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Department Head Letter

Our Centennial launch is fast approaching and we’re gearing up in preparation!  You should have a received an invitation to the Fall Centennial Celebration in the mail. ­­We would be thrilled to have you join us.  Please let us know if you plan to come.  You’ll find more information about this and other Centennial events by clicking on the events listed in the right hand column.

Takes some time to go through the Centennial website.  Your memories of Purdue will be sparked, and you’ll discover lots of new information about the department you never knew.  We continue to add new historical photos, particularly where we have information about the subject(s).  All of our thesis and dissertation titles have been compiled and listed chronologically and alphabetically, along with a pretty good list of publications by our faculty, students and staff.  Also posted are examples of historical documents we’ve unearthed in the process of preparing for the Centennial.  This includes representative correspondence from JJ Davis spanning 7 decades.  Only a fraction of the material is posted, but we intend to archive these documents in the Special Collections Library following the Centennial.

Preparing for the Centennial doesn’t stop our other business.  Undergraduates are gone for the summer, but graduate students are fully engaged in research with their faculty mentors.  Many of our extension programs have been dealing with the draught.  Corn growers have already seen a hit, while bean growers are still hoping for rain.  Everything else not under irrigation is as brown as the lawn in front of our building on campus. 

We continue to see changes in our staff.  Ralph Williams retired at the end of June after 36 years as our livestock entomologist and more recent as founder of our forensic science program.  We’re now recruiting a new forensic science director to replace Ralph.  We recently hired Chris Cookley as our new web designer, webmaster and social media guru.  Chris is a Purdue graduate from the College of Technology.  He has only been here a few months, but his handiwork is already evident on our website and other design projects.

We also just hired Dr. Jennifer Zaspel as our new insect systematist and director of the Purdue Entomological Research Collection.  “Jen”, as she prefers to be called, got her PhD from the University of Florida, her Masters  and BS from the University of Minnesota.  Her responsibilities will include insect systematics research and teaching.  Jen’s research explores microbial associations and the evolution of adult feeding behaviors in moths of the family Erebidae.  She begins this fall and comes to us from the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh where she was an assistant professor teaching biology, entomology and systematics.

Check out our homepage ( ) for the latest news flashes from the department.  Below are examples of recent highlights:

  • ‘BioBlitz’ provides valuable information about Indiana wildlife – Jeff Holland and his lab including event organizer John Shukle (a Purdue entomology student) led over 100 scientists and environmentalists on an inventory of the insects, birds and amphibians at the Kankakee Sands Restoration prairies just North of Morocco in Newton County.  Once the species have been identified, the data will be compiled and published as part of the scientific record in the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Sciences.  The bioblitz was July 20th and 20st.


  • 2012 “Butterfly Encounter” – was held on July 21 at the Evonik nature preserve (formerly Lilly nature preserve) a few miles south of campus just across the Wabash River.  The day was warm, but not humid, so not a bad day to be out counting butterflies.  Over fifty people join students, staff and faculty from the department for the event.  Gene White led a workshop on insect photography in the morning, before participants scattered across parts of the 1000-acre wildlife habitat survey for butterflies.  It has been a very dry year, so we were surprised when we found 28 species, about average diversity, but many fewer individuals than normal.