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James Tumlinson
James Tumlinson

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Tumlinson Delivers 2015 ARS Sterling B. Hendricks Memorial Lecture at ACS Annual Meeting

By Kim Kaplan
August 18, 2015

"Insect Herbivore Pest Management with Chemical Ecology" is the subject of James H. Tumlinson's 2015 ARS Sterling B. Hendricks Memorial Lecture, which he delivered today at the American Chemical Society (ACS) annual meeting in Boston.

Tumlinson, Ralph O. Mumma professor of entomology at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Science Hall of Fame, is internationally recognized for his work on pheromones, insect chemical communication, and plant signaling and defenses, especially in insects that are pests of row crops. His research has had important impacts in insect pest management and the development of sustainable, environmentally safe pest management programs.

The Lecture was established in 1981 by ARS to honor the memory of Sterling B. Hendricks and to recognize scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the chemical science of agriculture. Hendricks contributed to many diverse scientific disciplines, including soil science, mineralogy, agronomy, plant physiology, geology and chemistry.

Tumlinson is known for identifying insect pheromones and other semiochemicals, including the boll weevil pheromone, a key component of the boll weevil eradication program. He has also increased our understanding and knowledge of the biochemical mechanisms by which chemical signals are produced and released by insects, and the behavioral responses, including learned responses, of insects to chemical cues.

Most recently, he has been investigating the interactions among herbivorous insects, their host plants and their natural enemies. In one example, he found that plants damaged by caterpillar feeding can synthesize and release volatile chemicals. Tiny wasps use these released volatiles as cues to locate and parasitize the caterpillars.

Tumlinson summed up his presentation by pointing out that "plants successfully employ a broad array of chemicals to defend against insect herbivores. If we can discover and understand the chemical and biochemical mechanisms used in natural plant defense systems they may be exploited for crop protection from insect pests."