Dr. Sparks grew up in the world of entomology. His father and one of his older sisters are entomologists, and he started his entomology career during high school as a student worker in the entomology department in Tifton. Dr. Sparks obtained a B.S.A. in entomology at the University of Georgia and then went to Louisiana State University where he completed both a M.S. and Ph.D. working in soybean entomology. He was the last student to complete a degree under Dr. Dale Newsom at LSU.
After a brief post-doc at LSU, Dr. Sparks landed his first real job with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service as the Extension Entomologist for the most southern district in Texas. Within the Texas A&M system, extension personnel are generally responsible for all entomology issues within their district. The Lower Rio Grande Valley area of Texas is extremely diverse and provided the opportunity to learn a great deal of applied entomology including production issues in cotton, citrus, and vegetables, as well as spending considerable time on education associated with the impending arrival of Africanized bees in the U.S.
After 14 years in the LRGV, Dr. Sparks had the opportunity to return to Georgia as an Extension Entomologist in Tifton with the responsibility for entomology issues in commercial vegetable production. Dr. Sparks has been back in Tifton for a little over 15 years. While his program is “focused” on IPM in vegetables, this provides the opportunity to work on a variety of issues as Georgia’s vegetable production industry is very diverse with commercial production of a wide variety of crops. Issues of emphasis have included insecticide resistance in diamondback moth and sweet potato whitefly, integration of new chemistries into pest management programs, evaluation of new technologies such as Bt sweet corn, and studies on basic pest biology.
The editors of the newsletter requested one interesting fact about Dr. Sparks. He provided one entertaining fact – at least it has always been entertaining to his friends and colleagues. Despite having obtained the mature age of 60 this past October, Dr. Sparks has four children with ages of 26, 20, 16, and 10. Yes, the youngest will be 11 on March 3, 2018. This has always seemed to provide immeasurable joy to Dr. Sparks’ close friends and tremendous pride and joy to his parents.