College of LAS « Illinois

Entomologist honored for work in science and society

May Berenbaum awarded by British Ecological Society

May Berenbaum has been honored by the world’s oldest ecological society.
May Berenbaum has been honored by the world’s oldest ecological society.
Prominent entomologist May Berenbaum at the University of Illinois has been recognized by the British Ecological Society for her work benefiting the scientific community and society in general.

Berenbaum received the Honorary Membership award from the head of the British Ecological Society (BES). It’s the society’s highest honor, given for exceptional contributions at the international level to the generation, communication, and promotion of ecological knowledge and solutions.

She was cited by the BES for her research focusing on chemical interactions between insects and plants, including the detoxification of natural and synthetic chemicals.

"I was completely surprised by the news," Berenbaum said. "It's such an honor to be recognized for contributing to the science of ecology by the world's first ecological society, which dates back more than a century ago to the founding of the field itself."

Sue Hartley, professor of ecology at the University of York and president of the British Ecological Society, praised this year's awardees.

“The winners of this year’s BES prizes have made outstanding contributions to their field and I congratulate them for their impressive achievements, which advanced the science of ecology and its impacts,” she said.

Berenbaum joined the faculty at U of I in 1980. She became head of the Department of Entomology in 1992 and has accumulated many awards and honors for her work, including membership to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2014, she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama.

She has been a strong proponent for outreach throughout her career. She founded the Pollinatarium, a science activity center at U of I dedicated to broadening understanding of flowering plants and their pollinators, and in 2007 she launched the Beespotter website to collect—with help from the public—information about wild bees in the U.S.

In 1984 she founded the annual Insect Fear Film Festival, a popular campus event featuring insect horror movies and accompanying commentary about the real biology of the insects that appear in the films.

Louise Vet, a professor at the Netherland Institute of Ecology, also received an Honorary Membership award. They join past recipients such as Sir David Attenborough, Dame Georgina Mace, Sir Charles Godfray, and Sir John Lawton.

Founded in 1913, the BES is the oldest ecological society in the world and works to promote the field through publishing scientific literature and organizing and sponsoring events, education initiatives, and policy work. It has more than 5,500 members from almost 120 countries.


Dave Evensen and Diana Yates, Illinois News Bureau

Related Topics

  • Entomology
  • Life science
  • Faculty honors
  • Outreach