One Entomologist’s Quest to Develop IPM Approaches for Beekeepers in Florida
By Lorena Lopez, Ph.D.
Editor’s Note: This is the next post in the “Standout ECPs” series contributed by the Entomological Society of America’s Early Career Professionals (ECP) Committee, highlighting outstanding ECPs that are doing great work in the profession. (An ECP is defined as anyone within the first five years of obtaining their terminal degree in their field.) Learn more about the work ECPs are doing within ESA, and read past posts in the Standout ECPs series.
Cameron Jack, Ph.D., is a lecturer and the distance education coordinator at the University of Florida, where he teaches several beekeeping courses and spends most of his time outside the classroom working closely with students interested in research. He earned his bachelor’s in biology at Southern Utah University in 2012, his master’s degree in horticultural science at Oregon State University in 2015, and his Ph.D. in entomology at the University of Florida in 2020. As Cameron was uniquely prepared to create a beekeeping instructional program, he was offered his current position in 2018, two years before earning his doctoral degree. His Ph.D. research investigated both chemical and non-chemical approaches to controlling the honey bee pest Varroa destructor. Additionally, Cameron worked on projects focused on rearing the mite in vitro and screened new chemical compounds that could be used in the control of the pest. Below, we asked Jack a few questions about his work and professional life.
Lopez: Can you describe your current research?
Jack: I am really driven to aid the suffering beekeeping industry, so naturally I am interested in solving problems for beekeepers. Most of my work is very applied, testing specific chemical applications, finding effective doses, monitoring the effect of treatments to honey bee colonies, etc. As a lecturer, I don’t have a formal research appointment, but I do have a lot of undergraduate students interested in research. One of my favorite parts of my job is that I get to teach young students how to develop questions, conduct literature reviews, design experiments, collect data, and communicate research findings.
I am teaching eight courses each year, which means I interact with a lot of students. One course uses the C.U.R.E. model (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience) where the students work with me and the other members of the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory at the University of Florida to conduct a publishable research project as part of the course. As part of this class, I’ve been able to conduct research on the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bee behavior and how spatial distributions within apiaries effects honey bee drifting.
What’s your favorite aspect of your research?
I am fascinated with honey bees and could spend all day just watching their behaviors as they busily work in and out of the hive. I feel fortunate that I get to work with such an interesting and charismatic animal. However, I feel like it is the human aspect that I enjoy most about my research. Although extension (teaching stakeholders) is not formally part of my appointment, I love having the opportunity to speak to beekeepers about my research. As I typically try to address beekeeper questions in my research, I am invited to speak around the country to different state associations. Additionally, I have loved getting to interact with researchers around the globe. It’s amazing to think about where honey bees have taken me.
What’s a recent challenge you had to overcome, and how did you do it?
I suppose the ultimate challenge for all researchers is funding. Again, I have a 100 percent teaching appointment as a lecturer, which means I need to get creative on how I conduct research on a tight budget. I am often collaborating with beekeepers in my area, using their honey bee colonies and their equipment, partnering with other researchers in my department, and recruiting an army of undergraduate volunteers to help me with the work.
I still apply to many grants and occasionally contract with different companies to test products of interest to beekeepers. I also seek funding opportunities within my department, college, and university. These grants are typically small, but they are often enough to carry me through research projects.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your graduate-student self?
I would tell myself to wrap up all my studies and publish them as soon as possible. For the nearly three years that I’ve been in my faculty position I have had intentions of publishing my graduate research, but I’ve found it so hard to make time for it. Once you’re in a new position, you have one hundred new responsibilities that take precedent, even in the nights and on weekends. It is far better to get it finished before moving to a new position. Publish! Publish! Publish!
What is one thing you would change about the field of entomology?
The field of entomology attracts a wide range of scientists, all with different backgrounds and interests. Over the years I have occasionally detected a bit of a rift between the basic and applied researchers. I have always felt that it is silly to put one above the other in terms of importance. Both are needed. Both are necessary for progress. There is no need for anyone to put another researcher down purely based on the type of projects that they conduct. Can’t we all just get along?
What’s the coolest thing about your job as a lecturer that you wish more people knew?
I think the coolest thing about my job as a lecturer primarily teaching beekeeping courses is that, every day, I get to share what I love. The most common bit of praise I receive on my student evaluations is that I am really passionate about the subject. Well, that’s easy when you actually get to teach your passion! There is not another lecturer in the country of which I am aware that teaches only beekeeping courses. I have the exciting opportunity to create the program curriculum, design and teach individual courses, and focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning related to beekeeping. This is all ground-breaking territory. It keeps me on my toes and pushes me to have the best apiculture education program in the world.
Resources for Early Career Professionals: Learn more about ESA membership, professional-development opportunities, awards, and more—all for entomologists building new careers.
Entomological Society of America
Lorena Lopez, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida’s Entomology and Nematology Department in Gainesville, Florida, and the 2020-2021 vice chair of the ESA Early Career Professionals Committee. Twitter: @lorelopez257. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.