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ESI announces Senior Entomologist, Young Entomologist and Best Ph.D. Thesis Awards for the year 2021

By Sagar D and Rahul Kumar


In order to honour and celebrate the outstanding contributions of Indian scientists in the area of Entomology, the Executive Committee of the Entomological Society of India (ESI) has advertised ESI Senior Entomologist and ESI Young Entomologist Awards for the year 2021. Along with these two awards, ESI Best Ph.D. Thesis Award for the year 2021 was also announced. Entomological Society of India was founded in 1938, it is one of the oldest and the largest scientific societies in India. The main objective of Society is to encourage and promote the dissemination of entomological knowledge. Society acknowledges the research and innovations done in the area of entomology by Indian scientists. In this regard, ESI has initiated the Young Entomologist Award in 2020 to recognize the significant contributions of young Indian scientists in the area of Entomology. In 2021, ESI has initiated two more awards along with ESI young entomologist award, which includes ESI Senior Entomologist Award and ESI Best Ph.D. Thesis Award. As the names suggest, ESI Senior Entomologist Award has been initiated to recognize and honour the outstanding contributions towards entomological research by experienced senior scientists from India and the purpose of initiating ESI Best Ph.D. thesis award is to screen and recognize the best Ph.D. thesis of the year and to encourage young researchers working on various aspects of entomology.

ESI Senior Entomologist Award 2021 is being bagged by two renowned senior scientists from India who have contributed significantly to the field of entomological research. ESI Young Entomologist Award 2021 has been awarded to four vibrant young researchers from India for their special achievements in the area of entomology. Along with these, one ESI Best Ph.D. thesis award has also been announced. A brief account of the ESI awardees of the year 2021 and their respective contributions in different areas of entomology is provided in subsequent paragraphs. Let’s know about these achievers working on tiny creatures.

ESI Senior Entomologist Awardees

Dr. Ankita Gupta is an Indian taxonomist working on biosystematics, biogeography, phylogenetic and ecological aspects of parasitic wasps with a transcontinental approach, much evident from 62 new species described by her from the Oriental region (India & China), Afrotropical region (French reunion island), and Palearctic region (Iran) through global networking with a core group of Hymenoptera taxonomists. Dr Gupta was a visiting scientist at the Darwin Centre of the Natural History Museum, London, Gothenburg University (Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences-Kristineberg), Sweden, and Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), Egham, United Kingdom. She has developed expertise and has collaborated and published research with various international researchers from renowned organizations across the globe. Dr. Gupta has published 124 research papers including four high-rated taxonomic research monographs on wasps. She was instrumental as a co-inventor in commercializing technologies for mass rearing of housefly parasitoids namely Nesolynx thymus, Spalangia cameroni and Nasonia vitripennis for promoting organic pest control in poultry farming. Globally she has reviewed World species of the genusCotesia (Braconidae) and Apochrysa (Chrysopidae) and has developed diagnostic keys to the world species of Megaprosternum (Bethylidae), Cassidibracon (Braconidae) and Doddifoenus (Pteromalidae). Dr Gupta has reviewed and published diagnostic keys to the species of Pambolus (Braconidae) from Oriental region, Microplitis (Braconidae) from India; Cotesia, Iconella and Deuterixys from Iran; Indian species of Vespidae, Diolcogaster (Braconidae) and Halticoptera (Pteromalidae) and species keys from Indian subcontinent for Anisopteromalus (Pteromalidae). She discovered the extremely rare family Xenasteiidae first time from the Indian mainland and first reported a rare genus of chrysopid- Apochrysa evanida; revived the larval taxonomy of Ascalaphus (Myrmeleontidae) after 108 years of its discovery; reported the rare genus Tanaostigma (Tanaostigmatidae) from the Old World and unveiled native parasitoid complex of many invasive pests. Developed web resources/online diagnostic tools for the identification of wasp taxa (Pteromalidae, Braconidae, Chalcididae, and Vespidae).

Dr. Mukesh K. Dhillon has made significant research contributions in deciphering mechanisms, physico-chemical basis of host plant resistance, inheritance of resistance to insects; and identified several diverse sources of resistance in maize and sorghum against Chilo partellus and Atherigona soccata, and Bactrocera cucurbitae in bitter gourd to develop pest resistant varieties for sustainable crop production. He has determined mechanisms and factors governing induction and termination of diapause, developed temperature-based development models for diapausing larvae, and genetics and inheritance of diapause in C. partellus, which will be highly useful for predicting the occurrence, seasonal emergence, number of generations and population dynamics of C. partellus. He has also mapped phenotypic variability and established different biotypes of C. partellus in different agroecological regions of India. Development of new techniques for biochemical insect-plant interactions such as HPLC-PDA based amino acids and GC-MS based lipophilic metabolite profiling methods for different plant parts and insect pests; and development of various bioassay and screening techniques for host plant resistance to insect pests in maize, sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea, cotton, groundnut and rapeseed-mustard are also some of the notable contributions to his credit. Apart from research, he has also been involved in R&D such as development and release of first double zero mustard variety (Pusa Double Zero Mustard 31) possessing low erucic acid (<2%) in oil and low glucosinolates (<30ppm/g) in seed meal cake, two other rapeseed-mustard varieties (PM 32 and PM 33), and one maize hybrid (PJHM-1). He is a fellow of several plant protection societies as well as Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS).

