James R. Carey: 44-Year Career at UC Davis

James R. Carey: 44-Year Career at UC Davis

It's not often that an entomologist chalks up a 44-year career of teaching, research and public service.

But such is the case with UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey.

A member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1980, he was one of seven retiring or retired faculty members honored at a retirement event on June 11 at the UC Davis Alumni Center.

"A giant in our department" and "a scholar in every sense of the word."

That's how UC Davis distinguished professor emeritus Frank Zalom characterized him.

Carey, who holds a joint appointment as a senior scholar in the Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging at UC Berkeley, is internationally known not only for his research in insect biodemography, mortality dynamics, and insect invasion biology but for his groundbreaking teaching program that centers on the strategic use of digital technology. 

He is retiring this month.

In his five-minute allocated speech, Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist and a past president of the Entomological Society of America (ESA), noted that  Carey developed much of his highly cited work on cohort life tables early in his career. "This led to his highly regarded work on biodemography and longevity that are widely recognized across many scientific disciplines beyond entomology. He is a scholar in every sense of the word."

"Jim's career long attention to invasive species, and in particular, his challenges to the dogmatic approach taken by regulatory agencies to their detection and eradication," Zalom said. "He has framed his challenges in the concept of invasion biology. He has urged the agencies to base their approaches on the entirety of available data and has taken it upon himself to thoroughly compile and analyze data on the occurrence of tephritid fruit flies in the United States as a prime example."

"Jim has been one of the giants of our department during the last 44 years, and I hope that he will continue to engage in his intellectual pursuits as an emeritus professor," Zalom concluded.

Highly honored by his peers, Carey is a fellow of four professional societies: ESA,  American Association for the Advancement of Science, California Academy of Sciences, and the Gerontological Society of America. When ESA elected him a fellow in 2011,  the organization described him as "the world's foremost authority on arthropod demography" and that he "is the first entomologist to have a mathematical discovery named after him by demographers – the Carey Equality — which set the theoretical and analytical foundation for a new approach to understanding wild populations."

Carey holds two degrees from Iowa State University: a bachelor's degree in fisheries and wildlife biology (1973), and  master's degree in entomology (1975). He received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1980, the same year he  joined the UC Davis faculty. As a doctoral student in 1978, he worked in the laboratories of population biologists Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins at Harvard University. 

Carey is a former director (2003-13) of an 11-university consortium funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIH/P01) on the evolutionary ecology of lifespan. The 10-year, $10 million federal grant on “Aging in the Wild,” encompassed 14 scientists at the 11 universities. 

Carey co-authored the book Biodemography: An Introduction to Concepts and Methods (Carey, J. R. and D. Roach. 2020; Princeton University Press), hailed as the “definitive textbook for the emerging field of biodemography, integrating biology, mathematics and demography.” To supplement the book, Carey created a free-access, video guidebook with a playlist of 175 separate presentations, subtitled in 300 different languages.  It can be accessed on the UC Berkeley Population Sciences website at https://bit.ly/3FTge7u.

Carey earlier authored three books,  Demography for Biologists (Oxford University Press 1993), "Longevity" (Princeton University Press, 2003), and Longevity Records: Life Spans of Mammals, Birds, Amphibians and Reptiles (Odense, 2000), as well as more than 250 journal articles and book chapters. 

Internationally Recognized Teacher. An internationally recognized teacher, Carey was named a semi-finalist for the 2017 Baylor University Robert Foster Cherry Teaching Award (an international competition). He received ESA's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014, after winning the 2014 distinguished teaching award from the Pacific Branch, ESA (PBESA). Another highlight was receiving PBESA's C. W. Woodworth Award in 2013. PBESA covers 11 Western states, plus parts of Mexico and Canada, and U.S. territories.

Carey developed a technological-savvy teaching program, a groundbreaking model for 21st Century instruction using short, concise videos. In so doing, he taught faculty, staff and students how to create succinct videos, and how to record seminars. All are geared toward ease of learning and increased knowledge retention.

Carey became interested in the use of digital technology in academia when he chaired the UC Academic Senate University Committee on Research Policy. He subsequently described a framework or “road map” for using video capture of seminars to increase research synergy across the 10 UC campuses. The University of California TV station, UCTV, then used this publication as a roadmap for creating the video platform, UCTV Seminars. The website has tallied more than 10 million seminar downloads.

Longevity Course. Carey taught an upper division undergraduate course titled "Longevity" (fall quarter and summer session),  based on biodemographic concepts in both non-human species and humans. He also offered seminars and workshops on best practices in visualization concepts and presentation strategies, including a weeklong course annually to PhD fellows in Kampala, Uganda enrolled in the 9-university Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA).

Another honor he received was the UC Davis Academic Senate's Scholarly Public Service Award. In the nomination package, his colleagues praised him for carving "impressive milestones in biodemography, research, teaching and outreach during his 40-year professional career, not only raising the profile of entomology nationally and internationally, but serving as an entomology ambassador to scientists in a wide range of disciplines, particularly demography and gerontology."

Some of his accomplishments:
One-Minute Entomology. Carey innovated the concept of the “one minute expert” by launching student-produced videos that are 60 seconds in length. He and UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey (now emerita) engaged their students in producing more than 125 videos, and in the process, learning  insect identification, succinct writing and speaking, best practices for slide presentation, peer review and teamwork.

How to Make an Insect Collection. Carey taught undergraduate and graduate students how to gather information and produce short videos for “How to Make an Insect Collection.” The award-winning project, considered by ESA as the best of its kind on the internet, includes a playlist of 11 short videos showing different aspects of insect collecting--from use of nets and hand collecting to pinning mounting and labeling.

Basics of Term-Paper Writing. His students have continually won the top awards at the UC Davis-sponsored Norma J. Lang Prize for Undergraduate Information Research in the category of Science, Engineering and Mathematics (SEM). One of his students has won first place in the SEM category in each of past five years. Five others have won either second or third place honors.

"A giant in the department, a scholar in every sense of the word."