In Memoriam: David Wood

March 08, 2024
Portrait image of David Wood

David L. Wood, an accomplished forest entomologist who influenced a generation of land managers and pest control professionals across California, died on February 10, 2024. He was 93.

Wood was born on January 8, 1931, in Elmira Heights, New York. In a 2012 interview with Discover Magazine, Wood said his fascination with forest insects stemmed from a scourge of beetle-borne disease that devastated elm trees in his hometown. That fascination propelled him to earn a BS in forestry from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University in 1952 and a PhD in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1960.

Wood joined UC Berkeley’s Department of Entomology as a professor shortly after graduating. Much of his teaching, research, and expertise revolved around the biology and identification of bark beetles and other wood-destroying insects. Through close chemical analysis, Wood discovered that a mixture of sex pheromones excreted by male Ips paraconfusus beetles as they burrowed into trees preceded many fatal population explosions that devastated Sierra Nevada forests. His later studies of verbenone, a beetle pheromone, revealed that the compound acts as a repellent by signaling the presence of a beetle in trees to potential pests.

Central to Wood’s interdisciplinary approach was a recognition that insects were but one of the many concerns foresters, land managers, businesses, and the public had to manage. He frequently collaborated with chemists, silviculturists, lawyers, economists, and other experts and practitioners across fields and disciplines to examine the biotic, abiotic, and socioeconomic factors that caused injuries to trees in both urban and wildland forests.

As an educator, Wood strongly influenced a generation of resource managers and pest control professionals. He advised or served on committees for over 50 graduate students, many of whom have become leaders in the field, and worked closely with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to develop an agency-wide appreciation for forest pest management.

A group photo of David Wood, family, and friends at the Essig Museum of Entomology

David Wood is joined by family and friends during a January 17 visit to the Essig Museum of Entomology. From left: Lisa Kala, Caroline Wood, Peter Oboyski, Jonathan Wood, Alex Ansari, Dave Wood, Catherine Taylor, and Michael Cashman.

Wood retired in 1994 but remained active as a professor of the graduate school. He mentored graduate and undergraduate students at UC Berkeley and abroad and maintained an active research program in the ecological chemistry of forest pests and pathogens, with emphasis on sudden oak death and pitch canker. Wood also provided expert testimony and consulting to land management agencies, utilities, and private landowners. 

A celebratory lunch honoring Wood was held on January 17, prior to his death. Friends and family gathered for a celebration of life at the family’s church, St. Stephens Episcopal in Orinda, on March 2.

Wood is survived by his wife of 64 years, Caroline; daughter Catherine Taylor; son Jonathan Wood; grandchildren Alex Ansari, Joe Wood, and Kate Lee; and great-grandchildren Kendall and McKenna Lee. 

In place of flowers, the family asks that memorial gifts be sent to the Essig Museum of Entomology. Please indicate that the gift is in memory of Professor Emeritus David Wood. 

Checks should be mailed to:
University of California, Berkeley
Gift Services, UDAR
1995 University Avenue, Suite 400
Berkeley, CA 94704-1070

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