Sammy Ramsey
My post doctoral research assistant and I discuss what an adventure it’s been as we finish inspecting the last remaining sample well past our bedtimes! Author: Shin Arunrugstichai and Syzygy Media Co.
2024

Sammy Ramsey

Entomologist and Conservationist

buzzworthy science

meet sammy

American entomologist and conservationist Sammy Ramsey’s enduring interest in entomology started more than 25 years ago and still shows no signs of waning. Prior to his 2nd grade paradigm shift, Ramsey suffered from a debilitating fear of insects that he conquered by educating himself about them at his local library. Now the Endowed Assistant Professor of Entomology at CU, Ramsey applies his fascination with invertebrates to understanding and preserving the ecosystems that they make possible. His research on honey bee health decline has taken him around the globe in search of a better understanding of how pollinator pandemics start and how they can be stopped. Celebrated for his acumen as a communicator, Ramsey uses his talent to make science accessible to the broadest audience. 

buzzworthy science
Nominated by: Brianna Rowe, MI'11
Class of 2024 Location USA
Using oral surgery loupes to inspect honey comb for bee disease in lieu of a microscope in the middle of a Thai forest
Using oral surgery loupes to inspect honey comb for bee disease in lieu of a microscope in the middle of a Thai forest Author: Shin Arunrugstichai and Syzygy Media Co.

Nearly three-fourths of the animals on this planet are insects, but I’m always the first entomologist anyone has met. Insects could certainly benefit from a better PR campaign, with the conspicuous exclusion of honey bees. Honey bees have taken over public consciousness and have become that rare uncontroversial symbol of conservation. However, with so many people talking about saving the bees, the voices of experts have rarely been clear and central in the discussion. The issue of what’s killing them has become so murky that a lot of the passion around protecting bees has gone to waste. Therefore, the work that I’ve been leading around the globe has had two clear focuses: solid science to save bees and clear communication to the public.

My research on bee health has shown how an invasive parasite has triggered a pollinator pandemic. A little red mite from Southeast Asia is currently liquefying our bees’ livers, impacting their immune health, ability to collect food, and even their ability to detoxify pesticides. Now, a new parasite (the “Tropi mite”) is emerging from this same region of the world, destroying bee populations in every country it spreads to. I now track this parasite and study how it can be controlled before it arrives in North America.

“We can’t win this battle without amplifying the voices of those typically ignored in science, the people who know these bees the best.”

- Sammy Ramsey
A summer storm comes out of nowhere so we continue our research from the shelter of our work van
A summer storm comes out of nowhere so we continue our research from the shelter of our work van Author: Shin Arunrugstichai and Syzygy Media Co.

Using lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve been impressing upon a world passionate about bees that our Western-centric view of honey bee health won’t help us save them. The only region of the world where every single honey bee species exists is Southeast Asia. As such, we can’t make meaningful progress in protecting our bees without focusing our attention there. We can’t win this battle without amplifying the voices of those typically ignored in science, the people who know these bees the best.

I currently lead expeditions to Asia where I document every parasite, disease, or condition impacting bee health, compiling it for publication as an open-access compendium while bolstering the efforts of indigenous people to protect pollinators along the way.

never stop exploring

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