By Lt. Jen Wright and Lt. Hanayo Arimoto
1. Wait, the United States Navy has entomologists?
Yes, they do! The image of an entomologist dressed in camouflage and armed with a butterfly net may seem absurd (and it is a bit of a stretch), but there are in fact 38 entomologists currently serving on active duty and seven reservist entomologists in the U.S. Navy. Entomologists serve in the Medical Service Corps and have played a critical role in military medicine since 1941, when the first entomologists were commissioned in response to arthropod-borne diseases during World War II. In 1941, entomologist were deployed to support the Marines in the Pacific through control of malaria, and the rest is history. Navy entomologists are still supporting the deployed war fighter and are stationed in Bethesda, MD; Pearl Harbor, HI; San Diego, CA; Atlanta, GA; Jacksonville & Gainesville, FL; Norfolk & Portsmouth, VA; Lima, Peru; and Cairo, Egypt.
2. What do they do? There are no bugs in the ocean.
We get this question ALL the time. When you hear the words “United States Navy,” you may envision majestic ships, submarines, or fighter jets and wonder why someone would need insect control in the ocean. While there may not be insects in the ocean, they sure do love ships and planes. Navy entomologists support ships by helping to control cockroaches, bed bugs, spiders, and any other arthropods that may be wreaking havoc on vessels. “Spiders on a Ship” and “Roaches in the Galley” may sound like titles of B-rated horror movies, but these are real threats to the health and morale of our sailors.
In addition to supporting the fleet, we also support the U.S. Marines with any insect issues they have, with special emphasis on supporting the deployed war fighter. Furthermore, we also provide training to military and civilian personnel of other commands in the Navy, including everything from pesticide applicator courses to outreach at local schools. Research is also a big component of a Navy Entomologist’s job. We collaborate with governmental and non-governmental organizations to develop and evaluate novel pesticides, pesticide application equipment, and techniques.
3. Do you actually deploy as Entomologists?
We certainly do, and no, we don’t run around the battlefield with butterfly nets (we have actually been asked this question). Navy entomologists deploy with Navy Preventative Medicine Units, the Marines, on humanitarian missions, and sometimes even with the Army and Air Force. When deployed, a Navy entomologist’s responsibilities may include surveying for insect vectors, designing and executing plans for controlling vector-borne diseases, and educating troops about insect-related threats they may encounter. Over the 12 years our community has recorded cumulative deployment time of over 33 years. As the Global War on Terrorism winds down, the opportunity for deployment has greatly decreased.
4. What does it take to become a Navy entomologist?
It helps to have mad beach volleyball skills. Just kidding. You need to have either a master’s or doctoral degree in entomology or a closely related field in which the course work taken had an emphasis on entomology. Your course work should include 30+ hours (graduate and undergraduate) in entomology, including courses in the areas of medical entomology, pest management, insect taxonomy, insect morphology, immature insects, insect ecology, insect toxicology, insect physiology, mosquito biology, and medical veterinary entomology. One thing that sets entomologist in the United States military apart from being an entomologist anywhere else is that you have a dual role where you are not only an entomologist, but also an officer.
5. Sweet! Is the Navy hiring entomologists?
Yes, we are! We are hiring for two positions in fiscal year 2014. One position is direct accession, and the other is for our Health Sciences Collegiate Program (HSCP). To be a direct accession, you must have your master’s degree or PhD in entomology. However, through HSCP the Navy will provide financial incentive to obtain your master’s degree or PhD if you have only two years left. We encourage interested parties to apply and keep in touch as we do expect to be able to hire several more entomologists over the next few years. If you have any more questions or would like to contact the center, please email us at NECE-PAO@med.navy.mil.
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Jennifer Wright is an entomologist at the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence (NECE). She received her PhD from the University of California, Riverside, where she studied transposable elements in Diptera, studying under Dr. Peter Atkinson. She is currently the department head of the Testing and Evaluation Department at NEC,E where she manages research projects ranging from investigating novel pesticide modes of action to evaluating pesticide dispersal equipment. She can be reached at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hanayo Arimoto received her doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Davis, where she studied face flies and nematology under the guidance of Dr. Ed Lewis. Her areas of interests include parasitology and vector ecology. Hanayo has been a lieutenant in the United States Navy since April 2013. You can reach her at email@example.com.