- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Lynn Kimsey (email@example.com), director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, is coordinating the event, with Professor Neal Williams assisting.
Thorp, 85, passed away Friday, June 7 at this home in Davis. He would have been 86 on Aug. 26.
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death.
A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, Thorp was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
“Robbin's scientific achievements during his retirement rival the typical career productivity of many other academic scientists,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “His contributions in support of understanding bee biodiversity and systematics are a true scientific legacy.
Said Kimsey: "Robbin had a long, well-respected career in pollination biology and bee taxonomy, but when he retired, he became even more engaged. He became the go-to person for everyone working on pollination in the western states. Many careers were made with his assistance."
"I've known Robbin since I was a graduate student at UC Davis," Kimsey said. "Even though he wasn't my major professor, my project was on bees and he was incredibly helpful and supportive. His enthusiasm about pollinators and bees in particular actually grew after he retired, and he continued helping students and researchers and was the backbone of so much research. His support and kindness was matched by his undemanding assistance and expertise. What a terrible loss to his family and to the research and conservation communities."
In his retirement, Thorp co-authored two books Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014). Locally, he was active in research projects and open houses at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden on Bee Biology Road operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He detected and identified more than 80 species of bees in the haven.
Born Aug. 26, 1933 in Benton Harbor, Mich., Thorp received his bachelor of science degree in zoology (1955) and his master's degree in zoology (1957) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He earned his doctorate in entomology in 1964 from UC Berkeley, the same year he joined the UC Davis entomology faculty. He taught courses from 1970 to 2006 on insect classification, general entomology, natural history of insects, field entomology, California insect diversity, and pollination ecology.
Every summer from 2002 to 2018, Thorp volunteered his time and expertise to teach at The Bee Course, an annual workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The intensive 9-day workshop, considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists.
Highly honored by his peers, Thorp was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco in 1986; recipient of the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship of UC Davis in 2010; and recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won PBESA's Team Award in 2013. In addition, he was a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and former chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
Professor Neal Williams, who organized a symposium in Dr. Thorp's honor at the 2019 Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) meeting in San Diego, said: ‘Through his tireless efforts in research, advocacy and education, he has inspired a new generation of bee researchers…I like many others, feel truly honored, to have received the mentoring of Robbin and to have him as a colleague.”
Williams said the PBESA symposium was “perhaps the greatest honor one can receive from close colleagues--a special symposium honoring him and his contributions to the field of bee biology and pollination. We designed the symposium to honor the impact of Dr. Thorp, on the field of bee biology and conservation, but at the same time present innovative research that brings together bee and pollination biology researchers."
An authority on the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp began monitoring the bumble bee population in 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He had not seen it since 2006 and was instrumental in placing the bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He was the former regional co-chair of the North America IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group.
In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to a meadow where Thorp last saw Franklin's bumble bee. Sutter wrote about Thorp, then 82, in a piece he titled "The Old Man and the Bee," a spinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
Those who plan to attend the celebration of life, may make reservations at https://bit.ly/2lLG20E.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Coordinating the memorial are his longtime friends and colleagues, Extension entomologist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor of entomology, and entomology project consultant Vonny Barlow, both of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Barlow, the third graduate student in the Godfrey lab (1997) and who holds a doctorate (2006) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), is assembling a slide show.
Attendees will be invited to speak in celebration of his life. Light refreshments will be served.
Dr. Godfrey, who was widely known for his research on applied insect ecology and integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, died April 18, succumbing to a six-year battle with cancer. He was 60.
At UC Davis, he taught arthropod pest management and agricultural entomology. He developed IPM strategies for not only rice and cotton but for such field and vegetable crops as alfalfa, dry beans, timothy grass, melons, mint and onions.
A member of the entomology department since April 1991, Dr. Godfrey served as its vice chair in 2008, and also that year, as president of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America.
“Larry was an outstanding contributor to the department, not only as a researcher and teacher, but also in the effective ways that he connected with clientele through outreach,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “He was a member of our department's Executive Committee and I could always count on Larry for sound advice.”
“Being the two Davis faculty with agricultural entomology extension duties, Larry and I shared a lot over the last 25 years and he was my closest colleague in our department when he passed today,” said Frank Zalom, IPM specialist and a past president of the Entomological Society of America. “I've always respected him for being quiet and humble despite his many accomplishments. He filled the shoes of several faculty members who retired before he came to Davis and he did his job exceptionally well. It's hard for me to imagine not having him nearby as the go-to entomologist for field crops, although his research, extension, and, most importantly his graduate students, will serve as his legacy for years to come.”
