Dr. M. Alma Solis, research scientist and former research leader at the Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL), Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, was elected as an ES Fellow in 2018. She is internationally recognized as a world authority on the economically important Pyraloidea, or snout moths, and is a curator at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Solis was born in Texas and grew up in Brownsville. She attended Texas Southmost College and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in science education before continuing on to a Master's program in biological sciences with Larry Gilbert. She then went to the University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP) for a Ph.D. program in insect systematics at the Department of Entomology with Charles Mitter. She was hired as a research scientist by SEL in 1989. On a year-long detail in 1999 to the University of Texas at Brownsville, she was associate dean of the College of Math, Science, and Technology. She was appointed
acting research leader of SEL in 2003 and as permanent research leader two years later. She briefly served as the ARS acting associate director for the Beltsville Agricultural Research Area in 2011. She was research leader for 10 years, returning to full-time research in 2014.
She has published more than 100 research papers and book chapters on the higher-level classification and taxonomic identity of ecologically and economically important Pyraloidea. She has conducted fieldwork
worldwide, but her primary research focus has been the Neotropics, specifically in Costa Rica. She has been invited to teach workshops on Pyraloidea worldwide. She has provided research services supporting state, federal and international regulatory programs and has provided more than 28,000 identifications during her USDA career.
As SEL research leader, she was the "face" of arthropod systematics research in the federal government and supported university undergraduate and graduate student programs in the U.S and abroad. She has received various awards including the National ARS Administrator's Supervisory Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity Award; USDA Recognition for Outstanding Service on the ARS Research Position Evaluation System Advisory Committee; and the USDA Technology Transfer Group Award for providing extraordinary assistance to APHIS/PPQ at ports in the U.S. and around the world. She is a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and a Leadership Texas alumnus. She is on various scientific and editorial boards and has been president of the ESA Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Section, the Entomological Society of Washington, and the Washington Biologists' Field Club, where, as noted by The Washington Post, she was the first woman president in its more than 100-year history.
She and her husband, Jason P. W. Hall, a butterfly systematist, created a butterfly garden in Silver Spring, Maryland, that was featured by NPR in an interview titled "Rare Specimens: An Unusual Match-Up in Entomology." At home she is in the garden or reading science fiction and enjoys hiking and scuba diving with her husband.
(updated August, 2018)