William Hazeltine II: His Passion, His Work Live On

Aug 26, 2016

Noted medical entomologist William Hazeltine II (1926-1994) made a difference. Today he continues to make a difference through his legacy--supporting mosquito research of UC Davis graduate students.

Hazeltine, a U.S. Navy veteran who studied entomology in the UC Berkeley graduate program, 1950-53, and received his doctorate in entomology from Purdue University in 1962,  managed the Lake County Mosquito Abatement District from 1961-64 and the Butte County Mosquito Abatement District from 1966-1992. He was an ardent supporter of the judicious use of public health pesticides to protect public health. He continued work on related projects until his death in 1994.

His legacy lives on through his family's establishment of the Bill Hazeltine Student Research Awards to UC Davis graduate student researchers.  Since 1997, the awards have totaled a little over $46,000 to 25 recipients.

Sandy Olkowski, Stephanie Kurniawan and Maribel "Mimi"  Portilla, graduate students in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, received the coveted awards in both 2015 and 2016.  The three recently lunched at a Davis restaurant with Hazeltine's sons, Craig of Scottsdale, Ariz.,and Lee Hazeltine of Woodland.  The graduate students discussed their research and goals and thanked them for the Hazeltine family's support.

It's exciting to see the research that the graduate students are undertaking and the goals they have established. Some capsule information:

Sandy Olkowski?

Sandy Olkowski is working on her doctorate in entomology, studying with major professor Thomas Scott, now emeritus professor of entomology.

“While working for a pediatrician when I was living in Thailand, I became aware of the significant disease burden that dengue places on populations in developing countries,” Olkowski said. “I returned to the United States with the goal of doing whatever I could to alleviate that burden, and subsequently applied to UC Davis because of the ground-breaking dengue research of Thomas Scott. I conducted research for my senior honors thesis in the Scott lab while completing a bachelor's degree in economics, with a focus on international development. I then continued on into a PhD in Entomology, with a designated emphasis in biology of vector-borne diseases. I am entering the 4th year of my PhD. I recently returned from 10 months of fieldwork in Iquitos, Peru.”

“My research is focused on dengue disease surveillance,” Olkowski said. “I am interested in identifying and quantifying ways that human behavior affects surveillance data. Rapid detection of increases in dengue cases is very important for public health officials, so they can implement vector control in a timely manner, but delays in treatment seeking by patients and clinical diagnosis by physicians may be impeding that process. I hope that the results of my research can be directly applied. Eventually, I would like to be able to sit down with public health officials and discuss evidence-based improvements to dengue surveillance.”

Stephanie Kurniawan

Stephanie Kurniawan is working on her master's degree, studying with major professors Ed Lewis and Shirley Luckhart. “Though I have lived in California my entire life, I often visited relatives in Indonesia,” she said. “During one trip when I was in middle school, I got dengue and had to be hospitalized for several days. No one in America knew about this disease, not even my pediatrician. This made me interested in vector-borne diseases and mosquitoes.” 

Kurniawan went on to receive her bachelor's degree in animal biology with a minor in medical and veterinary entomology at UC Davis.

“I am adapting methods for estimating age structure of Anopheles mosquito populations using the captive cohort method developed by Dr. James Carey. It is a potentially inexpensive and practical alternative for real-time surveillance of mosquito populations. I currently am testing this method on local populations of Anopheles freeborni from Sutter and Butte County rice fields.”

Maribel "Mimi" Portilla

Maribel "Mimi" Portilla, who holds a master's degree in public health, is seeking her doctorate. She studies with major professor Sharon Lawler.

"Just like many scientists, I am driven by curiosity, but often found myself wondering how I could apply myself in a way that would help others," she said. "I discovered public health, which incorporated my love for biology and my growing interest in social issues. At UC Berkeley School of Public Health, I was able to study health and disease within a larger context, and learned to consider the biological and the social determinants of disease. As I completed my degree, I realized I really missed the research experiences I had as an undergraduate. So, I looked for a way to bridge my new-found passion for public health and basic science research. This led me to UC Davis, where I learned about One Health and am now pursuing a Ph.D in medical entomology. Medical entomology is a perfect example of a One Health field, where I can seek out how interactions between humans and animals impact health. I am particularly interested in researching how disease risk may change as people manipulate the environment."

"For example, environmental manipulation is a classic pest control technique, yet the indirect effects of changing the environment are not always well understood," Portilla said. "I am focusing on how the management practices of the invasive exotic weeds, Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta impact mosquitoes and their habitat. My goal is to better understand the ecology of these management practices in order to inform and create better techniques to reduce both mosquito and weed problems."

"Due to my diverse interests and skill set, I am very open about my career choices. I have extensive teaching experience, and would love to be a professor with both teaching and research opportunities. However, there are many opportunities beyond academia. My research is introducing me to many other ways in which my work and research can help keep people safe and healthy. I hope to develop a strong research skill set while at UC Davis, and find a career path which takes advantage of my diverse abilities and love for One Health and Public Health."

We all know that graduate students scramble for funds to complete their research and education.  Sometimes they have little or no funds. What a wonderful project the Hazeltine family sponsors!

The complete list of recipients:

  • 2016: Sandy Olkowski, Maribel “Mimi” Portilla and Stephanie Kurniawan
  • 2015: Sandy Olkowski, Maribel “Mimi” Portilla and Stephanie Kurniawan
  • 2014: Martha Armijos, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Glennon and Rosanna Kwok
  • 2013: Jenny Carlson, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Glennon and Sandy Olkowski
  • 2012: Jenny Carlson, Kelly Liebman and Sandy Olkowski
  • 2011: Brittany Nelms Mills, Kelly Liebman and Jenny Carlson
  • 2010: Tara Thiemann and Jenny Carlson
  • 2009: Kelly Liebman and Wei Xu
  • 2008: Ashley Horton and Tara Thiemann
  • 2007: Lisa Reimer and Jacklyn Wong
  • 2006: Christopher Barker and Tania Morgan
  • 2005: Nicole Mans
  • 2004: Sharon Minnick
  • 2003: Hannah Burrack
  • 2002: Holly Ganz and Andradi Villalobos
  • 2001: Laura Goddard and Linda Styer
  • 2000: Laura Goddard
  • 1999: Linda Boose Styer
  • 1998: Larisa Vredevoe
  • 1997: John Gimnig

William Hazeltine II, born Sept. 4, 1926 in San Jose, was the youngest of six children born to Karl Snyder Hazeltine and Rachel Josephine Crawford Hazeltine. Karl, a graduate of the University of California, served on the faculty of San Jose State University, where he taught agricultural and natural science. Rachel, a graduate of San Jose State, was a teacher.

Bruce Eldridge, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, eulogized William Hazeltine at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Mosquito Control Association (April 4) as "a man who made a difference." His talk, illustrated with photos, was published in the 2006 edition of the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association.  (See PDF)

"He was a medical entomologist who had a varied career in the field of mosquito biology and control, but he will forever be remembered as a man who fought in the trenches of the pesticide controversy from 1960 until the end of his life, and who made the safe and efficient use of pesticides in public health a personal crusade," Eldridge said.