Thursday, April 17, 2014

BIG Changes at A&M

Architectural concept for the new Center for Urban and
Industrial Entomology at the College Station campus of
Texas A&M University
Many of you are aware of some of the big changes taking place in the urban entomology program over the next year at Texas A&M University. But I'll bet  few of you realize how sweeping these changes will be. One of the biggest is construction of a new $4 million building to house the Center for Urban and Structural Entomology  near the intersection of Agronomy and F&B Roads on the Texas A&M campus in College Station. Another huge change is Dr. Roger Gold's recent announcement that he will be retiring as Endowed Chair for Urban Entomology at the end of January, 2015. As if that wasn't news enough, today the Department of Entomology announced his replacement.

According to an email today from Entomology Department Head, Dr. David Ragsdale, "Dr. Ed Vargo from NC State has accepted our offer to become the next Endowed Chair in Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M starting officially on 1 December 2014." This start date will give Dr. Vargo an opportunity to overlap his time with Dr. Gold, and assist with a smooth transition.

Dr. Ed Vargo was announced today as
the next endowed Chair in Urban
Entomology at Texas A&M
Dr. Vargo is currently Professor and Interim Department Head of the Entomology Department at North Carolina State University, and in my opinion is a great match for our department and the Texas pest control industry. He has a long history of working with the industry and is genuinely interested in having close ties with PMPs.  He is nationally and internationally known for his expertise in social insect biology (termites and ants, especially), molecular ecology and practical insect control.  To read more about Dr. Vargo and his current projects at NCSU, I encourage you to check out his website.

In an email I received today, Dr. Ed said, "I am excited about the position and look forward to working with [the industry in Texas] and continuing to provide the scientific and educational leadership for their industry that Dr. Gold has so ably furnished for the past 25 years."

As I see it, the entomology program at Texas A&M has never had a stronger commitment to urban entomology. In addition to refilling the Endowed Chair position, the department will also be creating a new Extension entomologist position to work closely with the new Chair. This entomologist will be based in College Station and will serve as a major bridge between the urban entomology lab and the industry. This person will manage the annual Texas A&M University Urban Pest Management Conference and Workshop, oversee the termite training school in Bryan, and conduct applied, industry-sponsored research.

Last, but not least, fund-raising for a new hands-on pest control training facility in Dallas is well underway. This month I began working with the Texas A&M foundation to raise funds to build a hands-on training facility for PMPs at the AgriLife campus in Dallas.  This will be an exciting new venture for me personally, and one that I hope will bring new energy and higher quality to our efforts to train new (and old) technicians in the art and science of pest control.  To learn a little more about this project, check out the new IPM Experience House website.  There is a lot going on here, and I will be sharing much more with you over the next few months.

This year is truly an exciting time for pest control and urban entomology in Texas. And none of this would be happening without your help, the help of your state and local associations, and the many pest control support industries around our state and country.  But this column isn't long enough to brag about y'all today.  More about you later too.

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