‘Science has lost a champion’: Academic community mourns murder of leading bug professor

The scientific community has been shaken by the recent murder of University of Georgia professor Marianne Shockley.

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Shockley, 43, worked in the Department of Entomology and was an ardent supporter of entomophagy, the human consumption of insects. She had become an international leader in that industry and an academic mentor for students in the field.

"Science has lost a champion," said Joseph Yoon, founder of Brooklyn Bugs, an organization that promotes entomophagy. Yoon participated in an insect ag conference that Shockley organized in Athens, Ga. last fall.

“She could talk to Ph.D.s and kindergartners to communicate and win over their interest and change their opinion,” Yoon said. “When talking about entomophagy, a new field in the Western world, Marianne — with her Southern charm and enthusiasm — was able to bring a whole new riff on how we might focus on sustainability for the future. She was one of the leaders of our industry.”

Officials have charged Marcus Lillard, a car salesman, in Shockley's death as the investigation continues.

The beloved professor was found dead on Mother’s Day at the home of a friend in a central Georgia, who killed himself a short time after Shockley’s death, police said. Lillard, her boyfriend, was also at the home. An autopsy revealed Shockley was strangled to death.

“We’re in shock. It’s so horrific,” said Ryan Goldin of Entomo Farms in Ontario, Canada.

As an insect breeder, Goldin is one of numerous insect farmers and food entrepreneurs who worked in Shockley’s circle.

"She was making a huge impact. Marianne gave the industry a lot of credibility. With FDA, the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency). Insects are a much newer phenomenon in North America. We look to experts like Marianne to help with food safety, the normalization of the edible insect industry. Marianne was a trailblazer and pioneer."

Besides her position as a professor of entomology, Shockley served as the director for the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture (NACIA).

Shockley described the organization as the “voices” for insect agriculture in our part of the world.

“If we want chefs to pick this up, we need to be the ones to educate them,” she said in an interview with the AJC last August.

Shockley had been involved in the bug ag movement professionally for more than a decade. Her contributions to her field extended beyond North America. Through her involvement with NACIA, she collaborated with international entomophagy groups, including the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed, Asia Food and Feed Insect Association and the Insect Protein Association of Australia.

Nancy Miorelli was one of Shockley’s earliest graduate students at UGA. After earning her master’s degree in entomology, Miorelli moved to Ecuador, where she has lived for the past three years, operating a tour company that educates visitors on that country’s insects.

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“She took me in when I was looking to quit grad school,” Miorelli said. “She gave me so many opportunities – to participate in course design, the freedom to grow as a teacher. She gave me the strength to go down this crazy path. I’m in Ecuador because of her. If you were within a 100-foot radius of her, you were excited that bugs were on this planet.”

Roswell resident Lindsay Lockery came to know Shockley through a youth bug camp that Shockley ran each summer on the UGA campus. The Lund Bug Camp is named for Lockery’s grandfather, Horace Lund, former head of the Department of Entomology at UGA. Lockery’s son and daughter, along with their cousins, participated for years.

“She really grew this little summer camp,” Lockery said. “The kids got to look at and talk (about) bugs. It was such a cool experience.”

Lockery described the camp's last day each year when the campers would have a party that featured cookies, brownies and other foods made with bugs. "She had a real passion," Lockery said. "She brought it to the next generation."

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