A recent survey commissioned by the California Academy of Science showed that nearly half of the nation's adults believe that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time.
And entomology? Some college departments plan to change "entomology" to "insect science" because of the quizzical looks they receive at the very mention of "entomology."
Enter Judy Scotchmoor (photo above). She's a national award-winning science educator who helps classroom teachers and others understand the nature and processes of science--and the societal value. She taught math and science to middle-school students for 25 years before joining the University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley.
Scotchmoor, the museum's assistant director in charge of education and public outreach, will speak twice at UC Davis on Friday, Feb. 11. Both lectures are in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.
Her first talk, from 12:15 to 1 p.m., is on “Shifting the Paradigm in Our Teaching: Proving Dobzhansky Correct.” She will cover results from an award-winning National Science Foundation (NSF)-initiative on teaching evolution.
Her second talk, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., is titled “How Science Works: Investigating the Real Process of Science.” She will offer reasons and methods for an innovative way of communicating the scientific process.
Scotchmoor's primary role at the museum is using paleontology and technology as vehicles for improving science education in the classroom.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, plans to webcast the talks, said spokesperson Tabatha Yang (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If so, stay tuned on this site.
Meanwhile, the news stories that go viral, such as "the honey bee killer" with "five deadly stingers" leaving behind "a blood-stained battlefield," clearly show why we must tackle science illiteracy.
The "honey bee killer?" It's merely a pollinator, aka the European wool carder bee, which has existed for thousands of years with the honey bee in Europe and is now found throughout much of the United States. It was first detected in California (Sunnyvale) in 2007.
Bring on the asters.
When you visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, you'll see Donna Billick's six-foot-long bee sculpture, Miss Bee Haven, "nectaring" a ceramic purple dome aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).
Appropriately enough, planted next to the sculpture are the aster's cousins: purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). They're all from the same aster family (Asteraceae).
Ah, the aster family...When the purple coneflowers bloomed last summer and fall, they drew scores of honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees and carpenter bees in a blazing show of diversity.
Diversity is part of the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven's reason for being. It's intended to provide the Laidlaw honey bees with a year-around food source, raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and other pollinators, encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, and serve as a research site.
Want to visit what the pollinators are visiting? The haven, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, is open year-around, dawn to dusk, for self-guided tours. Admission is free.
There you can bee-hold Miss Bee Haven and the seasonal blooms.
Now, bring on the asters!
Roger Vargas is in the thick of fruit-fly research and he probably wishes those insects would thin out.
He's a research entomologist at the USDA-ARS Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii. For those who don't deal with acronyms, that's the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Vargas' key research interests include mass rearing, sterile insect technique, ecology, biological control, and area-wide integrated pest management (IPM) of fruit flies.
Vargas will be at the University of California, Davis, on Wednesday, Feb. 9 to speak on "Area-Wide Fruit Fly Programs against Fruit Flies in Hawaii, French Polynesia and California." His talk, sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and part of its winter seminar series, is set from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 1022 Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
The lecture will be webcast live at http://uc-d.na4.acrobat.com/ucsn1/ and then archived here. He plans to cover current area-wide management programs against Bactrocera fruit flies in Hawaii, French Polynesia, and California.
"Fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) are among the most economically important pests attacking soft fruits worldwide," Vargas says. "Bactrocera is a tephritid fly genus of at least 440 species distributed primarily in tropical Asia, the south Pacific, and Australia. However, these species have been spreading throughout the world at an alarming rate over the past 15 years.
"Oriental fruit fly (B. dorsalis) has become established and is spreading throughout French Polynesia.
"Carambola fruit fly (B. carambolae) is established and spreading throughout areas of South America.
"B. invadens, B. latifrons and melon fly (B. cucurbitae) are established and spreading in Africa.
"The peach fruit fly (B. zonata) is established and spreading in Africa and the Mediterranean region."
In fact, Vargas says, every year Bactrocera species are accidentally introduced from various parts of the world into California, requiring expensive treatment programs.
For an up-close and personal look at a fruit fly, check out the USDA-ARS photo of a Oriental fruit fly laying eggs in a papaya (below).
Coming soon...to a fruit near you...
Tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 2) marks the 125th annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pa., and you know what that means.
That's when a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow and predicts the weather.
If he sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter. No shadow? An early spring.
What's probably going to happen: Our buddy the pudgy Punxsutawney will pop out of his burrow only to encounter a...snowstorm. A bone-chilling, teeth-chattering snowstorm.
Maybe we ought to skip the groundhog mascot altogether and determine the weather by a honey bee at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
If a bee--we'll call her Harriet the Honey Bee--exits her hive and forages in the cape mallow (Anisodontea hypomandarum), spring is just around the corner. If she declines to leave the hive, then it's below 50 degrees and too cold for her to fly and too early for us to think about spring anyway.
There are no groundhogs in Davis, but if you separate the two words, "ground" and "hog," we have both. We have ground squirrels burrowing around the bee facility grounds, and we have hogs in the nearby UC Davis Hog Barn. In a way, our porcine pals are "ground" hogs because pigs don't fly despite what anyone says.
For the rules...if Harriet the Honey Bee exits the hive, visits the cape mallow and rolls in the pollen, we'll have an early spring.
If Harriet the Honey Bee exits the hive and stings a ground squirrel, well, ouch! They should be more like flying squirrels. Or flying pigs, which don't exist. Weather forecast: Dismal.
If Harriet the Honey Bee exits the hive and goes hamward bound, resulting in a hog going into four-squeal drive, that's not good. We may have to forget about weather predictions for awhile.
One thing we know for sure. Ol' pudgy Punxsutawney will exit his burrow tomorrow in snowy Punxsutawney. Our streamlined Harriet the Honey Bee will exit her hive in sunny Davis.
Folks in Pennsylvania are crazy about Punxsutawney, but frankly, we're just wild about Harriet.
Nothing but net? No, no net.
We have a winner in the 40th annual Cabbage White Butterfly Competition, sponsored by butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. Shapiro traditionally offers a pitcher of beer (or its equivalent) for the first cabbage white of the year collected in Yolo, Solano or Sacramento counties and delivered to the office of the Department of Evolution and Ecology, Storer Hall.
And the winner is...drum roll, please...Art Shapiro. Fact is, he's won the contest every year except for three.
And this year, he caught the prize-winner without a net.
Shapiro nabbed the first cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) of 2011 at 1:21 p.m. today (Monday, Jan. 31) in Suisun City, Solano County. Last year he caught the first one on Jan. 27 in West Sacramento.
Although Suisun City is his oldest sampling site, dating back to 1972, Shapiro does not recall ever finding the first-of-the-year cabbage white there before. Precisely because of that, Shapiro traveled to Suisun at midday Monday without a net.
He saw it, a male, at 1:09 p.m. And he had no net.
“It was taking nectar from flowers of field mustard (Brassica kaber) along a 6-foot-high fence facing the sun,” Shapiro said. “I tried twice to catch it by hand but failed, and it soared over the fence into someone's back yard.”
"But I knew it wasn't as warm on the other side, and there probably wasn't anything in bloom either. So I figured I'd just wait and see if it came back. It did--and I got it on my first try."
Asked how he could catch an active butterfly by hand, Shapiro smiled and said "Experience." A few years ago he caught a very rare all-black mutant of the orange sulphur butterfly the same way.
Shapiro (see his website, http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu) sponsors the annual contest to draw attention to Pieris rapae and its first flight. "I am doing long-term studies of butterfly life cycles and climate," he said. "Such studies are especially important to help us understand biological responses to climate change. The cabbage white is now emerging a week or so earlier on average than it did 30 years ago here."
Shapiro, who is in the field more than 200 days a year, enlists public involvement "because I have that much more confidence that I am tracking the actual seasonality of this common 'bug.'"
Following his find, Shapiro said he took his disappointed grad students out for beer at The Graduate, a local pub, after work. “I usually buy the first pitcher anyway,” he said.
Shapiro has lost only three times in 40 years--and all by his graduate students. Adam Porter found the first cabbage white in 1983; and Sherri Graves and Rick VanBuskirk each claimed the title in the late 1990s.
Interestingly, people contact him as late as June asking if they’ve won.
“No,” he tells them. “Too late.”