Presidential Award of Excellence
By Carrie Sherman, Editorial and Creative Services
November 7, 2007
Alan Eaton, Extension professor/specialist, Entomology Cooperative Extension – Photo Services
For naturalist Alan Eaton, time in New Hampshire begins around 10,000 years
ago, when the ice melted and what we now term “native” species—deer,
chickadees, trout, Luna moths, and other creatures—migrated north.
A slender, restless man, Eaton has a thick cap of salt and pepper gray hair
and a face punctuated by a long aquiline nose. His clothes, as he notes himself, would
not make Blackwell’s best-dressed list. The shirts tend to be long-sleeved. The
pants are often tucked into his socks to keep out ticks. And outside, he almost always wears
But there’s a good reason for this. At a moment’s notice, Eaton,
an entomology specialist for UNH Cooperative Extension and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) coordinator, must be ready to bolt into the woods.
Eaton has run the IPM program for 25 years and is directly responsible for
reducing pesticide applications and saving New Hampshire growers thousands of dollars
while improving crop quality.
Brenda Dyment, of D. McLeod Florist in Concord, N.H., has attended Eaton’s
IPM workshops for years. McLeod greenhouses have gradually adopted a seasonal
“We went from ‘spray and pray’ to using ‘beneficials’—insects
that fight pest insects,” recalls Dyment. “I know I’m going to have aphids
on my lilies, thrips all the time, and white fly on poinsettias at Christmas, so I just keep predator mites
in stock during those times.”
Chuck Souther of Apple Hill Farm dashed off a quick e-mail, explaining, “Sorry
for the delay, it is strawberry season. . . . [Alan] is one of the reasons we keep
doing this. He makes it fun and interesting. I always learn from visiting with him.” On
the farm’s Web site, Chuck and Diane Souther mention their IPM program—insect traps
and careful monitoring—and their commitment to more innovative and organic practices.
Eaton grew up in Lexington, Mass., in the 1950s, just around the corner from
world-renowned Harvard entomologist Carroll Williams and his wife, Muriel. They
befriended Eaton, and Muriel in particular encouraged Eaton’s interest in moths
and butterflies. His love of entomology evolved into his college major at the University of Massachusetts, and then his doctoral research at North Carolina State. Upon graduating, Eaton
took a job at UNH.
Throughout his career, his early neighborly education has stayed with him—a
sense that the best education is a conversation. As Eaton puts it: “Extension is
here to provide a direct link between research and the people who can use it.”
Now, more than ever, we need Eaton’s expertise. The incidence of Lyme’s
disease has increased 228 percent statewide. Eaton shares his knowledge by teaching entomology
and through a newsletter, a well-respected Tree Fruit Pest Phone Hotline, extensive
research, and public education.
Recently, Eaton completed a biodiversity inventory in Lee, N.H.
“Just think,” muses Eaton. “Two-hundred years from now someone
will look at that 50-page inventory and be amazed at everything that was on that land. And they’ll
wonder ‘who was that old coot’?”