ESI Young Entomologist Awardees

Dr. Amalendu Ghosh has an excellent academic record as he has been the recipient of the Research Fellowship of Excel Crop Care Ltd during his Ph. D. programme. Besides, he was awarded the University Gold Medal, Hemangini Dutta Prize, and Senior Merit Scholarship of Govt. of West Bengal during his postgraduate studies. Dr. Ghosh has made a tangible contribution in the area of insect vector- plant virus relationships. His recent report on the dissemination of watermelon bud necrosis virus in its vector, Thrips palmi, shall help in better understanding of thrips–virus interactions and also help to identify novel targets for better managing thrips and thrips-borne viruses. He has established cell cultures of Thrips palmi and Frankliniella occidentalis which are of immense importance for the study of tospoviruses in vitro. He has successfully developed rapid on-site assays for the identification of predominant thrips vectors which are very useful for non-expert personnel in field-based identification, quarantine and adopting suitable pest management strategies. He has recently proposed the presence of cryptic virus species in Thrips palmi based on the analysis of the global database. He has also developed an artificial oviposition setup for thrips which proved useful to study thrips embryogenesis and generating synchronous larval populations for virus acquisition. Besides, he has described new insect vector species for large cardamom and citrus, their temporal and spatial occurrences, a new cryptic species of whitefly, Bemisia tabaci from India. He has developed a sponge gourd variety and a sponge gourd line resistant to whitefly transmitted tomato leaf curl New Delhi virus. He has identified the key genes of Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri) involved in the transmission of citrus greening bacterium. He has characterized the candidate genes of thrips and whitefly responsible for the transmission of tospo- and begomoviruses and is focused to knock down them by RNAi aiming to interrupt the mechanism of virus spread. Dr. Ghosh has proven scientific leadership as he has already led six significant research projects as PI sponsored by DBT, DST and ICAR. In recognition of his significant works, he was awarded Endeavour Research Fellowship by the Australian Government and the Young Scientist Award from Crop and Weed Science Society.

Dr. G. Guru Pirasanna Pandi has significantly contributed to the development of IPM strategies against key insect pests of rice. Dr. Pandi was also involved in the identification of brown planthopper resistant germplasms and associated with the development of two stress tolerant rice varieties viz., CR Dhan 317 (BPH-resistant) and CR Dhan-102 (drought tolerant). To his credit, there are two complete mitochondrial genome sequences (rice gundhi bug and brown planthopper biotype-4) first time in the world and also developed >500 DNA barcodes and unique mitochondrial haplotype sequences of different rice insect pests. He was also involved in the identification of a new bacterial biocontrol agent, Skermanella sp. against rice leaf folder and pink stem borer and the development and commercialization of liquid formulation of microbial consortium for insect pest (leaf folder) and diseases (seedling blight, sheath rot and sheath blight) management. He was associated with the development of the mobile app “RiceXpert” for the farmers to provide information on insect pests’ problems in real time for different field and post-harvest pests; developed white backed brown planthopper and rice root-knot nematode database on host plant resistance and rice-insect diagnostic guide; also developed low cost IPM technology for farmers’ participatory rice seed production. He has commercialized three biocontrol agents viz., NRRI Trichocard Tj; NRRI Trichocard Tc and NRRI Braconcard Bh against rice lepidopteran pests. He has also identified effective botanicals and essential oil Nano-emulsion against rice stored grain pests and worked out residue dynamics of rice pesticides and their decontaminations technique. He has predicted climate change impact on brown planthopper population dynamics using INFOCROP phenology model. Dr. Pandi has published 28 peer-reviewed publications in international journal of high impact factor, 30 in national (Indian) peer-reviewed journals, 3 books, 10 book chapters and several technical bulletins. He was recipient of many awards by other professional societies.

