Dr. Kelli Hoover, ESA Fellow (2021)

Dr. Kelli Hoover, professor in the Department of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University (PSU), is a member of the Centers for Chemical Ecology and Pollinator Research as well as the Insect Biodiversity Center. She is internationally recognized for her research on invasive species biology and ecology, especially for the discovery of mechanisms underlying multitrophic interactions between host plants, insects, and insect pathogens or symbionts. 

Hoover was born in Lubbock, Texas, but raised in the south San Francisco Bay Area, where she received her B.S. in biology of natural resources in 1979 from the University of California (UC), Berkeley. After graduation she worked as a biological technician for the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau, Alaska. In 1987, she obtained a second B.S. in physical therapy from the University of Washington and worked for five years as a sports medicine physical therapist, but her passion for insects prompted her to return to graduate school. She obtained her M.S. in biology at San Jose State University in 1992 and her Ph.D. in entomology from UC Davis in 1997. After a year as a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley, she joined the faculty in the Department of Entomology at PSU in 1998. 

Hoover’s research program spans the foundational to the translational and includes plant-insect-entomopathogen and microbial symbiont interactions, primarily focused on invasive species. She investigates how plant defenses impact the physiology of pathogenesis of baculoviruses in caterpillar hosts and the host insect’s immune system. She also studies the complex interactions between insects, their gut symbionts, and host plants in beetle and lepidopteran systems, including effects on plant defense expression and insect fitness. She is currently elucidating the physiological impacts of spotted lanternfly on hardwood tree health and growth.  

Hoover has trained more than 30 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and published over 120 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters (five in PNAS and one in Science), and she holds two patents. She has taught 10 different entomology courses and co-developed the popular general education course “The Insect Connection: Insects, Globalization, and Sustainability,” which is taught online and in the classroom every semester, reaching thousands of undergraduates.  

Hoover has been honored with the two Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences teaching awards and the Black Award for Excellence in Research. She is a member of the Science Steering Committee for the International Forestry Quarantine Research Group, which advises the Technical Panel on Forest Quarantine of the International Plant Protection Convention on the science behind regulations to protect living trees from pests moving in wood.  

Hoover has been a member of ESA since 1996 and served as a judge for student competitions at 10 national meetings. She has organized numerous symposia for national and branch meetings and served as a subject editor for Environmental Entomology. Hoover was the chair or co-chair of the organizing committees for three annual meetings of the International Society for Invertebrate Pathology and served four years as treasurer.