Said professor Jay Rosenheim: “Larry was a researcher who always placed the farmer's needs first. This is why he was so highly valued by California's growers of rice, alfalfa, cotton, and vegetable crops, and why his research program grew and grew over his years at Davis. He was also an excellent communicator, and epitomized the role of researcher/educator in the Land-Grant system. Despite his illness, he continued to work tirelessly on his pest management research, refusing to compromise on his commitments. His dedication to our profession was truly remarkable.”
Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long, who collaborated with Dr. Godfrey on dry bean research, said: “He was an incredibly dedicated field crop entomologist and terrific colleague with team spirit, and his loss leaves a big hole in our lives and I'll miss him.”
“What I admired about Larry was his stoicism,” said former graduate student Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, now a postdoctoral fellow at North Carolina State University. “Nothing seemed to wear down his resolve.”
Dr. Godfrey, born July 7, 1956, grew up on an Indiana farm, and was a 1974 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School. He received two entomology degrees from Purdue University, West Layfayette: his bachelor's degree in 1978 and his master's degree in 1980. He earned his doctorate in entomology in 1984 from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, studying with major professor Kenneth Yeargan. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi and Gamma Sigma Delta.
Said Yeargan: "As I stated in my letter of recommendation for Larry many years ago when he applied for the position at UC Davis, Larry was an outstanding 'synthesizer' of information. He had a knack for looking at a problem, thinking through all the ramifications, and coming up with logical, practical ways to approach the problem – and usually finding a solution. He will be missed by many." It was at the University of Kentucky where Larry met his wife-to-be, Kris Elvin, then a postdoctoral scholar.
Dr. Godfrey began his career as a product development specialist for Union Carbide Agricultural Products Co., Inc., Research Triangle, N.C., before joining the University of Nebraska's Department of Entomology from July 1987 to March 1991 as a research associate.
“Growing up on a farm in Indiana, I saw first-hand the ‘battles' that farmers and homeowners face trying to produce crops and grow landscape plants in competition with insects,” Dr. Godfrey recalled in an earlier interview. “I became fascinated with insects through the typical ‘bug-in-a-jar' hobby. A county Natural Resources Field Day cultivated my interest in entomology and this led to enrollment in the 4-H entomology project. By the time I was several years into the 4-H project, I was transporting a dozen wooden collection boxes full of pinned insects to the county fair.”
“My first summer job involved surveying for Japanese beetles as they progressed across Indiana. This was an invasive insect in the Midwest in the mid-1970s; this same insect is of serious concern now in California an invasive pest that could damage many crops—such as grapes—and ornamentals—such as roses.”
Dr. Godfrey was one of 24 founding members of the California Invasive Species Advisory Committee, appointed by then Secretary A. G. Kawamura of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to recommend “ways to mitigate non-native species' effects on resources throughout the state.” The goal: to protect California's environment, food systems, human health and economy from invasive and destructive pests, plants and diseases.
At UC Davis, Dr. Godfrey zeroed in on invasive insect and mite pests such as silverleaf whitefly, panicle rice mite, and rice water weevil. In addition, he targeted scores of pests, including alfalfa weevils, blue alfalfa aphids, spotted cucumber beetles, and two-spotted spider mites. He researched plant response to insect injury, refining economic thresholds.He also researched various pest management tactics, including biological control, reduced risk insecticides, mating disruption, cultural control, and host plant resistance.
Highly respected by his peers, Dr. Godfrey received the Excellence in IPM Award in 2005 from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), followed by the PBESA Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension in 2010. Nationally, he was elected chair of ESA's Section F (crop protection) in 2002.
For many years, he served as the advisor to the UC Davis Linnaean Games teams, which won regional (PBESA) and national (ESA) championships in college-bowl type competitions involving insect questions. He himself was on the championship 1983 University of Kentucky team, the second annual Linnaean Games in the North Central Branch of ESA “where it all started,” he said. “It was a few years before the other branches started this competition and several years before they did it at the national meeting.”
As part of his Extension work, Dr. Godfrey wrote publications, regularly met with growers, and delivered scientific talks at workshops. He addressed the annual California Rice Field Day for 25 years and also spoke at alfalfa IPM workshops, among others. He was a subject editor for the Journal of Cotton Science and the Journal of Integrated Pest Management. In addition, Dr. Godfrey served on many departmental, college and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources committees.
Funeral services took place Saturday, April 29 in his hometown of Salem, Ind. He is survived by his wife, Kristine Elvin Godfrey; his mother, Laura Godfrey; and sister, Carol Green and family. He was preceded in death by his father, Don Godfrey.
Memorial contributions are being made to pet rescue groups or groups that support young people interested in entomology or agriculture./span>