Lynne Rieske-Kinney
Professor, Forest Entomology

Professional Profile

Dr. Lynne Rieske-Kinney (PhD University of Wisconsin, 1995) has been the Forest Entomologist in the Department of Entomology at University of Kentucky for 20+ years, is the current endowed Bobby C Pass Research Professor in the College of Agriculture, Food & Environment, and a recipient of the AD Hopkins Award for excellence in southern forest entomology conferred by the Southern Forest Insect Work Conference.

The Rieske-Kinney Forest Entomology research lab broadly addresses issues associated with forest health, focusing primarily on invasion dynamics of forest pests, evaluating alterations in trophic relationships, developing and evaluating mitigation strategies, and assessing effects on forest composition and structure associated with forest disturbances. Forest insect pests such as emerald ash borer (EAB) and southern pine beetle (SPB) have significant effects on forest composition and structure, with implications for trophic interactions, conservation and restoration efforts, and importantly, global carbon sinks. We apply ecological principles to understand forests associated with species’ invasions, and we’re developing innovative approaches for strategies to minimize losses.

I have a flourishing lab where I actively mentor graduate and undergraduate students. My graduate students are outstanding, and win awards at the regional and national level. My students and postdocs publish their research results, and are successfully employed in academia, private industry, state and national government agencies, non-profits, and internationally. I strive to provide my students with the most robust and enriching graduate experience possible, to produce professional alumni competitive in regional, national and international employment markets.

Current Research

• Gene silencing in EAB. We’re evaluating the feasibility of using gene silencing as a means of suppressing EAB. We’ve shown that RNA interference (RNAi) can cause rapid and extensive beetle mortality; we’re screening additional genes, evaluating methods of delivery, and assessing potential non-target effects.

• Gene silencing in bark beetles. We have determined that the endemic southern and mountain pine beetles are susceptible to RNAi, and are evaluating additional bark beetle species, additional genes, assessing geographic variability and congeneric effects, investigating delivery, and assessing potential non-target effects.

Interested? For more information on our research and lab alumni see the Rieske-Kinney lab web page or email me at 

Additional projects

• Urban Forest Initiative. Co-founder and co-lead of the Urban Forest Initiative (UFI), a UK campus working group that advocates for urban trees. UFI has evolved into a force in campus and Lexington community dynamics, including developing a cross-disciplinary Urban and Community Forestry Certificate for UK undergraduates to train tomorrow’s leaders; enhancing Tree Campus USA efforts at UK and surrounding campuses; developing Adopt-a-Tree curricula for K-college to teach ecosystem benefits and provide a connection with nature; and notably, free campus and community workshops and free public lectures from outside speakers that engage the broader community in an understanding of the value and care of urban trees.

• Healthy Trees – Healthy People. An outreach and education program to train citizen scientists in exotic pest detection, tree identification and tree health. The program provides a mechanism to connect people to nature, while engaging and empowering them to take charge of their physical activity and their personal health.

Courses Taught

Forest Entomology (ENT/FOR 502). 3 credit hours; Fall semester annually.

Two lectures weekly primarily address principles and entomological concepts, including identification and basic biology of major insect groups, the roles of insects in forest ecosystems, addressing the ecosystem services and processes that insects influence (carbon sequestration, pollination, nutrient cycling, plant composition, etc.), diagnosis of major types of forest insect pest problems, and integrating concepts in forest pest population biology and ecology with innovative management strategies to minimize their harm and maximize their benefits.

Weekly labs use a hands-on approach to demonstrate insect collecting and identification techniques, ecological concepts and management approaches, and use of reference materials. 

Invasive Species Biology (ENT/FOR/BIO 667). 3 credits; Fall semester, odd years. Two 90-minute lectures/discussions weekly.

This course examines circumstances that allow introduced organisms to become invasive, examines specific introductions (past and present) threatening our resources, and investigates current and future steps to reduce the incidence and impact of invasive species. The first portion of the semester is instructor-driven, and consists of lectures covering historical faunal realms prior to human intervention; economic and political forces that set the stage for invasions; biology and ecology of invaders and invasiveness; susceptibility to and risks of invasions; and consequences of invasion. We cover intentional and accidental invasions of various taxa, including arthropods, vertebrates, plants, pathogens, etc. In the second portion of the semester students research and present case studies covering invasive species impacting various ecosystems, from aquatic and forest systems, agroecosystems, threats to animal and human health, threats to biological diversity and ecosystem conservation. Our purpose is to develop insight into the biology and ecology of biological invasions so as to gain an understanding of current and emerging means of minimizing their impact.

For more information see the Rieske-Kinney lab web page.