For Robert Corrigan the moment was pivotal. Enchanted from childhood by the story of iconic oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Corrigan enrolled at the State University of New York at Farmingdale with one dream: to be the next Cousteau. That changed the day biology professor Austin Frishman was a substitute teacher. So riveting was that one class that Corrigan immediately switched majors to Frishman’s specialty — pest management.
Pest management on a par with oceanography? Metaphorically, yes — for pests inhabit unseen worlds of their own. Corrigan had stumbled into a vocation that’s earned him accolades wherever pests and people collide.
Now for his unparalleled integrity and expertise, Corrigan has earned an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) at Cornell University.
NYS IPM’s Matt Frye says Corrigan was pivotal to his own life. “Bobby inspired me to pursue pest management as a passion, not just a livelihood,” Frye says. “I’m not alone. If you’re in roomful of pest management pros when Bobby speaks, and you see light bulbs blinking on all over the place, you get a feel for the impact he has had — not just in New York, but around the world.”
Corrigan is best known for his work with rats, and it’s no wonder. “Bobby’s Rodent Academy is a golden experience, an epiphany of information,” says Gil Bloom, Director of Public Affairs at the New York Pest Management Association. “That he gives out his email to his students is a risky gambit few would take. But this is the man.”
On the surface, Corrigan’s approach is simplicity itself. Keep parks, building foundations, alleyways and streets (not to mention kitchens) clear of all dropped or discarded food scraps, and you’ll put a serious dent in how many rat complaints you get. Daunting, perhaps, but doable.
In his work with the New York City Department of Health, Corrigan took the time to really listen to people, says Caroline Bragdon, director of Neighborhood Interventions. “His greatest achievement was integrating the people management part. He was so graceful in sewing together the layers of our bureaucracy to create a working, science-based program.”
Now Corrigan, a founding member of the Scientific Coalition On Pest Exclusion (SCOPE 2020), brings decades of field experience and data to the cause. “Bobby’s breadth and depth of knowledge are key to crafting promising new ways to prevent pests from taking refuge in buildings and public places,” says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, chair of SCOPE and coordinator of Community IPM with the NYS IPM Program. “Once these methods are in place, we can say goodbye to chronic pest infestations.”
“Bobby is young to be a legend, but it’s true,” says Jennifer Grant, director of the NYS IPM Program. “From rats to roaches, he’s an expert at preventing, excluding and removing urban pests. He knows the community is key to success, so he involves everyone along the way—always the consummate teacher.”
Corrigan received his award at the Food Processing Sanitation and Pest Management Workshop on February 7 in Rochester, New York.