Explore BTI - Greenhouse at sunrise
Explore BTI
Learn about BTI's history, mission, and latest news.

Alan Renwick
 &emdash;  Professor Emeritus

Alan Renwick
Office/Lab: B1

Research Overview

Alan joined the Institute in 1960 as a research assistant, with a degree in chemistry from
Dundee, Scotland. While working in the laboratory of Robert G. Owens, he continued with
graduate study at City College in New York, where he received his MA in chemistry.
His strong interest in chemical aspects of biological interactions soon led him to join the
Institute’s research program in forest entomology. As a result, he received his Doctor of
Forestry degree from the University of Göttingen, Germany, and quickly became a
specialist in the chemistry of bark beetle pheromones. As a member of a very successful
research team, led by Pierre Vité, he was involved in the development of the basic
principles that are now used in the worldwide application of pheromones to control
bark beetles.

When the Institute moved from Yonkers to Ithaca, New York, in 1978, the Institute’s
Forest Biology Program was discontinued, and Dr. Renwick embarked on a new
research effort to study the factors involved in host selection behavior of crucifer
insects. This program resulted in many significant discoveries about the role of plant
chemistry in mediating oviposition and feeding by these insects. Dr. Renwick was soon
recognized as an authority on the oviposition behavior of lepidopterans and made a
significant contribution to the overall understanding of plant-insect relationships with
relevance to both agricultural and natural ecosystems.

Subsequent research of Dr. Renwick’s team provided key information linking plant
chemistry, insect behavior and sensory physiology to explain oviposition and feeding
patterns of adults and larvae of several butterflies. In addition to studies on pests of
brassica crops, Renwick’s team examined the chemical basis for recognition of host
plants by monarch butterflies and successfully identified the oviposition stimulants from
milkweed. Dr. Renwick’s later discovery, that sensitivity of lepidopterous larvae to
feeding inhibitors may be controlled by the action of dietary constituents, is likely to
have far-reaching consequences in the study of plant resistance to insects and related
aspects of plant-insect interactions. In addition, this unexpected revelation of acquired
sensitivity to phytochemicals has provided a base for biochemical studies to elucidate
mechanisms of habituation and addiction in animals, including humans.

Dr. Renwick has published over 140 research publications, including many book
chapters. His efforts have aimed to demonstrate the value of chemical ecology in the
improvement of crop plants and in expanding our knowledge of factors that determine
host ranges of phytophagous insects in both natural and agricultural settings. He retired
from BTI in 2004.