[Taxacom] Fwd: Remembering Dr. Evert Irving Schlinger

Peter Rauch peterar at berkeley.edu
Sat Nov 8 14:41:38 CST 2014

FYI.  Peter

Evert Irving Schlinger (1928-2014)

A Personal Tribute


Michael E. Irwin

Following a long and difficult battle with Alzheimer’s disease, Evert
Irving Schlinger passed away during a spectacular lunar eclipse in the
early morning hours of Wednesday, October 8, 2014.  Ev was peacefully
resting at the home of his daughter Jane and son-in-law Brad Omick in
Lafayette, California.  He is survived by his brother Warren and
sister-in-law Katie Schlinger, his four children Pete, Mathew, Jane, and
Brian, and his 11 grandchildren.

Ev earned a B.S. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in
1950 and, under the mentorships of Richard Bohart, Harry Lange, and others,
a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, in 1957.  Ev was a member
of Calpha fraternity, a life and charter member of the Cal Aggie Alumni
Association, and a recipient of the Award of Distinction by the College of
Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, UC Davis; an Honorary Member of the
Council of the International Congresses of Dipterology; and a Fellow and
Trustee of the California Academy of Sciences.

Ev was a giant of a man in both stature and accomplishment.  He had a noble
heart, held a deep trust in people, and participated fully in life.
Perhaps one might call him a gentle giant.  Over his career, Ev was
instrumental in advancing the sciences of biology, agriculture,
biodiversity, and sustainability.  His research focused on two diverse yet
complimentary areas of science:  an innovative approach to biological
control of agricultural pests, and the biology, taxonomy, and evolutionary
ecology of parasitic flies belonging to the dipterous family Acroceridae,
commonly referred to as spider flies, small-headed flies, or, as Ev
preferred to call them, “Acros.”

His research into biological control began after receiving his Ph.D., when
he accepted a position as a research entomologist with the biological
control unit at the University of California Citrus Experimental Station,
Riverside.  Teaming up with Professor Robert van den Bosch and with the
critical assistance of two research associates, Jack Hall and Evert
Dietrich, his activities involved a multi-year effort to control the newly
introduced and highly destructive spotted alfalfa aphid.  This pest had no
effective natural enemies, was spreading like wildfire in the southern half
of the state, leaving in its wake decimated fields as far as the eye could
see, and the agricultural sector of the state was in utter panic.  The van
den Bosch/Schlinger team pinpointed areas in the Middle East where
appropriate parasitoids of this pest existed, located and collected them
through foreign exploration, guided the parasitoids through strict
quarantine, reared them in captivity, tested them on target and nontarget
pests under laboratory conditions, released them, and followed their
movements and impact in the field.  This colossal effort brought the aphids
under control.  The effort was so successful that, some 55 years later, the
spotted alfalfa aphid, although still existing in Southern California, no
longer causes problems and is not considered a pest.  The amount of money
this team saved the alfalfa industry of California certainly adds up to
many hundreds of millions of dollars.  Moreover, the methodologies Ev and
Van developed during this project proved so effective that, to this day,
they form an indispensable part of any classical biological control toolbox.

During his time with the biological control unit at UC Riverside, he, van
den Bosch, and their team explored ways to keep a long list of alfalfa
pests in check and, in that process, developed and tested a wide array of
pest management tools.  Their main focus was on manipulating and
concentrating naturally occurring predators and parasitoids in the field to
reduce pest populations.  As an example, by manipulating habitats, they
conceived and honed the concept of strip cropping, where harvesting an
alfalfa field would be done in stages to provide refuges in the un-mown
strips where natural enemies could accumulate and thrive.  The next time
the field was mown, the previously uncut areas would be harvested.  These
field experiments helped solidify such far-ranging concepts as cropping
systems and intercropping to reduce pest stress, concepts that now underpin
the vary foundation of agro-ecology.  His perceptive knowledge of
agricultural ecology, his deep understanding of natural enemy biology, and
his native curiosity provided much of the driving force behind the team’s
pioneering efforts in biological control.  Ev and Van were among the early
architects of conservation biological control.

