White, Geoffrey B. (Active)
Geoff was born in Washington, D.C., on August 31, 1953, a day that was reported to have hit 104 degrees F. in the city. It is often said that people living in the Washington area came from somewhere else and those born here leave, but he has the unusual distinction of having lived all but two or three years of his life in the adjoining Prince George’s County, Maryland. The County was considerably less developed during the 50s and 60s when he was growing up. During early grade school, he once collected frog eggs from a wetland what today is the site of the Hyattsville Public Library. He also had a pet box turtle for a short time that he found near the family home in College Park and reared a Polyphemus moth from a cocoon found in the back yard. This residence in College Park was the location where he, unknowingly at the time, had his first experience as a practitioner of Integrated Pest Management. He and his brother were encouraged by their father to hand pick Japanese beetles from the rose bushes in their yard for the purpose of making Japanese beetle “soup,” a nasty concoction that one might expect to be conjured in the mind of a 6-year-old boy. Geoff graduated from High Point High School in 1971 and went on to receive a BS degree in zoology at the University of Maryland in 1975. He was a master’s candidate from 1979 to 1981 in the Department of Entomology, also at the University of Maryland. During the years in between, from 1976 to 1979, he was employed by the Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies in their laboratory based at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland. Here he got his first real indoctrination in field research in several disciplines. He visited several tree research plantations throughout the state of Maryland for maintenance and data collection. In the area of fisheries biology, he learned to identify many of the indigenous species of fish during a survey of the Patuxent River watershed. He also worked on a project to track movements of the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel and assisted with tag and release of these squirrels. It was also around this time in the late 1970s that he became interested in birding. He was a teaching assistant for an ornithology course while in graduate school, and began participating in organized bird counts, such as Christmas counts, as well as trips to birding sites on his own. He learned to make bird study skins from the late Roxanne Labourne. In 1979, Geoff began his career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, with a student appointment in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory. In the Diptera Unit of this lab, he supported the work of several systematists and learned something about museum operations and procedures. The following year, he took a permanent position in the Vegetable Laboratory and, for the next several years, supported research on insect pests of vegetable crops. He screened many cultivars and wild species of plants for resistance to the Colorado potato beetle and conducted experiments on other crops and pests. He was especially proud of a research plot of Napa cabbage that he grew. Perhaps the most interesting work during this time was that on some of the dipteran pests (Sciaridae and Phoridae) of cultivated mushrooms. In 1991, Geoff joined the Insect Biocontrol Laboratory and for the next 15 years or so worked on biocontrol of gypsy moth with fellow Washington Biologists’ Field Club member, Ralph Webb. Much of this research was on testing formulations and developing protocols for application of Gypchek, a viral bioinsecticide. Other work included studies on other natural enemies of the gypsy moth and behavioral investigations on response of caterpillars to barrier bands on trees. In this field work there were things encountered that were uplifting: the emergence of spring wildflowers, spotting uncommon birds, spending hours in the woods without any human contact. There were things that were unsettling: stepping on yellowjacket nests, almost stepping on rattlesnakes, sharing the woods with escaped inmates from a nearby correctional institution. Regardless of what was encountered, it is safe to say that field work was always an adventure. In late 2006, Geoff returned to work in the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, the lab where he started with the Agricultural Research Service. He directs the processing of insect specimens and information for the insect identification service provided by this lab. Although he does not get to go to the field in his current position, he still often finds a way to get out in his hours off the clock and still participates in bird and butterfly counts. Geoff was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2008.