Skip to main content
Richard Garcia
In Memoriam

Richard Garcia

Entomologist, Department of Entomology and Environmental Sciences, Policy & Management

UC Berkeley

Richard Garcia, an entomologist and long-term lecturer in the Department of Entomological Sciences and later the Department of Environmental Science Policy & Management at the University of California, Berkeley, died August 31, 2019 in Santa Barbara, California.

He was born April 26, 1930 in Sebastopol, California. His parents, Ben and Sarah Garcia, had immigrated from Spain in the early 1900’s and established a 20-acre apple, pear, and boysenberry ranch where he grew up as the youngest of six brothers. All of the brothers worked the ranch along with itinerant farm workers. He graduated from Analy Union High School in 1948 where he was considered the star athlete on the Tigers football team. He then attended Santa Rosa Junior College until 1950 when he joined the United States Air Force. In 1953, he married Norma Boase and they had two sons, Richard Jr. and Ronald.

In 1955, he returned to Santa Rosa College, receiving an Associate of Arts degree in the same year. He then transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in Public Health. He graduated with honors in 1957 and then started his doctoral studies in the same department, receiving his Ph.D. in 1963 with his thesis based on the ecology of the soft tick, Ornithodoros coriaceus Koch. He was supported through these studies by a United States Public Health Service Pre-Doctoral Fellowship.

From 1963 to1965, Richard was a United States Public Health Service Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton, Montana, where he conducted research on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Colorado Tick Fever (the latter of which he had the misfortune of contracting). He then went on to the Hooper Foundation at the University of California, San Francisco, as an Assistant Research Entomologist. The Hooper Foundation had a branch at the University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and he worked there as a Medical Entomologist studying the ecology of dengue, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, from 1965 to1968. During this period, Richard and his colleagues Nyven Marchetti and Al Rudnick became the first entomologists to isolate the Zika virus, from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Southeast Asia, documented in a Tropical Medicine and Hygiene article in1969. Little did they know of the significance that this virus would have 45 years later. While in Malaysia, Richard spent much of his time with field and lab technicians in the jungles and rain forests tracking the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases by monkey troops as they moved toward urban-interface regions. In addition, he was involved with research on Culicoides biting flies and he collected a new species in 1964, which later was named Culicoides garciai in his honor. He and the family left Malaysia in 1969 just a few weeks before the infamous riots began. Unfortunately, all the laboratory animals at the university that he used in his studies perished during this period.

In 1969, Richard came to The Division of Biological Control in the Department of Entomological Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, as an Assistant Entomologist and Lecturer. At that time and in the next decade, the Division was developing the philosophical and ecological basis for the practice of biological control under the direction of Dr. Robert Van Den Bosch. It was the leading center for the biological control of insect pests worldwide and Dick led the efforts to control mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases. He was promoted to Associate and Full Entomologist in 1971 and 1990, respectively. He retired in 1992, but continued his research with a recall appointment through the 1990s.

At Berkeley, Richard taught courses on public health and development, and was active in providing oversight for new Conservation of Natural Resources majors. He directed many graduate student theses and dissertations and also advised students from other universities.

His research included over 135 publications and involved studies on bacterial, fungal, invertebrate, and fish control of mosquitoes. He was the first in the United States to give presentations on the potential use of the bacterial insecticide Bti in the control of mosquitoes and he conducted some of the earliest research on its effectiveness and potential effects on non-mosquitoes. In 1977-1978, he was in residence at Bu Ali Sina University in Hamadan, Iran, where he taught and conducted research. He left Iran a few months before the Iranian revolution.

All of the travels associated with Richard’s career made for a very exciting and multicultural experience for the entire family. He often shared these stories with faculty and students, and was very well liked and respected by his students and colleagues.

His wife Norma and his son Richard Jr. of Santa Barbara, California, survive him.

Vincent H. Resh
William Tozer
Barbara Des Rochers