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News Release

December 21, 2005

Prof Earns Lifetime Award For Insect Studies

A University of Guelph environmental biologist has received the 2005 Gold Medal from the Entomological Society of Canada — almost a quarter-century after his father accepted the same lifetime achievement award.

“It was a very emotional experience,” Prof. Peter Kevan said of receiving the top honour from his peers. His father, Keith Kevan, won the medal in 1981. “He was in my mind. That was pretty special. It also meant a great deal to be recognized and have that kind of respect from the nation.”

The award recognizes lifelong contributions to the study of insects. Kevan was honoured for his contributions to the field during the last three decades, particularly his research on interactions between insects and plants and pollination ecology. A respected insect ecologist, he has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles covering such topics as conservation, behaviour and learning, physiology, soils, flower colour and colour vision.

Kevan has had a career-long interest in pollination biology, involving bees, flies and other insects. His studies have confirmed that human activities — notably pesticide use in forestry and on farms — disrupt pollinator populations. Those effects may be traced to production of fewer fruits and berries and resultant problems for birds and animals.

His work has led to changes in policy and practice, including reductions in amounts of insecticides applied in woodlands. “Forests are healthier places for wildlife to live,” said Kevan, who was named this year to the U.S. National Research Council expert panel on the status of pollinators.

Kevan has also studied insect vision and flower colour and his early work was based in the Canadian Arctic, where he studied everything from how plants and insects cope with cold to the effects of heavy vehicles on the fragile terrain. Currently, he is part of another proposed research collaboration based at Guelph that hopes to study Arctic and sub-Arctic biodiversity. It would see scientists survey plants and animals using more sophisticated tools, including DNA bar-coding technology for identifying species of organisms. “The Canadian Arctic is among the least known in natural history and biodiversity,” he said.

Kevan spent his childhood accompanying his father, who taught entomology at McGill University, on collecting trips with his father in various parts of the world. Keith Kevan’s career took him to every continent except Antarctica, and it occasionally brought him to Guelph, where he identified several specimens in the U of G Insect Collection. Father and son published three times together on springtails and on grasshopper behaviour.

Prior to joining the U of G faculty in 1982, Kevan taught at Memorial University and at the University of Colorado. He has served on the board of the Entomological Society of Canada and of Ontario and as editor of the Proceedings of the ESO and of The Canadian Entomologist.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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