Co-Chair, 2016 International Congress of Entomology
Chemical ecologist Dr. Walter S. Leal, former professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, and current professor of biochemistry in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Davis, is a pioneer in the field of insect communication and conducts cutting-edge research. His work involves how insects detect smells, communicate with their species, detect host and non-host plants, and detect prey. Dr. Leal uses innovative approaches to insect olfaction problems. He has identified complex pheromones from many insect species, including scarab beetles, true bugs, longhorn beetles, and moths. He and his laboratory discovered the secret mode of the insect repellent, DEET.
Leal’s educational background is eclectic and geographically diverse. A native of Recife, Brazil, he holds a doctorate in applied biochemistry from Tsukuba University, Japan; he also earned degrees in chemical engineering from Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil, and agricultural chemistry from Mie University, Japan.
Leal is the first non-Japanese to hold tenure with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan. He served as Head of Laboratory and Research Leader at the National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Science, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Japan, before joining the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 2000. Under his tenure as department chair, the Chronicle of Higher Education ranked the department no. 1 in the country.
A member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, the Royal Entomological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Leal has also been honored by entomological societies in Brazil and Japan, receiving the Gakkaisho from the Japanese Society of Applied Entomology and Zoology and the Medal of Achievement from Entomological Society of Brazil.
He served as president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE) and ESA’s Integrative Physiological and Molecular Insect System Section. He is a co-founder of the Asia Pacific Association of Chemical Ecologists and played a key role in founding the Latin American Association of Chemical Ecology.
Leal has published his work in more than 180 peer-reviewed journals in the general field of insect pheromones, insect chemical communication, and insect olfaction, many widely cited by his peers. He holds 28 Japanese and two U.S. patents, and wrote 17 book chapters and review articles, including two in the Annual Review of Entomology.