Acadia Researcher Recognized Nationally

Dr. Kirk Hillier
Dr. Kirk Hillier

The 2011 recipient of the C. Gordon Hewitt Award is Dr. Kirk Hillier. The honour is awarded annually by the Entomological Society of Canada to entomologists under the age of 40 who have made an outstanding contribution to entomology in Canada.

An Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Acadia University, Dr Hillier has become a prominent figure in insect pheromone research in Canada. Broad in scope, his research has both basic and applied components, and incorporates elements of chemical ecology, agriculture, behaviour and neuroscience. His most significant contributions pertain to ol­factory processing of insect pheromones and the genetic control of pheromone perception.

In 1998, Dr Hillier completed a BSc degree in biology at Memorial University, and un­dertook a PhD in the same institution, where he studied the use of semiochemicals for pest monitoring with Professor Dave Larson and Dr Peggy Dixon (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada). He graduated in 2002 and undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Professor Neil Vickers, at the University of Utah. There, he initially studied courtship in moths, but eventually sought training in insect neurophysiology and became a leading expert in sensory recordings made from insect anten­nae. He was recruited as Assistant Professor by Acadia in 2007 and promoted to Associate Professor in 2010. He was also Visiting Scien­tist at the Theodor Boveri Institut and the Max Planck Institut für Chemische Ökologie, both in Germany, in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Dr Hillier’s research program aims at acquir­ing a better understanding of insect olfactory processing and the relationship between odours and insect behaviour. More specifically, his re­search is concerned with mapping of olfactory receptor neurons, identification of previously undescribed male pheromone-sensitive sensilla and modification of insects using interspecific tissue transplants. Dr Hillier has also developed a regional network of collaborators with whom he works on applied aspects of entomology, including the chemical ecology and manage­ment of lowbush blueberry and vineyard pests.

Dr Hillier has already had remarkable success in obtaining research grants. Upon accepting his position at Acadia, he was successful in securing a $349,000 Canadian Foundation for Innovation grant, which he used to develop a neurophysiology facility known as the Chemi­cal Analysis and Bioimaging Laboratory. Dr Hillier has also been successful in obtaining funding from various other sources, including a recent $6.9M collaborative grant from the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency, awarded for applied work on the use of pheromones for insect pest management.

Dr Hillier has authored or co-authored 12 peer-reviewed papers, including one in the pres­tigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has several others in preparation as well as some in non-refereed publications. Known for his outstanding communication skills, he has given numerous invited lectures and over 24 conference presentations. He has contributed to the teaching of six courses at Acadia, where he has also supervised 35 gradu­ate, honours and summer students. In 2009, he was awarded an Acadia Student Union Teaching Recognition Award.

Finally, Dr Hillier has provided dedicated service to the ESC, which he joined in 2000. Since 2004, he has been an active and valued member of the Marketing Committee and has chaired this committee since 2007. In addition, he has been a member of the AES since 1999 and is Co-chair of this year’s ESC-AES Joint Annual Meeting.


From the Entomological Society of Canada, September 2011 Bulletin

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