Forest ThreatNet

Volume 2, Issue 1 - Winter 2009

Southern Research Station Welcomes New Assistant Director

Mite-y scientist feels EFETAC's time is now

By Stephanie Worley Firley, EFETAC

SRS new Assistant Station Director for Research Kier Klepzig examines an invasive insect (the Eucalyptus Weevil - Gonipterus scutellatus). - Photo by Bernard SlippersFew people will ever have anything named after them. Even fewer will have their name given to a mite. Kier Klepzig, the Southern Research Station’s new Assistant Director for Research, is one of those few.

Left: SRS new Assistant Station Director for Research Kier Klepzig examines an invasive insect (the Eucalyptus Weevil - Gonipterus scutellatus). (Photo by Bernard Slippers)

In 2008, a fungi-carrying mite species associated with bark beetles was discovered by research entomologist emeritus John Moser and named Caesarodispus klepzigi in honor of Klepzig, who has long studied the symbiotic relationships among insects, fungi, and mites. Just as the interactions among these tiny organisms are amazingly complex, so are the interactions among larger scale forest threats. Klepzig’s understanding of and fascination with the dynamics of multiple interacting factors make him a good fit to lead the three research work units within SRS’s Threats to Forest Health science area, which includes EFETAC.

“This is an exciting time for EFETAC,” says Klepzig. “The threats to our forests have never been greater, but that means there is a great need for what EFETAC can provide. Now that the Center is really up and running and developing some fascinating new approaches, we can really engage the folks who need our work. Our challenge is to make the most efficient use of what we have to tackle key issues and deliver answers our customers and cooperators can use. I look forward to facilitating this and bringing support to the efforts.”

Klepzig joins the SRS headquarters in Asheville by way of Pineville, Louisiana, where he has served as a supervisory research entomologist as well as project leader of the SRS Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants (IDIP) research work unit for the past ten years. Prior to his work with the Forest Service, Klepzig taught forest pathology and forest entomology at Southern University in Baton Rouge, but jumped at the chance to perform research on bark beetle-fungal interactions with the IDIP unit. “My PhD research had focused on just that topic, so I was thrilled to be able to continue the same line of research as a career,” says Klepzig, who holds a PhD in entomology and forest pathology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Also, the unit’s southern pine beetle lab is really at the forefront of that research. Most of the really key, pioneering research on the topic was done there. That research history and the people who made it possible—some of whom were still working for the unit when I arrived—were big draws for me.”

Klepzig feels fortunate to have been a part of the IDIP unit whose advancements in the understanding of bark beetles in southern forests have been immense. “In the process of tackling some tough questions, we also forged some very strong relationships with collaborators and partners. The sense of discovery and community and the contributions to science and society have been very rewarding,” he says. Now, as Assistant Director for Research, Klepzig will be able to put his experience to work in a larger network of forest threats research. “I love the new challenges posed by this job, and I’m excited by the opportunity to work more closely with more people in the Station.”

Despite an increasingly busy schedule, Klepzig finds time to pursue interests beyond research: seeing live music, watching independent films, eating good food, and playing basketball. And though his research career has produced an extensive body of work, Klepzig cites his children, Graham and Cassie, as his proudest achievements.

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