10 Questions with a Pro (AKA:
It's the next episode in our recurring series: ten questions with a pro. Every other month, I’m interviewing a “pro” to find out what they do, how they do it, and how it helps pest control efforts. Today, we are talking with the wonderful Dr. Jennifer Gordon from Bug Lessons.
1. Give us the quick version of what you do?
I help different organizations create technical materials in an approachable way about insects and how to control them. I especially excel at leading complex projects with many different stakeholders and deliverables. Some examples of the output: written training manuals, video training series, one-pagers highlighting a specific insect, literature reviews, strategy documents, laboratory protocols, and more!
Chelle: having seen some of your training, I can attest to the great job you do!
2. What got you into this, how did you get into pest control?
I have loved insects for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of collecting grasshoppers in my grandmother’s yard and telling people I was going to be an entomologist after I watched Medicine Man with Sean Connery. Ultimately, I went to Purdue for journalism, but I needed to take a science course, which led me to enroll in an intro entomology class. From there, I remembered my love of insects and changed my major to entomology within 6 weeks. I appreciate the beauty and wonder of insects, but for my career, I want to directly help people. So, pest control and vector control are a natural fit. I ended up earning a MS looking at insecticide resistance in mosquitoes from LSU, and then a PhD investigating insecticide resistance in bed bugs from the University of Kentucky.
3. What’s one thing you wish people would know or understand better when it comes to pest control?
In general, I wish people just approached others with more kindness and compassion. Just because an insect is in a home or people are dealing with an infestation that in no way means a person did anything wrong, especially when we are talking about something like bed bugs. I have been involved in some very severe cases, and almost always those people are dealing with other obstacles such as aging, mobility restrictions, and other health challenges. Too many times I have heard people making jokes that are just unkind about a situation involving a pest.
Here here! We definitely need more kindness in the world.
4. What do you think the biggest challenge for pest control companies is right now?
That is a great question. From my personal experience, I think there are trends around chemophobia and distrusting science and that probably make using pesticides very challenging in some situations.
5. What changes do you predict in the next 5-10 years.
I have no idea. Haha. If the pandemic taught me anything, it is that life is unpredictable. If I were to guess, I think some areas of pest control are going to see changes to the available tools. Also, I am excited to see how A.I. will be incorporated into the field.
That unpredictability definitely makes our jobs in pest control interesting.
6. You work with insects that affect human and animal health, explain that like you would to a five year old.
I work with different groups that help people to help them solve their insect-related problems. Sometimes unexpected opportunities pop up that an organization needs some outside help with. That’s when they call me.
7. What do you think people get wrong about what you do?
I am not sure. Maybe that all insects are foes, and people should be afraid of them. There are definitely pests that impact people deeply. However, I have yet to find an insect, even the worst pests, that doesn’t have something really fantastic to be admired. I think sometimes focusing on the fantastic takes away the edge of the fear.
I agree, I think most pests are fascinating and when you look at their life cycle and behaviors, they are really cool.
8. Pest control is affected by how you do it. What are your tips for effective pest control?
My biggest piece of advice for effective pest control is to generate some kind of data to justify why you took the action you did. If someone asks you, “Why did you spray X?” What is your answer? Did you observe a specific number of bugs? Were there X number of insects in a monitoring device? Did your customer call specifically say some trigger words? Have data to justify the actions you take.
Absolutely! I can't tell you how many times having at least some data can significantly help. If you don't know how many, where, and increases/decreases...how do you even start problem solving?!?!
9. What new “stuff” are you working on that we can look forward to?
I have been working with the American Mosquito Control Association to create a virtual training program on Best Practices for Integrated Mosquito Management. The program was just launched on their website! Anyone can take this program for FREE. It is a 13-course training program that leveraged the expertise of 24 different instructors from the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Australia. After completing all of the modules and quizzes, learners have the option to take a comprehensive exam and earn a certificate they can use to advance their careers or maybe get a raise.
This was a huge project and I think you did a great job with it. More training, particularly on disease carrying mosquitoes is a fantastic thing.
10. If you were any of our pest species, what would you be and why?
I would be a bed bug or cockroach because they are adaptation experts. They may get knocked down, but they keep coming. There is something to be admired about that kind of resilience.
I like it, you never quit!
11. Any last words?
Thank you for everything you do Chelle! I see you out there spreading science and humor, and I absolutely love your mission and dedication to making science-based pest control fun!
If you want to learn more about Dr. Jennifer Gorder, follow here on linked in here
Who’s going to be next on our “10 questions with a pro” series? You are just going to have to keep reading to find out. You know that we send a newsletter every week so you can get the blog post and more great info delivered to your inbox, right? You can reach me anytime (well, maybe not anytime) to help with your pest problems.