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Entomologist Wins Research Award / February 12, 2003 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Formosan termite: Link to story
News story
about Morales-Ramos' research (Sept. 2002)


National news release

Entomologist Wins Research Award

By Linda McElreath
February 12, 2003

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 12—Juan A. Morales-Ramos, a research entomologist with the Agricultural Research Service, has won an ARS Early Career Research Scientist award and will be honored in a ceremony today at the agency’s headquarters in Beltsville. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

Morales-Ramos, who specializes in the control of agricultural and urban pests, joined the Formosan Subterranean Termite Research Unit at ARS’ Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., in 1998. Edward B. Knipling, ARS Acting Administrator, said, “Since joining SRRC, Morales-Ramos has assumed a significant leadership role in developing bait technology to control Formosan termites.

“These pests cost U.S. consumers more than $1 billion annually and have ravaged structures in urban communities throughout the southern United States, especially metropolitan New Orleans,” said Knipling.

By researching the foraging behavior, nutritional requirements and wood preference of the termites, Morales-Ramos has helped develop a highly effective bait matrix that the termites prefer and that, when laced with just a small amount of toxin, can kill entire colonies. He and his co-inventors have filed a patent application on the product, and the company that has licensed the technology is currently field-testing it.

Before joining the Formosan termite unit at SRRC, Morales-Ramos worked as a post doctoral research associate at ARS’ Kika de la Garza Subtropical Agricultural Research Laboratory in Weslaco, Texas. His research there contributed greatly to the knowledge needed to stop the boll weevil, a major pest of U.S. cotton that has caused billions of dollars in damage, crop losses and control costs since it entered the United States in the late 19th century.

While in Weslaco, Morales-Ramos discovered new information about the biology of Catolaccus grandis, a beneficial parasitic wasp that helps control the boll weevil, and developed mass rearing technology for its production. The ensuing biological control program has helped reduce the need for insecticides in cotton fields and the risk of environmental contamination by these insecticides.

The early career award is given to ARS scientists who have made outstanding scientific contributions, have been with the agency seven years or less and have completed their highest academic degree within the past 10 years. Morales-Ramos is the winner for the agency’s Mid South Area, which includes research locations in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. He has contributed to 64 scientific articles and two book chapters, and he is a co-inventor on one published patent and three others that are still pending.

Morales-Ramos earned his bachelor’s degree in biology in 1980 from the University of Nuevo Leon in Mexico, and his master’s degree in entomology in 1982 from the College of Tropical Agriculture, also in Mexico. In 1992, he earned his Ph.D. in entomology at Texas A&M University.

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Last Modified: 2/11/2003
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