The UC Riverside team worked closely with a team at the University of
California, Berkeley, which was, at that time, exploring the concept of
“supervised control.”  The Berkeley team, headed by Professor Ray F. Smith,
with assistance from Vernon M. Stern, was in the midst of a spectacular
breakthrough.  The two teams worked collaboratively in developing the
emerging science of integrated pest management (IPM).  Ev’s concepts of
cultural manipulation were instrumental and focal in the conception and
evolution of the integrated pest management paradigm.  Ev’s specific
contributions are now long forgotten, but during the course of his seven
years in the biological control unit at UC Riverside, he played a robust
role in the creation of the IPM paradigm.  In my opinion, the conceptual
framework for IPM was very much in part a product of Ev’s inquiry and

His research focus pivoted in 1963, when he was awarded a professorship in
systematics in the newly formed Department of Entomology at UC Riverside.
That proved a milestone in his career, directing his thoughts and energies
into systematic research, teaching, and administration.

His study of spiders and acrocerid flies, their obligate parasites, began
when he was a child and has been a driving force throughout his career and
life.  His Ph.D. dissertation delved into the systematics of Ogcodes, a
genus of Acroceridae found throughout the world.  His research on acros was
aimed at understanding big-picture questions about them:  their evolution,
biogeography, and their fastidious and intricate relationships with
spiders.  He approached the problem of understanding these flies from
multiple perspectives, each complementing the other.  He strived to develop
a basic phylogeny.  Towards the end of his career, he began to preserve
material for DNA analyses because, in his forward-thinking way, he believed
that might uncover additional clues for understanding their evolution.  He
was concerned with the evolution of the entire family, and, because the
Acroceridae is an extremely old family of flies, he examined them from
around the world.  Acros are rare in collections, so he organized and
participated in numerous large-scale expeditions to areas where these flies
occur.  These expeditions were mostly geared to the world’s biologically
diverse “hot spots,” such as New Caledonia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile,
Madagascar, South Africa, and Fiji, to name a few.  He enjoyed fieldwork
and was continually searching out unexplored places for collecting.  Until
he was overtaken with Alzheimer’s, he suggested venues and was an active
participant on these expeditions.  I consider myself fortunate to have been
a member of most.

Acrocerids are not only rare in collections, they are also difficult to
collect as adults in the field.  One of his approaches to obtain adult
flies was to rear them from spiders, not a quick or easy task given that
some spiders take several years to mature.  Throughout his career, he
maintained thousands of spiders in captivity.  His passion for acros was so
overpowering that he reared spiders during the seven years he pursued a
career in biological control and even after he retired.  I recall one
three-month expedition he and I took that circled Australia and probed the
center of the continent.  We did so in a small campervan, and he stashed
thousands of spiders in individual vials in every niche conceivable.  He
would catch flies to feed the spiders almost daily.  Sometimes the spiders
escaped and were occasionally found crawling across my face while I was
attempting to sleep.  When I complained, he doggedly said, “Get used to
it.”  Ev was the recognized world authority on acrocerid flies for well
over half a century.  He relentlessly gathered specimens, organized them,
and published on them.  In the end, he left a structured, well-conceived
framework upon which new workers are beginning to build.

Ev compiled a collection of historically rich and extremely rare literature
on flies, spiders, biogeography, evolution, and the geological forces that
shaped the flies’ evolution:  orogenesis, plate tectonics, continental
drift, and terranes.  He also assembled significant literature holdings on
the biota of special environments and had expanded his literature
collection to include biodiversity and topics associated with conservation
biology.  In the end, he had a vast, focused, and inspiring collection of
books.  What is more, he read them and was on top of all these subjects.  I
believe Ev to have been one of the most broadly informed researchers in the
natural sciences.

