Lynn Kimsey: Distinguished Public Service

Mar 15, 2016

Lynn Kimsey: Distinguished Public Service

Mar 15, 2016

They fondly call her "The Wasp Woman" in reference to her specialty. She is a recognized expert on aculeate wasps and works with some of the most difficult groups, including tiphiids and chrysidids.

Lately she's been heavily involved in ongoing studies with the endemic insect species of the Algodones Dunes in southern California and with the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups in Indonesia. Scientists and students from throughout the world clamor to work with her.

Now she's the recipient of the UC Davis Academic Senate's Distinguished Public Service Award.

That would be Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

"The Bohart Museum is SO friendly and SO helpful and SO knowledgeable" is a comment heard all the time. 

The nearly eight million insect specimens housed in the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, are, in many respects, her babies. That's how well she and her staff treasure them, care for them, and engage people in the fascinating world of insects. Her "clientele" range from scientists to citizen scientists, from families to individuals, and from pre-schoolers to senior citizens.

“Dr. Kimsey has made outstanding contributions to public service and education through the numerous programs she has envisioned and directed through the Bohart Museum of Entomology,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “She is very deserving of this prestigious award.”

She will be honored at a combined Academic Senate/Academic Federation awards ceremony during the spring quarter.

Highly esteemed for her public service, teaching and research, Kimsey consults with international, national and state agencies; identifies thousands of insects every year for scientific collaborators, public agencies and the general public; answers scores of news media calls and insect questions; and encourages a greater appreciation of insects through the Bohart Museum open houses, workshops and lectures.

Her areas of expertise include insect biodiversity, systematics and biogeography of parasitic wasps, urban entomology and arthropod-related industrial hygiene.

Kimsey, who received both her undergraduate degree (1975) and her doctorate (1979) from UC Davis, joined the entomology faculty in 1989. The director of the Bohart Museum and executive director of the Bohart Museum Society since 1990, she has also served as interim chair and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

A two-year past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists, and a former board member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance, Kimsey is active in the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the Washington Entomological Society. The Pacific Branch of ESA (PBESA) honored her and colleagues Eric Mussen, Robbin Thorp, Neal Williams and Brian Johnson—“the UC Davis Bee Team”--with the outstanding team award in 2013. Kimsey also received the PBESA Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Award in 2014.

Nominators spotlighted some of her major accomplishments and activities:

Bohart Museum of Entomology: Kimsey turned a tiny museum, a hole in the wall, into a thriving world- renowned museum through her highly successful leadership, knowledge and dedicated efforts to make the museum the place to be—not only for scientific collaborators but for the public. The museum holds open houses on many weekends during the academic year. It has a gift shop and a live “petting zoo” filled with Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and a rose-haired tarantula named “Peaches,” a crowd favorite. Kimsey has written spring, summer, fall and winter newsletters since 1994 and a total of 56 insect/arthropod educational fact sheets, with topics ranging from bed bugs, cockroaches and black-widow spiders to ticks, fleas, scorpions and kissing bugs. “The museum is an incredible wealth of information. Kimsey, unselfish with her time, shares her expertise at workshops and seminars, including the California Center for Urban Horticulture,” her nominators said.

Got an Insect Question? For two decades, the department has asked on its website “Got an Insect Question? Ask It Here!” Kimsey is the key person who answers them. She is widely considered as the most accomplished faculty member in understanding the general knowledge of insects, according to Entomological Society of America fellow Robert Washino, emeritus professor and former chair of the department. Kimsey is not only the go-to entomologist to answer questions about insects on the UC Davis campus and beyond, but is a primary go-to person for the news media. The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, BBC, and Associated Press, among others, seek her out. “Her interviews are always informative, educational and animated,” her nominators said.

Teaching: Kimsey is described as “enthusiastic about teaching and highly responsive to students' questions and needs.” She is one of the innovators of One-Minute Entomology, at which students researched and developed one-minute videos on an important insect or arthropod. Her students say she makes entomology both fun and educational and that her sense of humor is contagious.

NASA SPLAT—She was the only entomologist selected for the NASA SPLAT/Boeing team to research how to decrease bug splats on aircraft and thus increase fuel efficiency in commercial jets. NASA engineers developed four different surface treatments designed to repel bugs and Boeing developed wing modifications to test an aircraft at Shreveport, La. A Boeing EcoDemonstrator 575 took flight, reaching an altitude of 5000 feet to maximize bug splats. The panels generated 100 and 500 splats each. Kimsey identified all the insects and found that a relatively small number of species caused the bulk of the splats. They included flower flies, aphids, thrips, muscid flies, midges, mosquitoes and love bugs. “Her work is a great public service to NASA, the airline industry and worldwide passengers who depend on air travel,” her nominators said.

FBI Assist: In a highly publicized, first-of-its-kind criminal case, Kimsey identified the bugs on the radiator and air filter of a new rental car involved in a major murder case. The murder suspect was found guilty of driving the car from Ohio to California, killing his family, and driving back to Ohio. His defense included that he had not driven out of Ohio during that time frame. Kimsey's knowledge and identification of insects proved that some of the bugs on the car are found only in California and/or west of the Rockies. Kimsey testified at the trial in a case that made entomological history: this was the first time someone has used insect identification to prove where a car has or has not been

Bee Garden: As interim chair of the department, Kimsey coordinated the development and installation of the bee garden on Bee Biology Road that was named one of the top 10 garden destinations by the Sacramento Bee. Through her connections, she also obtained the services of a Boy Scout troop to install a fence around the half- acre garden. As a result, the garden (primarily funded by Häagen-Dazs), became a showpiece for the department and is a key educational effort illustrating the importance of honey bees and other pollinators.

Lynn and her husband Robert "Bob" Kimsey, a forensic entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, have two adult children. Neither is an entomologist--one is into computers, the other into firefighting and fire science.

You can bet, though, they were thoroughly exposed to all things insects.  And still are.