Extension expert elected to pesticide safety board

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Extension Service

A Mississippi State University Extension Service specialist has been elected to the executive board of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators.

Gene Merkl, program manager for pesticide safety education for the state of Mississippi, will serve as president-elect for the nationwide organization. His service on the board is a three-year commitment.

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Merkl’s duties as president-elect of the organization include serving as chair of the Issues and Evaluation Committee. The committee monitors and responds to legislative and regulatory issues and policies that affect the pesticide safety profession and its members.

Merkl is program manager for the pesticide safety education program through MSU Extension in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The program provides pesticide applicator recertification training quarterly in six locations around the state. His office also coordinates and produces training materials for private and commercial applicators and professional service license-holders in Mississippi.

Merkl also serves on the steering committee for the National Pesticide Safety Education Stakeholder Group and as outreach coordinator for National Pesticide Safety Education Month.

He is a member of the Mississippi Association of County Agricultural Agents, the steering committee for the National Stakeholder Team for Pesticide Safety Education, an affiliated member of the Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association, and an associate member of both the Mississippi Pest Control Association and the Mississippi Mosquito and Vector Control Association.

Before joining MSU, he was president of Southern Landscape Management for 22 years. He managed pesticide operations for more than 400 commercial properties in north and central Mississippi.

Earlier in his career, he was principal with SLA Studio Land Inc. in Houston, Texas, an international landscape architecture and planning firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles and Tokyo. As corporate director of construction administration with the company, he set and administered company-wide policies and procedures.

Merkl is a graduate of MSU with a bachelor’s in landscape architecture and a master’s in entomology. As a registered landscape architect, Merkl has more than 40 years of experience in design-build applications, construction administration, grounds maintenance management and technical specifications writing and production.

The American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators, with members in all 50 states and U.S. territories, provides education, outreach and research to benefit pest managers, policy makers and the public.