Ev was modern in approach and anticipatory in his thinking.  Methods that
constitute modern systematics were, to some degree, pioneered by Ev and his
students.  He inspired all students towards innovation in their research.
Before the term “informatics” was coined, before “databasing” was a
regularly used tool in systematics, and during the early years of computers
when bulky mainframe giants started to appear at the larger universities,
Ev inspired his students to delve into those areas while conducting their
dissertation research.  He led graduate seminars that probed the
philosophical underpinnings of cladistics and the phylogenetic approach
developed by Willi Hennig, even before the concept was formally translated
into English.  He made sure his students were aware of the latest
information and the most forward-looking and modern innovations in

He was an inspiring teacher and mentor.  Ev’s deep understanding of the
natural world, coupled with his wide-ranging generosity and captivating yet
resolute traits, made him a powerful magnet for students from the time he
first joined the Entomology faculty at UC Riverside.  I will not discuss
his formal teaching and how important it has been to the shaping of
numerous careers in the biological sciences; I instead dwell on his skills
at mentoring graduate students.

I can imagine no better mentor than Ev: understanding, interactive,
knowledgeable, yet unassuming.  He was the mentor who gently pushed but
never shoved.  His personal knowledge base inspired those around him to
become more informed, not just about science, but about all aspects of
life.  He made learning exciting and inspired students to new heights, to
arm themselves with new knowledge and honed skills.  He brought pertinent
knowledge to bear on problems of the day and conveyed this to students.  Ev
was so convinced that knowledge of the outdoors is critical to making sound
decisions regarding the environment that he actively organized and led
field trips for students, even though those activities took time from his
personal life.  His students are now professors in esteemed universities,
systematists in the nation’s most prestigious museums, and prominent in a
variety of other positions.  Students of his students, his grand-students
you might say, are among the most respected of the current dipterological
and arachnological communities.

Ev was a charismatic leader.  Wherever he went, whatever he did, people
looked to him for advice and leadership.  Perhaps that is why, quite early
in his career, he became the Chair of the Department of Entomology at UC
Riverside.  While in that position, he was able to convince two separate,
somewhat antagonistic units to amalgamate into a single, more robust
department.  This was no easy task, but his persuasive powers were great
and his perseverance resolute.  When he transferred to UC Berkeley, he was
soon asked to chair their Department of Entomology.  During his tenure as
chair, he made substantial progress in advancing the biological sciences.
Against odds, he formed and chaired a new unit, the Department of
Conservation and Resources Studies, at UC Berkeley.  This new unit allowed
him to expand his formal mentorship to undergraduate students.

Ev was passionate about life.  He had the mental and physical capacity to
do almost anything he wanted.  He was an enthusiastic and excellent
gardener.  He loved food and wine, especially wine.  He took joy from
listening to classical music and to opera in particular.  He had an
enormous collection of records, tens of shelf feet of them, from 78’s
through to 33 1/3, all on vinyl.  He played them often and sang along with
them with what I thought was a good voice.  The few times I heard him play
the piano, I was impressed, particularly so because I don’t think he ever
practiced.  The guy was plain talented!

He had a worldwide stamp collection that he had worked on for most of his
young life.  When his mother died, he inherited her U.S. stamp collection
that contained many rare stamps; he was very proud of it.  During the 51
years I knew him, Ev routinely bought mint US stamps as they were
released.  He placed thematic commemorative stamps on envelopes he sent to
colleagues and friends, believing they should have an opportunity to
collect these stamps too.  He told me he wanted to curate and add to his
mother’s collection, but he never did.  At one point after he retired, the
stamps were placed in a rented shipping container, along with many of his
books, and left to deteriorate.

