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Friday, August 12, 2022

After getting up-close and personal with cockroaches, termites, fleas and other household pests for 40 years, UF entomology professor Philip Koehler is being granted the biggest honor in the pest management industry.

Koehler will be inducted into the Pest Management Professional Hall of Fame on Oct. 19 at a black-tie event in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It’s kind of an affirmation of what we’ve been doing has been extremely important for the pest-management industry worldwide,” he said. “You don’t think about it, but the industry here in Florida is extremely important.”

He said he doesn’t take full credit for the honor and instead sees it as an accomplishment by his students.

Heather Gooch, managing editor of Pest Management Professional magazine, said the induction committee chose Koehler because of his research contributions and excellent student mentoring.

“I think when they started looking at his four decades of teaching and helping and mentoring and so forth,” she said, “they realized that he has really brought forth a lot of other big names in the entomology industry from University of Florida.”

After spending time as a U.S. Navy entomologist, Koehler came to UF in 1975, where he branched out to studying cockroaches, ants, termites and fleas — “all the things that people don’t want to have around their house,” he said.

His wide range of interests is something rare in the entomology community, said Brittany Campbell, a UF doctoral entomology student studying bedbugs. She has worked with Koehler for about a year.

“A lot of people focus on one or two insects,” the 27-year-old said. “He’s a well-rounded entomologist.”

Despite being a world-renowned entomologist, Campbell said Koehler is still willing to help his students in stressful situations.

“He can empathize with you,” she said. “He has a good mentality about handling things and can turn anything into a joke and make you feel like it’s going to be OK.”

Koehler said he has helped almost 100 students achieve master’s and doctorate degrees.

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“I think [being inducted into the hall of fame] will encourage students to understand that what they’re doing is extremely important,” he said.

Contact Alexandra Fernandez at afernandez@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @alexmfern

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