Nancy Hinkle grew up on a cow-calf operation in central Alabama and, after delivering calves in the middle of the night in sleet and rain, swore she would never work with cattle again. But she found she couldn’t get away from animal production, so became a veterinary entomologist and has worked with livestock and poultry for over forty years.
She received her B.S. and M.S. from Auburn University, researching mosquitoes for her master’s degree. She then worked in Craig Sheppard’s lab at UGA’s Coastal Plain Experiment Station for four years, studying mostly horn flies and house flies, until she decided to pursue a PhD. After four years of research on fleas and receiving her PhD from the University of Florida, she was hired by the University of California, Riverside, as their Extension Veterinary Entomologist. At UCR she continued working on poultry and cattle pests, mostly flies and mites. In 2001 she joined the Department of Entomology at UGA’s Athens campus.
Worldwide, the primary pest in broiler production is the darkling beetle, so her lab has investigated its suppression and the challenges therein. For beef cattle, the principal pest is the horn fly, so she has conducted field trials of various strategies to control this pest, collaborating with more than a dozen Extension agents from around the state to test strategies for horn fly suppression.
Of the top 10 agricultural commodities in Georgia, five are animal products; broilers (#1), eggs (#3), beef (#6), dairy (#9), and horses (#10), so over half the state’s farmgate value is within her purview. These five alone account for 47% of all Georgia agriculture. Protecting these animals from insect pests and the diseases they transmit is crucial to Georgia agriculture as well as for human health and safety.
As research sidelines, she has also conducted a distributional study of the ‘Great Southern Brood’ of 13-year periodical cicadas that emerged in 2011 and investigated the statewide prevalence of brown recluse spiders (they’re rare in Georgia). Because her work on chicken mites brings her to the attention of people who think their bodies are infested with ‘bird mites,’ Dr. Hinkle deals with cases of delusory parasitosis, a psychological condition in which individuals are convinced their bodies are infested with invisible bugs.
Having been called “a good ol’ boy in a skirt” (though she rarely wears skirts anymore), Hinkle enjoys Extension because it allows her to interact with real people, the folks out on the farm producing food for the rest of us. For fun she does what got her into entomology in the first place, she roams around in the woods and fields, looking for bugs.