Dr. K. Selvaraj has a deep affinity for the farming community and a broad interest in biological control and environmental protection. He made a commendable contribution to whitefly taxonomy through morphological and molecular approach, ecology and biological control of whiteflies, especially invasive species. He reported rugose spiralling whitefly, Aleurodicus rugioperculatus; palm infesting whitefly Aleurotrachelus atratus and woolly whitefly Aleurothrixus floccosus for the first time from India, and documented several natural enemies of these invasive whiteflies. He focused on the augmentation, mass production and conservation strategies of the potential parasitoid, Encarsia guadeloupae in coconut and reported a potential entomopathogenic fungus, Isaria fumosorosea for these invasive whiteflies, which have been commercialized. Both the technologies has been validated and popularized in many coconut and oil palm growing state in India and same has been adopted widely by many progressive growers in India. These findings significantly impacted in terms of saving Rs 9500/ha in the crop protection cost and 900 ml of pesticides/ha. He has developed a mobile app (Shatpada RSW) for coconut whiteflies and associated it with the development of an expert system (JAFexpert) for jute and allied fibre crops to educate the farmers and other stakeholders. He also determined multiple-species economic injury levels and iso-loss line in rice and jute for precision pest management. Developed and validated a simulation model for assessing the impact of climate change on Sesamia inferens in rice. He has also identified and characterized three genetic groups of Bemisia tabaci viz., Asia-I, Asia-II 1 and Asia-II 5 in India using molecular techniques. He has also associated in development of novel device for release of parasitoid of Opisina arenosella in coconut palm. Dr. Selvaraj has been proactive in transfer of technologies on biological control of whiteflies to the growers and other stakeholders through front line demonstrations, awareness cum sensitization program, brainstorming, farmers field school, field day, workshop, frequent diagnostic field visits, training programs and delivering lectures and providing agro-advisories and guidance through extension folders, technical bulletins, print media and radio talks. Through his extensive extension work, he has promoted the bio intensive pest management strategies for whiteflies that eventually discouraged the indiscriminate and intensive use of environmentally hazardous chemical pesticides in coconut and oil palm ecosystem.

Dr. P.R. Shashank's research mainly focuses on insect taxonomy, biodiversity, molecular diagnosis and invasive insect pests. He is involved in describing six new species, two new genera, 11 new records to India, and also 12 new host records, 20 new range records and 4 checklists for Lepidoptera and Cicadellidae groups. His expertise in DNA barcoding of insect pests generated more than 400 DNA-Barcodes which aid in the authentic identification of domestic and invasive insects. From 2013 to 2021, he has provided Insect Pest Diagnostic Services for more than 40 national institutes/universities by identifying more than 1650 specimens. A few notable contributions are, new pest species, Conogethes sahyadriensis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), feeding by boring stem and capsules on cardamom, was described from India. New pest species leaf webworm, Acria meyricki (Lepidoptera: Depressariidae) on oil palm, was described from India. South American tomato pinworm, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick, 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), invasive pests reported for the first time in India and provided a rapid action plan for its management throughout India. Identified and involved in the first record of Invasive fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) from Nepal and detection of ‘R-Strain’ of S. frugiperda from India. He studied molecular diversity of T. absoluta, Leucinodes orbonalis (Brinjal shoot & fruit borer), and Maruca vitrata (Legume pod borer). Dr. Shashank conceptualized and was instrumental in starting Indian Entomologist - An Online Magazine to Promote Insect Science and Technology under the umbrella of ESI with his colleagues. Dr. Shashank received INSPIRE fellowship, DST-Start Up Research Grant (Young Scientist), he is also a visiting researcher at the Univerity of Florida, USA, and also received many prestigious awards from different societies.

ESI Best PhD Thesis Awardee

Dr. Kariyanna B., is an energetic entomologist who worked on “Identification and functional analysis of genes involved in insecticide resistance in Leucinodes orbonalis Guenée (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) under the supervision of Dr. Prabhuraj A., Professor, Department of Entomology, UAS, Raichur and Dr. M. Mohan, Principal Scientist, ICAR-NBAIR, Bengaluru for his Ph.D. thesis. He worked on identifying the molecular mechanisms involved in insecticide resistance by brinjal shoot and fruit borer, L. orbonalis in the brinjal ecosystem. He identified the resistant population of the L. orbonalis across India and studied the three major groups of genes viz., cytochrome P450 monooxygenase (CYP), carboxylesterase (CE), and glutathione S-transferase (GST) in collaboration with ICAR-NBAIR. He identified 72 (CYP), 34 (GST), and 96 (CE) genes from L. orbonalis and among the identified CYP genes, the CYP324F1 was first ever reported for the living organism. Further, he worked on the RNA interference by dsRNA method. He evaluated several local and hybrid varieties and studied the population dynamics of the L. orbonalis. He was awarded university gold medal in master’s and doctoral degrees, and a silver medal in master degree. He secured DST Inspire Fellowship to conduct his doctoral project. He is actively working as a volunteer in wildlife crime control bureau (WCCB). During his student tenure, visited different countries viz., Nepal (2017) and Malaysia (2018) for academic purpose. He published the first-ever monograph on longhorn beetles of India. He also published 7 peer-reviewed publications in the international journal of high impact factor, 13 peer-reviewed publications in Indian Journal, six in local journals and magazines, one book and eight book chapters.

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Sagar, D., is working as a Scientist (SS) at the Division of Entomology, ICAR-IARI, New Delhi. His field of specialization is insect reproductive physiology in relation to heat stress. He is one of the Associate Editors of IE and he can be contacted at

Rahul Kumar is one of the Associate Editors of IE. He is working as Assistant Professor of Zoology at Department of Zoology, Sheodeni Sao College (Magadh University), Kaler-824127, Arwal, Bihar, India. He is working on mimicry among arthropods and application of nanotechnology in Integrative taxonomy. He can be contacted at

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