He was a determined, talented athlete.  During his undergraduate days at UC
Davis, he was on the track team and played end for the football team.  He
was so talented and so well appreciated at football that his jersey shirt
number was retired.  To my knowledge, that is the only jersey number to be
retired in the entire history of UC Davis football.  When, in the fall of
1963, I arrived in Riverside as Ev’s first graduate student, he played
badminton over the noon hour.  A few other entomologists took part,
including Roy Fukuto and Jack Hall.  I joined the group, as did Peter
Rauch, and found that although Ev was a gracious sport, he was an even more
awesome competitor; he almost never lost.  No one I knew was as physically
gifted as he.  And he had willpower.  He smoked for much of his early
life.  By the time I got to UC Riverside, he, like van den Bosch, smoked
cigars more than cigarettes.  One day, towards the end of his stay at UC
Riverside, he simply quit, cold turkey, and never smoked again.

The competitive streak emerging from Ev’s athletic prowess manifested
itself in another aspect of Ev’s character.  He was a fierce debater,
arguing over almost anything.  As the years went by, his argumentative
streak increased.  In the later years, he argued to the point that his
opponent simply gave up, allowing Ev to win by default.  He prided himself
on this trait and once told me that his mother taught him how to debate and
to stick with it until he came out ahead.  It simply didn’t matter which
side of the issue he was on.

Ev’s father was one of the original founders of United Parcel Service, who,
during WWII, was often paid in preferred stock rather than cash.  Ev did
not grow up in a prosperous household.  By the time Ev was a faculty member
at UC Riverside, the stock began to soar, split, and soar some more, and
the Schlinger family became quite well off.  Ev’s parents eventually placed
some of the preferred stock into a family foundation.  They endowed the
Schlinger Chair of Systematics at Berkeley and another chair at Cal Tech,
where Ev’s older brother, Warren, had studied.  When Ev’s parents died, the
Foundation was passed down to Ev and Warren.  They ran it jointly for a
while, but Ev preferred it be used to support research, while Warren wanted
it to fund higher education, including scholarships.  They eventually split
the foundation in two, with each controlling one of the two new foundations.

As President of the newly formed Schlinger Foundation, Ev ensured that
funds were made available for research in diperology, arachnology,
biodiversity, biosystematics, and evolutionary biology.  Over the years,
the foundation awarded five endowed chairs to institutions in California
(arachnology and dipterology at the California Academy of Science;
systematic entomology at the University of California, Berkeley [funded by
Ev’s parent foundation]; systematic entomology at the University of
California, Davis; systematic entomology at the Santa Barbara Museum of
Natural History), and one in dipterology at the Australian National Insect
Collection, CSIRO, Canberra.  It funded research programs in Diptera
systematics; helped in the construction and running of biological stations
in remote but biologically important parts of the globe; initiated an
internship program to train young scientists in the skills of field
entomology and arthropod curation from countries with severely threatened
biota; and provided support for the International Congresses of Dipterology
and treatises on Diptera.  He encouraged and initiated long-term insect
surveys in Madagascar, Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, India, and
elsewhere.  These activities bode well for the sciences of arachnology and
dipterology and for systematics and entomology as a whole.  Ev can take
full credit for all the good this small family foundation has done.  He
most certainly held the long-term health of planet Earth front and center.

Ev spent a lifetime in the dedicated service of entomology, agriculture,
biological control, and systematics.  This service is punctuated with
inspiration, dedication, and vision, and with important and lasting
innovation and discovery.  He was an inspiring teacher and mentor, has
served key leadership roles in entomology and the broader science arena,
and, through his research foundation, has provided resources to enrich the
prospects of systematics and biodiversity well into the future.  He ushered
in a new generation of dipterists, arachnologists, educators,
entomologists, and conservation biologists who have collectively built onto
the foundations he laid, and his second-generation students are currently
becoming today’s leaders.  The impact his students and their students have
had and are having on science, agriculture, and systematics is substantial.

Ev was unquestionably among the most talented, innovative, and inspiring of
entomologists; his reputation is broad-based, widespread, and stellar.  His
family, students, and colleagues all find in Ev a life-long friend whose
parting has left a deep void.  He will long be remembered by all of us.  To
me, he will always remain a great mentor and my best friend.

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