Carol Randall (Forest Entomologist)

Idaho Panhandle Forests Entomologist Coeur d'Alene, Idaho  

Call her “Defender of Bugs.” U.S. Forest Service entomologist Carol Randall believes all insects have a role to play in the natural world. For this reason, she’s reluctant to categorize any bugs as “good” or “bad.” “The only insects I feel bad about finding in a forest are insects that are invasive because they are not from here,” she says. “Our forests have not had the opportunity to develop ways to deal with them. Sometimes invasive/exotic insects can dramatically change our forests and how they work (think of the gypsy moth in the eastern United States).”

Sometimes, however, bug infestations actually improve forests. Citing spruce budworm infestations, for instance, Carol says researchers have found that defoliation may look dire during the infestation but could result in a healthier forest. “Fifteen years or so later,” she says, “they can see evidence that budworm feeding actually helped . . . by thinning out the smaller, understory trees and turning needles into fertilizer (budworm excrement).

Working with the Idaho Panhandle National Forests office in Coeur d’Alene since 1994, this Michigan native has amassed a wealth of knowledge while engaging in numerous strategies to approach insects within the region’s forested areas. Much of her responsibility involves working with species that affect the growth and survival of trees. Bark beetles, defoliating moths, stem-mining insects and invasive pests like the gypsy moth have provided ongoing challenges for Carol’s work. When these insects reduce the growth rate or kill many trees, she assists foresters with a variety of management strategies such as thinning projects or even encouraging the abundance of certain species to reduce the risk of insect damage. She also works with mill operators to ensure that insects do not infest unprocessed logs.

After first focusing on bark beetle outbreaks, Carol eventually took on the innovative approach of controlling noxious weeds through biological means. This dimension of her career has expanded over the years, providing her great satisfaction.

“I am very proud to be associated with Idaho’s biological control of noxious weeds,” she says. “As a state, Idaho has taken an active role in implementing and assessing the value of biological control as a management tool in the fight against noxious weeds.”

In her spare time, Carol, a mother of two sons, enjoys their family farm where she’s involved with bee keeping, gardening, hiking in the nearby forest and her newest sport of rowing. As Kootenai County’s entomology project leader, she’s also happy to share her knowledge with 4-H’ers, and she volunteers for Idaho’s Project Learning Tree program.

Carol likes to apply a lesson learned during her own childhood days at an Ohio camp where she collected insects for the first time. “I still remember the process of collecting, killing in a kill jar and pinning the insects,” she explains. “Some of my fellow campers did not leave the insects in the kill jar long enough, and they (the bugs) were trying to crawl off their pins when the parents came for parent night! Ever since that time, I have taught kids to freeze insects, not use kill jars!” Her next encounter with insect study came during college while working for a forest entomologist as a student laborer.

After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in natural resources from the University of Michigan, she pursued a Master’s Degree in integrated forest protection through Oregon State University. She also received practical experience, including work with cooperative education in Missoula and through U.S.F.S seasonal jobs in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. By 1993, after completing her Master’s, Carol became an official forest entomologist in Missoula, Montana, later moving to Coeur d’Alene where she has remained. In 2008, she received the Regional Foresters’
award for technology transfer.

Carol is most proud of her work with biological weed control. Her efforts include publications, forest evaluations and collaboration with land managers. “The focus of  most of my work is how to work with existing vegetation to prevent insect and disease impacts from enabling land managers to meet their land management goals,” she says, “I have loved working with biological control and developing user friendly ‘how to’ guides to facilitate the expansion of biological control efforts.”

Considering herself a forest/land management team player, Carol loves working with other  entomologists, weed managers and foresters. “I have one small piece of the puzzle-the insect piece,” she says. “I love working with the other specialists to put the puzzle together and see how things work in unison.”

Want to know more?

º Forest Insect and Disease Links

º Center for Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health

º Forest Pests: Insects, Diseases & Other Damage Agents North_America.htm

º Bark and wood boring beetles of the world

º Photographs and descriptions of biological control agents
of insect, disease and weed pest in North America

º Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign — collaboration against
invasive weeds in Idaho

º Invasive weeds: A growing pain