A parasitologists’ love story

By Eric Leis, La Crosse Fish Health Center, USFWS Midwest Region

©USFWS

Dr. Becky Lasee, retired project leader of the Service’s La Crosse Fish Health Center, was recently honored by Eric Leis, a former student and colleague, with a new parasite named in her honor. Henneguya laseeae was discovered and characterized by researchers from La Crosse and Mississippi State University. While learning about the new parasite, a remarkable discovery was made. Nestled close to H. laseeae on the parasite’s family tree was Henneguya sutherlandi, named for Dr. Daniel Sutherland, Lasee’s late husband.

“I was overwhelmed when Eric told me the Henneguya parasites were closely aligned. The trained biologist in me would attribute this to coincidence, but the love, admiration and respect I have for my husband, Dan, led me to believe that it is more likely destiny.”

Dr. Lasee and Dr. Sutherland are known in the fish health community for sharing their love and enthusiasm for parasites with students and colleagues. Their top priority was to transfer knowledge and an understanding of the amazing biology that can be observed in parasites. Sutherland’s personable lecture style captivated the classroom, as did his knack for engaging students through humorous anecdotes. Lasee’s style for instructing others in the field of parasitology was one of absolute kindness and patience. The care she conveyed while working with her students on sometimes tedious tasks, such as using taxonomic keys to identify parasites, left a lasting impression with many.

“I couldn’t believe that these accomplished scientists would give me the time of day, but they both took the time to interview me for graduate school,” said former student and La Crosse fish biologist Jennifer Bailey. “They were so kind and so funny.”

The Henneguya parasites continue to fascinate scientists with intriguing infections and a truly amazing level of species diversity.

Dr. Lasee stood out for her knowledge and for the way that she made her students and employees feel appreciated. Out of deep respect, her former students and colleagues are proud she is immortalized with the naming of Henneguya laseeae, and pleased to find it so close to Henneguya sutherlandi.

In the world of humans and in the world of parasites, some things are meant to be.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is a Strategic Partner of TWS.