Dr. Pickett in his UVM office, surrounded by books and a microscope

Kurt Pickett, 1972-2011

Entomologist and Curator

Dr. Pickett joined the UVM faculty in 2007 as an Assistant Professor of Biology after completing a highly successful stint as a Theodore Roosevelt Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He was passionate about his work at the department and university and about his life. An expert insect taxonomist, he focused his research on the evolution of social behavior, using the wasp family, Vespidae, as a study subject. Combining time-honored data from sources such as adult and larval morphology and behavioral attributes with modern molecular data and proteomics, he conducted revisionary taxonomy, phylogenetic systematics, and investigations into the evolution of social behavior across the family. He also investigated various methodological and computational issues in phylogenetics, seamlessly weaving together all of these components—along with frequent trips to the field to collect and observe wasps—to fulfill his vision of creating a laboratory that represented the full continuum of studies in the taxonomy and social behavior of the Vespidae. To this end, he was extraordinarily successful. Dr. Pickett passed away from leukemia before he could accomplish another goal of his: curating the entire Thompson invertebrate collection. We are still working toward that goal today. Read here about how his colleagues remember him.