Emily Meineke: An Incredible and Well-Deserved Honor

It's an incredible and well-deserved honor.

UC Davis urban landscape entomologist Emily Meineke has been selected an Early Career Fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA).  

Meineke, an assistant professor who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty in 2020 (and during the COVID-19 pandemic, too) is one of 10 faculty members to receive the honor from the ESA Governing Board. She will be recognized at ESA's Aug. 6-11 meeting in Portland, Ore. 

"This is one of the most prestigious awards an ecologist can receive," said nominator Rachel Vannette, community ecologist and associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. 

Early Career Fellows are members within eight years of completing their doctoral training (or other terminal degree) who have advanced ecological knowledge and applications and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA,” an ESA  spokesperson announced. “They are elected for five years.” 

Meineke received her bachelor of science degree in environmental science, with a minor in biology, in 2008 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She obtained her doctorate in entomology in 2016 from North Carolina State University (NCU), studying with major professors Steven Frank and Robert Dunn. She wrote her dissertation on "Understanding the Consequences of Urban Warming for Street Trees and Their Insect Pests."

AtNCU, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded her with the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellowship. As anEPA STAR Fellow,Meineke pioneered research characterizing the effects of urban heat islands on insect herbivores. And, as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard University Herbaria,Meineke studied how urbanization and climate change have affected global plant–insect relationships over the past 100-plus years.  She helped spearhead Harvard Museum of Natural History's Thoreau project.

At UC Davis, the Meineke laboratory "leverages natural history collections, citywide experiments, and observations to characterize effects of recent anthropogenic change on plant–insect herbivore interactions," said Vannette. Meineke has received funding from the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (NSF-CAREER) Program; USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI); and the UC Davis Hellman Fellows Program. She was named one of 12 recipients of the Hellman award in 2022. Her project, “Assessing Preservation of Chemical Compounds in Pressed Plants," focuses on whether herbarium specimens collected over hundreds of years harbor chemical compounds that reveal mechanisms responsible for changing insect-plant interactions. 

Among Meineke's scores of other activities: coordinating her department's seminars for the 2022-23 academic year, and being involved as a researcher in the Seed Pile Project, a community science initiative by Miridae Living Labs and UC Davis faculty. In the Seed Pile Project, citizen scientists spread seeds along well-traveled areas, including bus stops, alleys and sidewalks, "to better understand the dynamics of native plant seed dispersal in human-dominated landscapes," as Miridae co-founder and director Billy Kimmel, a UC Davis doctoral alumnus, explains.

Only one other UC faculty member was named an ESA Early Career Fellow this year: Holly Moeller of UC Santa Barbara, a theoretical ecologist who uses mathematical and empirical approaches to understand acquired metabolism, joins the elite group.

ESA, founded in 1915 aims to promote ecological science by improving communication among ecologists; raise the public's level of awareness of the importance of ecological science; increase the resources available for the conduct of ecological science; and ensure the appropriate use of ecological science in environmental decision making by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy-makers.