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Lifetime achievement award caps Extension scientist’s career

LONG BEACH, WA – The research and work life of a WSU Extension faculty member can be as diverse and unusual as the science they share with the world.

Patten holds a piece of paper with a bee and his name on it with another man, who presented the award.
Kim Patten, left, received a lifetime achievement award for his work on pollinators,

WSU Extension Pacific County director Kim Patten has a Ph.D. from WSU in horticulture, and has spent 30 years helping cranberry farmers and oyster harvesters at the Long Beach Research and Extension Unit. But he was just honored with a lifetime achievement award for his work with pollinators.

“Over the years, I’ve worn so many hats, and that’s an old hat,” said Patten of his work with pollinators which started in the early 1990s. “But it was so interesting and, at the time, pretty cutting edge. There weren’t many people working on pollinators at that time.”

Patten received the William P. Stephen Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pacific Northwest Pollinator Summit & Conference in February.

“I did work a lot with pollinators in the ‘90s,” Patten said. “Cranberries are always a challenging crop to be pollinated, so we looked at ways to improve the population of native bumble bees around cranberry farms.”

Patten, who retires from WSU on April 1, did not know he was getting the award; he was asked to speak at the conference about his pollinator work.

“I still think it was a case of mistaken identity,” Patten joked. “At the time, it was just another project that could be important to people. 25 years later, I look at it and realize we were doing some pretty cool science.”

Solving real-world problems is the biggest part of Patten’s job, something he thinks may be hard to give up in retirement. He’s still working on several projects that he assumes he’ll shepherd through until they’re complete.

“There is a real meaning to this job. It affects people’s lives and the community and environment around you,” Patten said. “And that challenge is so exciting to me. Not just the academic challenge, but the whole socio-economic impact and everything that goes with it.”

But he’s got goals that he really can’t do while working full-time for WSU. That includes through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, biking across Europe, and writing books. If it isn’t obvious, Kim Patten is an ambitious guy.

“I want to look for things outside of my comfort zone,” he said. “I’m so thankful for the opportunities and challenges provided by WSU and Extension. It has been so much more than just a faculty position, it’s been a wonderful journey that has had real impact and value for people in this state.”