Kenneth Raffa receives Hilldale Award

Kenneth Raffa, a professor in the Department of Entomology, is among four UW-Madison professors selected to receive a Hilldale Award this year.

The honor, bestowed annually, recognizes UW-Madison faculty for their distinguished contributions to teaching, research and service. Honorees receive recognition at a May 3 Faculty Senate meeting and a $7,500 cash prize. The awards have been given annually since 1987. Raffa received his award in the area of Biological Sciences; the others include Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Physical Sciences.

Raffa is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement/Douglas D. Sorenson Professor and is “the preeminent forest entomologist in the world today,” says Susan Paskewitz, entomology professor and chair, who authored his nomination letter. “Bark beetles kill more trees than all other insects and diseases combined, and nobody has made a greater contribution to our understanding of these interactions than Dr. Raffa, both through his own research and that of his students.”

Raffa studies how insects and trees compete, like predator and prey, which involves chemical ecology, microbial symbiosis, natural resource conservation and management, and integrated pest management. He also examines how outbreaks interact with fire and a changing climate.

Collectively, his more than 250 peer-reviewed papers have been cited more than 9,000 times; 21 have been cited more than 100 times and one, from 2008, has been cited nearly 900 times. He teaches three popular courses and throughout his career, Raffa has graduated 37 Ph.D. and master’s degree students. He is also highly engaged in outreach, serving on the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council to protect endangered pollinators, and he frequently works with local and national media outlets to communicate with the public.

“Among his most brilliant recent contributions are his analyses of the relationship between outbreaks of mountain pine beetle and climate change, and the effect of climate on the interaction of mountain pine beetle with co-evolved and naïve host trees,” says Paskewitz. “His work arrives at truly integrated systems-biology knowledge of forest health.”

Read more about Raffa and the other award recipients on the UW-Madison news website.