Getting to Know John Tooker, Pennsylvania State IPM Coordinator
Among the many partners and stakeholders the Northeastern Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Center works with are the state IPM programs and coordinators throughout the Northeast region.
Based at the states’ land-grant universities, the IPM coordinators are members of the USDA Multistate Project NEERA-2104, which serves as the Northeast Region Technical Committee on IPM, and are responsible for developing and implementing IPM programming within their states.
For more information about NEERA-2104, see www.nimss.org/projects/view/mrp/outline/18859.
Diversity of Responsibilities
John Tooker is relatively new to the Pennsylvania state IPM coordinator role, having taken over in late 2022. He is a professor of entomology and extension specialist in the Department of Entomology in the College of Agricultural Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, but like many state IPM coordinators, he holds a number of roles. Tooker is also director of graduate studies, coordinator of the entomology minor, and director of his own research lab.
That breadth of responsibilities can be an asset because it helps Tooker stay abreast of what’s going on in, or related to, IPM in Pennsylvania and beyond. It also means no two days are the same. “In addition to fulfilling my extension and administrative responsibilities, I try to help my students with whatever they need, also finding time to work on papers and funding proposals and think about new collaborations,” he says.
“The field season brings additional tasks, many of which are fun—going to the farm, working in the greenhouse. A typical day varies a lot, but few are boring.”
As a researcher, Tooker is credited on a long list of publications reflecting many areas of interest and expertise. “In the agricultural realm, I am most interested in leveraging the conservation benefits of no-till, cover crops, and IPM for insect and slug control in field crops,” he says.
Path to the Present
John Tooker’s responsibilities are the current culmination of a career at Penn State dating back to 2003, when he joined as a postdoc. Several years later, a faculty position fortuitously opened and he was asked to apply. “In 2008, I moved my office down the hallway and got started,” he says. “Fifteen years later, I am still plugging away.”
Tooker has long been a proponent of IPM. “I like IPM because it just makes sense,” he says. “It makes sense to do all you can to prevent a problem from developing in the first place, and then having a backup plan should the preventative measures not work out.”
This philosophy led him to cross paths extensively with Ed Rajotte, his predecessor at Penn State as the IPM coordinator. “Ed knows that I preach IPM to folks in the agricultural community dealing with field crops. When he started thinking about retirement, he saw that I was among the most active in IPM in our department, so he asked if I would be interested in being coordinator.”
Interests and Priorities
Tooker recognizes that stepping into Ed Rajotte’s former role means he has big shoes to fill, but also opportunities to further develop what was already in place. “My initial goals are to keep alive, and try to expand on, the programs that Ed and the incomparable Dion Lerman [environmental health programs specialist at Penn State Extension] have built in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania more broadly,” he says.
“Dion has some great, unique programs on urban IPM for folks confined to their homes, and he is working to train urban residents in IPM so they can then get jobs practicing IPM in their own communities.”
Once Tooker has moved forward with the programs he’s inherited, he has some new ideas to explore. “I also hope to reinvigorate school IPM in PA. Once I solidify our commitment to these areas, I am interested in working to implement more IPM in field crops, veggies, and perhaps some other crops where we can make a difference.”
State IPM Coordinators and the Center
IPM is a dynamic field because pest threats are always evolving, and so must the management methods that are developed, refined, and implemented in response. The state IPM coordinators play a pivotal role in part because their purviews often straddle academia and extension—combining current research with efforts to put it into practical use, getting actionable knowledge into the hands of those who need it throughout their state.
This makes them critical partners to the Northeastern IPM Center and the other regional IPM centers in our efforts to coordinate and foster IPM throughout our regions.
The Center welcomes John Tooker as Pennsylvania state IPM coordinator, and we look forward to future collaboration in support of our shared goals.
For more information about John Tooker, visit his faculty profile and other web pages: