In her professional life, she's an entomologist, researcher, teacher, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.
In her private life, she's a wife and mother.
Her specialty: darkling beetles. You'll often find her at her "home away from home," the Bohart Museum of Entomology where she studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, Bohart Museum director and UC Davis professor of entomology.
Fran Keller is the designer and impetus behind the many Bohart Museum of Entomology posters and t-shirts. Posters include Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants. T-shirts spotlight dragonflies, butterflies and walking sticks. (Access them at the Bohart's online gift shop.)
Fran Keller also found time to author a children's book on the California dogface butterfly, with sales benefitting the Bohart Museum.
If you belong to the Entomological Society of America (ESA) or another entomological organization, you've probably seen her leading symposiums, presenting talks, and conferring with other scientists.
There's not much that she CAN'T do.
So, on Wednesday, Fran Keller will probably convince her audience that darkling beetles are more exciting than any other insect. After all, her enthusiasm is well known and led to her UC Davis honor as an outstanding teacher.
Keller's exit seminar, "Taxonomy of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Asidini," will be from 12:05 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 29 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, located on the corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Plans call for the seminar to be videotaped for later public viewing on UCTV.
“My research focuses on a very large genus which historically had 88 species and no modern species level work for several taxa for nearly 175 years,” Keller said. “Part of my research focuses on a group of flightless species restricted to the Sierra Transvolcanica or southern Transverse range in Mexico. Using biogeography, morphological analyses and the examination of over 10,500 specimens, I recognize 51 valid species of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836, with seven newly recognized subgenera, while 37 formerly recognized species are synonymized or newly combined."
“Certain Stenomorpha species occur in California vernal pools but are not listed as vernal pool species,” Keller said. She also will discuss the importance of taxonomy in conservation.
If time allows, Keller will discuss her other projects, working in the Bahamas and mentoring students, as well as her recent research on morphology and developmental patterns of gene expression.
Keller received her associate science degree in biology and chemistry, with highest honors, from Sacramento City College in 2001 and then transferred to UC Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in evolution and ecology (2004), and her master’s degree in entomology (2007).
She served as a teaching assistant for a number of courses at UC Davis and has also presented guest lectures, including “Insect Sex and Mating Systems” and “Insects and the Environment—Ecological Physiology.”
Among her many awards at UC Davis:
- Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, May 2008
- Division of Biological Sciences (DBS) Commencement Speaker, June 2004
- DBS Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement in Academics and Research in Evolution and Ecology, Spring 2004
- Outstanding Senior, 2004
- Undergraduate Research Conference, Oral Presentation, April 2004
- President’s Undergraduate Fellowship, Spring 2003
Her students applaud her teaching skills, her enthusiasm, and her care and concern. Said one student: "It's reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis that there are people like Fran who really care."
Tabatha Yang and her six-month-old son, Karoo, were sitting on their lawn last Sunday at their West Davis home, when she saw red. Literally.
One minute they were enjoying the springlike weather, and the next minute his head was covered with bright red dots. Looking closer, she spotted a tiny insect in his eye, which she quickly removed.
Then her legs began to welt and itch.
They had just encountered no-see-ums, tiny Valley Black Gnats that feed on blood.
“The adults are emerging in large numbers now and need blood so residents need to beware of grassy areas that cover alkaline clay soils,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor entomology at UC Davis. “These insects are ferocious biters. Even though they don't spread any diseases, they are sufficiently annoying to keep people indoors in some areas of California.”
The Bohart Museum is now fielding scores of calls and emails.
“These no-see-ums are smaller than fleas and have a supreme itch,” said Yang, Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator, who knew immediately what they were.
The biting gnats are particularly troublesome along the west side of the Sacramento Valley, including Davis and Woodland. “They're often in grassy areas, such as in parks and on golf courses on the west side of California's Central Valley,” Kimsey said. “When the soil begins to dry and cracks develop, the adults emerge.” The complete life cycle from egg to adult takes about two years.
The no-see-ums (Leptoconops torrens) belong to the family Ceratopogonidae and are about 1/16-inch long. They are so tiny they could pass through window screens, but they don't, Kimsey said. However, they can and do slip beneath loose clothing, unnoticed, to get a blood meal.
Like mosquitoes, only the female no-see-ums bite. The insects breed when the weather warms in the spring, usually in May and June, and they remain a pest for several weeks, Kimsey said. They need a blood meal to complete their reproductive cycle.
They also bite domestic and wild animals and birds.
The females inject saliva into the skin, which pools the blood just beneath the surface, resulting in a small red dot that becomes excruciatingly itchy. A single bite can welt into a one-or two-inch diameter spot, which lasts about two weeks.
Kimsey cautions people not to scratch the welts, as scratching makes the itchy bites last twice as long and can lead to infected sores.
To avoid being bitten, Kimsey recommends that you limit exposure by not sitting long in places where they are likely to occur, or where you've heard of problem areas. “Move quickly through the area.”
“Repellents,” she added, “aren't effective against these flies.”
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Saturday, May 11 is "Moth-ers Day" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
Moth-ers Day? Yes, moths have mothers, too!
The open house, free and open to the public, will take place at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
The focus is on moths, and moths of all sizes, shapes, colors and patterns will be displayed, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. Most moths are nocturnal--unlike butterflies which fly during the day.
(As an aside, moth lovers and citizen scientists will unite for National Moth Week, July 20-29. As the website says, "Moths offer endless options for study, education, photography and fun.")
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America.
Visitors can also discover the popular live insects in the "petting zoo": Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks.
The gift shop (yes, credit cards are accepted) includes t-shirts, jewelry, insect nets, posters and books, including the newly published children’s book, “The Story of the Dogface Butterfly,” written by UC Davis doctoral candidate Fran Keller and illustrated (watercolor and ink) by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. The 35-page book, geared toward kindergarteners through sixth graders, also includes photos by naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart.
The book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice), Keller said. Bauer’s illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly and the children who helped designate it as the California state insect. Net proceeds from the book sales go directly to the education, outreach and research programs of the Bohart Museum. In addition, the book can be ordered online at http://www.bohartmuseum.com/the-story-of-the-dogface-butterfly.html.
Bohart officials schedule weekend open houses throughout the academic year so that families and others who cannot visit the insect museum on weekdays can do so on the weekends. The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The insect museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The last open house of the academic year is from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, June 9. The theme: "How to Find Insects."
For further information on Moth-ers Day, contact Yang at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
Congrats to “The Bee Team” at the University of California, Davis.
The one-of-a-kind team, comprised of five Department of Entomology faculty members, received the coveted team award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), for their collaborative work specializing in honey bees, wild bees and pollination issues through research, education and outreach.
Their service to UC Davis spans 116 years.
The “Bee Team” is comprised of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen; systematist/hymenopterist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology who coordinated the development and installation of a landmark bee friendly garden; and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology; pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology who specializes in pollination and bee biology; and biologist/apiculturist Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology who specializes in bee communication, bee behavior and bee health.
PBESA represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Thorp, who retired from the university in 1994, continues to work full-time on behalf of the bees, and has tallied 49 years of service to UC Davis. Mussen, who will retire in June of 2014, has provided 37 years of service; Kimsey, 24; Williams, 4 and Johnson, 2.
“The collaborative team exceptionally serves the university, the state, the nation, and indeed the world, in research, education and public service,” wrote nominator Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. “The Bee Team is really the ‘A’ team; no other university in the country has this one-of-a-kind expertise about managed bees, wild bees, pollination, bee health, bee identification, and bee preservation. Honey bee health is especially crucial. Since 2006 when the colony collapse disorder surfaced, we as a nation have been losing one-third of our bees annually. Some beekeepers are reporting 50 to 100 percent winter losses. The importance of bees cannot be underestimated: one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees.”
Among those lending support to The Bee Team through letters were the Mary Delany, interim chair of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; AnnMaria "Ria" de Grassi, director of federal policy, California Farm Bureau Federation; Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. and the Almond Board of California Task Force Liaison; and Mace Vaughn, pollinator conservation program director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Sometimes we divide insects into "the biggest and the baddest."
Such will be the case Sunday, Jan. 13 when the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, hosts an open house from 1 to 4 p.m., in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building.
The theme: "Extreme Insects!" That's with an exclamation point because these insects are indeed extreme, meaning quite out of the ordinary.
The event is free and open to the public.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis professor of entomology, says "the biggest and the baddest" include:
- Greatest wingspan – the white witch moth from Central America (11 inches)
- Heaviest beetle – the African goliath beetle (2 ounces, and fist-sized)
- Loudest insect – the American cicada (108 decibels, as loud as a power saw or rock concert)
- Fastest flier – horseflies (more than 80 miles per hour)
- Most painful sting – the tarantula hawk wasp
- Deadliest insect – the house fly for vectoring more than 250 different human pathogens
- Fastest runner – the tiger beetle at 5 miles per hour
- Deadliest insect – the harvester ant, sting 3 times as toxic as honey bee venom
- Most beautiful moth – the moon moths and rainbow moths
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect collection in North America. It is also the home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
Bohart officials schedule weekend open houses throughout the academic year so that families and others who cannot attend on the weekdays can do so on the weekends. The Bohart’s regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The insect museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
The Bohart Museum also includes a gift shop where visitors can purchase t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, insect nets, books and jewelry. A live "petting zoo" features Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
The Academic Surge building is located on Crocker Avenue, formerly California Drive.
The remainder of the open houses for the 2012-2013 academic year are:
Saturday, Feb. 2, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "Biodiversity Museum Day"
Sunday, March 24, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "Aquatic Insects"
Saturday, April 20: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Theme: UC Davis Picnic Day
Saturday, May 11, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "Moth-er's Day"
Sunday, June 9, 1 to 4 p.m.
Theme: "How to Find Insects"
For further information, contact Lynn Kimsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or senior museum scientist Steve Heydon at email@example.com. The Bohart phone number: (530) 752-0493.