones and selection is based upon complex behaviors at the colony level, influenced by the environmental.” She has applied this theory throughout her career, developing and maintaining a population of Carniolan bees, now in their 36th generation.
Among Page's 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)
- 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
- Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences
- Elected to the Brazilian Academy of Science
- Recipient of the James W. Creasman Award of Excellence from the Arizona State University Alumni Association
- Fellow, Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation, Munich, Germany, September 2017-August 2018
- Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Award from UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology received the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. He served on the faculty from 1964 to 1994. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of California: An Identification Guide (2014, Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (2014, Heyday Books).
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
His appointment, pending Arizona Board of Regents’ approval, begins Dec. 5.
“As its chief academic officer, Page will provide leadership to all ASU campuses and academic programs, fostering global distinction in teaching, research and service to the community," according to an ASU press release. “Page will guide ASU’s mission to achieve its vision of the New American University by positioning the university at the national forefront of academic excellence and accessibility. Page also will represent ASU to external agencies and constituencies and engage in its fundraising initiatives.”
ASU President Michael M. Crow praised Page as “the perfect person to help move the university forward on the path set by Provost Phillips toward academic excellence and student-centric education. Since coming to ASU, he has embraced and embodied all of the qualities of the New American University. His own scholastic rigor combined with his leadership in transcending disciplinary divides to further knowledge, research and educational reform that impact the public good makes him ideally suited to direct our academic aspirations.”
Page, who studies the evolution of complex social behavior in honey bees, from genes to societies, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980, and served as an assistant professor at Ohio State University before joining the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1989. He chaired the department for five years, from 1999 to 2004 when ASU recruited him as the founding director and dean of the School of Life Sciences, an academic unit within CLAS. He organized three departments—biology, microbiology and botany, totaling more than 600 faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff--into one unified school.
Recognized as one of the world’s foremost honey bee geneticists, Page is a highly cited entomologist who has authored more than 230 research papers and articles centered on Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination and division of labor in insect societies. His work on the self-organizing regulatory networks of honey bees is featured in his new book, The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution, published in June 2013 by Harvard University Press.
Page continues to keep bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; they are managed by staff research associate/beekeeper Michael “Kim” Fondrk.
As vice provost and dean of CLAS, beginning in July 2011, Page was responsible for student academic affairs, faculty development and research promotion, as well as planning and implementation of degree programs for a college with an enrollment of more than 20,000 students. He also has overseen budgeting, planning, fundraising and personnel decisions.
“For nearly a decade, I have been energized and inspired by President Crow’s vision for transforming ASU,” said Page in the ASU news release. “Today’s modern universities must become agents of change, capable of profoundly impacting our quality of life by developing students into socially aware, critically thinking citizens. As university provost, I look forward to continuing the work of Provost Phillips in helping shape the metamorphosis of this great university.”
As founding director of SOLS, Page established the school as a platform for discovery in the biomedical, genomic, and evolutionary and environmental sciences. He also founded the Social Insect Research Group and ASU Honey Bee Research Facility, which have attracted top researchers in social insect studies to the university.
An internationally recognized scholar, Page was elected to the Leopoldina-the German National Academy of Sciences, the longest continuing academy in the world. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Entomological Society of America, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Wiko), or Institute for Advanced Study. His awards include the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, the highest honor given by the German government to foreign scientists.
“The University Senate welcomes the opportunity to work with Dr. Robert Page as the new provost of the university,” said Thomas Schildgen, president of the University Senate in the ASU news release. “The senate recognizes his exemplary record of scholarship and publication, his distinguished international research work, along with his successful administrative experience as the key factors that define his ability to advance Arizona State University. The University Senate represents shared faculty governance and will work with Provost Page to advance the mission of the institution.”
(Michael Crow of Arizona State University contributed to this news release.)