Difference Makers: Kim Kelley-Tunis


January 20, 2014

How did you turn your Purdue University degree in wildlife into your position as director of technical services for Rollins?

People tend to forget pest management is more than just insect management. My degree in wildlife science has been the perfect foundation for my role as a technical services director. The management of rodent and other vertebrate pests is also a big part of our industry. In some cases, vertebrate pests account for a larger percent of the pest management business. My educational background has given me a much broader view of how interconnected our human environment is with the plants, insects and animals within it.

What are your job responsibilities?

My primarily role is to support the efforts of pest professionals working every day in the field, whether it’s helping identify a specific insect or vertebrate pest, assisting in solving a specific problem, or identifying an alternative strategy for controlling a specific pest. I also work closely with manufacturers to identify and objectively evaluate the various products and equipment Rollins uses, to ensure their safety and effectiveness when used by our field personnel.

How long have you worked for the company?

I joined Orkin Pest Control in July 2009, as a division technical services manager, providing technical support for the Atlantic Division. In May 2012, I accepted the position of technical services director for its parent company, Rollins.

What has been your career path in this industry?

I began my career working as a student research assistant in Purdue’s Center for Urban and Industrial Research. Upon graduation, I transitioned into a full-time research assistant, gaining a greater understanding of the business through studies of the various control methods and techniques common in the industry at the time. I left Purdue and took a position with McCloud Services where I was able to expand my knowledge of the industry.

For what structural pest do you have the most respect, and why?

Ants are one of the most fascinating pests the industry deals with. The diversity among the various species — physically and behaviorally — is what makes them challenging to control. Ants have this incredible ability to adapt to their surroundings, overcome environmental challenges, and thrive as a community. There’s a lot we can learn by watching a colony of ants.

How do you define integrated pest management (IPM)?

IPM is a process using all your knowledge and tools to solve a pest management problem. It begins with a thorough inspection to identify the problem and all those factors contributing to the problem. From there, those issues and concerns identified during the inspection must be addressed, using all of the tools available. It might simply be a matter of habitat or behavioral modification, or it might involve various mechanical or chemical control strategies. However, the most important aspect of the process is the constant monitoring and follow-up, which is critical for the success of any process.

What do you see as being the primary obstacles facing the pest management industry?

The greatest obstacle the industry faces is the movement away from being data-driven and scientifically based. This is especially true of many newer products and services we are using. Coming from the university setting, I remember a time when the introduction of new products or equipment was accompanied by stacks of data and research from universities or independent laboratories. A product was only selected after a thorough review of the data and reports detailing the product’s effectiveness. Today, products and equipment are brought to market and sold with little more than a testimonial. For an industry that prides itself on using science and research as a basis for its treatment strategies, this trend is troubling.

Another obstacle is the change in consumer demographics — resulting in a shift in service expectations. The tolerance, or threshold, for pests of this younger consumer is different than their parents’ or grandparents’. They expect to live in an environment, indoors and out, completely free of pests. When a problem arises, it must solved immediately. This can be challenging, given the biology and behavior of some of the pests we manage.

Third, the Internet has also proven to be something of a challenge for the pest management industry. When you talk about younger consumers and their need for immediate results, the Internet plays a major role. Information, services and products are at your fingertips. The problem is the public lacks the knowledge to distinguish which of these sources are accurate or appropriate for their needs. Products and services are purchased online, every day, based on false or misleading information provided through the Internet. It tends to be a vicious cycle.

What are some of the industry’s greatest opportunities?

There are so many opportunities for this industry that narrowing it down to three is difficult. We live in an age of innovation, where new technological advancements are occurring every day. The industry has developed technologies that allow for us to see behind walls, beneath floors and in pipes, and to treat for pests without the use of chemicals — just to name a few. What’s next? It’s exciting to think of what might be behind the corner.

The availability of all this new technology is also helping increase the development of new services that more accurately meet the needs of the customer. The industry has learned over the years that pest management is more than just killing bugs. Customers are not only looking to the industry to provide services that prevent pest infestations, but also services that protect their homes and structures. With the advancement in new technologies, we now have those capabilities.

Lastly, the introduction of new and invasive pest species continues to increase the demand for new service offerings. In the last couple of years, pests like the brown marmorated stink bug, kudzu bug, tawny crazy ant, and European fire ant have changed the types of services we offer. But I also believe these introductions have helped us get back to the roots of our industry — carefully studying these new pests and learning about their biology and behavior in an effort to develop an effective pest management program.

At A Glance: Kim Kelley-Tunis

Title: Technical Services Director
Organization: Rollins
Years in pest management: 24
Industry mentors: There have been so many people who have acted as mentors throughout my career. As a student at Purdue, I was fortunate to have met and interacted with many industry greats that provided advice and encouragement as I began my career within the industry. Since then, I continue to view many within the industry as both peers and mentors. It’s amazing what you can learn from someone by just listening to what they say.

Top three industry achievements to date:

  • Presenter, 61st Purdue Pest Control Conference, 1997. This was my first presentation at the conference after spending so many years working as a student. It was my first opportunity to give back to the industry.
  • 40 under 40 Award, 2003
  • Technical Services Director for Rollins, 2012

Jerry Mix was editor/publisher of PMP until his retirement in 2004. Contact Mix, a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2005), at jnmix@aol.com

About the Author

PMP Editor-at-Large Jerry Mix can be reached at pmpeditor@northcoastmedia.net.

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