The Legendary Robbin Thorp: A Tribute Well Deserved

When UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal created a video tribute honoring the UC Davis faculty who recently transitioned to emeriti, he singled out one very special emeriti as an example of tremendous community, academic and scientific engagement:

Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Leal, professor of biochemistry in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, said Thorp "epitomizes how emeriti contribute to UC Davis."

Thorp, a 30-year member of the entomology faculty, and a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, retired in 1994, but he continued working until several weeks before his death on June 7, 2019, at age 85. In 2014, he co-authored two books:  Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University,) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). He published more than 50 percent of his papers following his retirement."

Thorp was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.

“Robbin's scientific achievements during his retirement rival the typical career productivity of many other academic scientists,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, at the time of the legendary entomologist's death. “His contributions in support of understanding bee biodiversity and systematics are a true scientific legacy.”

The video tribute is online at

It includes images and accomplishments of many of the emeriti, meant as a small representation of the achievements of all. (See news story)

In his message, Chancellor May told the new emeriti: "You played a central role in keeping UC Davis at the forefront of excellence. Your continued engagement through teaching, research, volunteering and philanthropy is vital to our continued growth and success. So I encourage you to stay engaged with campus. The UC Davis Emeriti Association is here with resources and support for this newest chapter of your career. Please take advantage of it. Thank you for our dedication to UC Davis and congratulations on reaching this milestone."

Among its many activities, UC Davis Emeriti Association (UCDEA) interviews and records emeriti who have made "significant contributions to the development of the university." (See Video Records Project.)

One of them is Robbin Thorp. (Watch the video here.)