Ken Stewart, invertebrate biologist, 1935-2012
Published On: 12/22/2012
Ken Stewart, invertebrate biologist, stonefly expert, 1935-2012
Ken received his undergraduate degree in Forestry/Botany from Oklahoma State University (then Oklahoma A & M) in 1958 and continued his graduate work there, receiving a Masters in Entomology in 1959 and a PhD in Entomology/Zoology in 1963. He worked summers with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service as a Conservation Aid in 1954, with the U.S. Forest Service in 1956 as a Research Aid and with the U.S. Forest Service in 1958 as a Research Scientist. He taught Biology at Coffeyville (Kansas) College in 1960-61 and in 1961, took a position in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of North Texas where he continued as a full time faculty member for 40 years and served as Department Chair from 1979-1983. In 1994, Ken received an appointment as Regents Professor from the Texas Board of Regents.
During his career he mentored 25 Masters and 21 PhD students at the University on research topics as diverse as the life history of the Brown Recluse spider, pesticide tolerances in fish and insects, and scanning electron microscopy study of scale patterns in Lepidoptera. His early personal research interests centered on the interpond dispersal of microorganisms by various aquatic insects, but in 1968 he initiated a study of the reproductive morphology of the stonefly, Perlesta placida which led to a productive and successful career in aquatic entomology as, doubtlessly, the most enthusiastic of stonefly researchers. He and his students were pioneers in the study of “drumming”, a percussion method of sound communication in stoneflies, and his work on immature stoneflies initiated in 1978, led to his first book, “Nymphs of North American Stonefly Genera (Plecoptera)”, published in 1988, with a 2nd edition published in 2002, and also led his to co-authorship of the Plecoptera chapter in Merritt & Cummins, and later in Merritt, Cummins and Berg. As much as he loved to collect rear and describe immature stoneflies, a process that continues through several unfinished projects, nothing in his work could put a twinkle in his eye quite as effectively as the opportunity to share drumming signals with a first time audience. Although his work was not primarily in the field of systematics, he co-authored 27 stonefly species and five generic names, and has been honored through three patronyms, Beloneuria stewarti, Neoperla stewarti and Zealeuctra stewarti. His scientific publication record includes about 200 journal articles, book chapters and books. He was active in numerous professional organizations including the Entomological Society of America, the American Entomological Society and the Society of Freshwater Science (formerly North American Benthological Society). He served the latter group as President in 1978-79 and was honored by that group with the Award of Excellence in Benthic Science in 1997. He also served the community of stonefly students through his long service to the International Society of Plecopterists as a permanent member of the organizing committee and by serving on the board of Illiesia, International Journal of Stonefly Research. The International Society of Plecopterists recognized him with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 and in 2010, Outdoor Life recognized him as one of the Outdoor Life 25 leaders whose work has had major significance and impact on enthusiasts engaged in hunting and fishing.
Ken loved his family and enjoyed talking about their accomplishments and their time together at the cabin in Pitkin, Colorado. His interests and activities include a lifetime passion with scouting, hunting, fishing, and hobbies such as restoring vintage cars and woodworking. He was an active member of Highland Baptist Church in Denton. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Written by Bill Stark, Stanley W. Szczytko, Boris C. Kondratieff and Richard W. Baumann
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