Walter Leal Elected to California Academy of Sciences

Two professors who study far-ranging aspects of ecology  — from primate interactions with snakes and leopards to chemical communication in insects — are UC Davis’ newest fellows of the California Academy of Sciences.

Anthropologist Lynne Isbell and chemical ecologist Walter Leal are due to be honored with 10 other new fellows at the academy’s annual meeting Tuesday (Oct. 13) in San Francisco. The academy selects its fellows in recognition of their contributions to the natural sciences.


Isbell earned a UC Davis Ph.D. in animal behavior in 1990 and joined the anthropology faculty in 1996. Her research focuses on primate behavior and ecology, particularly food competition, ranging behavior, predation and dispersal. She also investigates visual neuroscience and primate interactions with species as diverse as ants, snakes and leopards.

Today she is using GPS technology to study leopard-primate interactions in Kenya, and collaborating with neuroscientists to examine primate neuronal responses to snakes.

Her book, The Fruit, the Tree and the Serpent: Why We See So Well, received the 2014 W.W. Howells Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association for best book in biological anthropology.


Leal came to UC Davis in 2000 as a faculty member in the Department of Entomology, where he subsequently served as chair. He’s now affiliated with the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the College of Biological Sciences.

He is internationally known for his pioneering work in insect olfaction. He has identified and synthesized complex pheromones from a number of insects. He and his laboratory discovered the molecular underpinnings that make DEET effective in repelling mosquitos.

Educated in Brazil and Japan, Leal was the first non-Japanese scientist to earn tenure in the Japan Ministry of Agriculture. He is a member of the Royal Entomological Society (honorary fellow), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), the Entomological Society of America and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He is co-chair of the 2016 International Congress of Entomology.

This story originally appeared on UC Davis News.