It will be like "old-home week" when Anurag Agrawal returns to the University of California, Davis, tomorrow (Jan. 18) to deliver a seminar on "Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Defenses."
Agrawal, who received his doctorate at UC Davis under major professor Rick Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology, and is now a professor of ecology at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., will give the presentation from 12:10 to 1 p.m., in 122 Briggs. Host is Andrew Merwin of the Michael Parrella lab.
"In order to address coevolutionary interactions between milkweeds and their root-feeding four-eyed beetles, I will present data on reciprocity, fitness tradeoffs, specialization and the genetics of adaptation," Agrawal said. "In addition to wonderful natural history, this work sheds light on long-standing theory about how antagonistic interactions proceed in ecological and evolutionary time."
Agrawal does research on plant-insect interactions, including aspects of herbivory, community ecology, phenotypic plasticity, chemical ecology and coevolution.
His research projects have included work on local biodiversity, ecology of invasive plants, the biology of Monarch butterflies, and the evolution of plant-defense strategies.
Agrawal, a native of Allentown, Penn., completed his undergraduate work in biology and his master’s degree in conservation biology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he became intrigued with plant-animal interactions.
He then headed out to California in 1994 to study with Karban, a noted expert on plant-animal interactions.
While at UC Davis, Agrawal received the 1999 Young Investigator Award, sponsored by the American Society of Naturalists. He went on to win the National Science Foundation’s 2004 Early Career Award and the Ecological Society of America’s 2006 George Mercer Award.
After receiving his doctorate from UC Davis, Agrawal accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Amsterdam before becoming an assistant professor of botany at the University of Toronto. He joined the Cornell faculty in 2004.
Among his honors: he won the sixth David Starr Jordan Prize for his innovative research involving plant-animal interactions. The international award, given approximately every three years, comes with a $20,000 prize and a commemorative medal.
In singling him out for the honor, the awards committee described Agrawal as “one of the foremost authorizes on the community and evolutionary ecology of species interactions.”
And tomorrow, Anurag Agrawal will be back on his "home turf" to talk about those interactions.
There's a waiting list for Susan Cobey's specialized bee classes at the University of California,Davis.
That says a lot about the demand for bee stock improvement and for Cobey's teachings.
Cobey, bee breeder-geneticist at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis and at Washington State University, draws researchers and beekeepers from all over the world to her workshops.
Her March and April classes on queen bee rearing and instrument insemination--advanced classes that promote stock improvement--are all filled, but the good news is that she's offering more classes in Washington state in June.
So, folks can get on the waiting list for the UC Davis spring classes and/or register for the Washington state summer classes.
Cobey is highly sought as a speaker. Her latest presentation--Jan. 7--was at the 43rd annual American Honey Producers’ Association Convention in Phoenix where she discussed “The Introduction of Honey Bee Germplasm and Re-Establishment of Apis Mellifera Caucasica.”
Last November, Cobey addressed the California State Beekeeping Association at its conference in Rohnert Park. Her topic, "How to Raise Queens." Last September she delivered the keynote address at the beekeeping symposium on Production of Live Material at the 42nd annual Apimondia International Beeekeeping Congress in Buenos Aires. Her topic: “Changes and Developments in the Queen and Package Bee Industry.”
Cobey, who has taught the specialized classes since the early 1980s, draws researchers and beekeepers from throughout the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rico, England, Egypt, France, Spain India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Venezuela, Columbia.
By invitation, she’s also taught several classes in the host countries of Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica Egypt, Jamaica, Mexico, Turkey and South Africa.
For more information on her classes, check the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
What do you think of when someone says "zombies?"
Students sitting inattentively in class? A souless body? Or a honey bee infested with parasitic flies?
A Zombie, according to Wikipedia, is a term used "to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means, such as witchcraft....Since the late 19th century, zombies have acquired notable popularity, especially in North American and European folklore. In modern times, the term 'zombie' has been applied to an undead race in horror fiction, largely largely drawn from George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.
Honey bees infested with parasitic flies are the latest organisms tabbed "zombies."
San Francisco State University researchers, in work published Jan. 3 in the Public Library of Science (PLoS One) journal, noted that when a parasitic phorid fly (Apocephalus borealis) infests honey bees, the bees fly around like zombies and cannot return to their hives.
Immediately, the paper received more than 10,000 hits.
Joseph DeRisi, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor and vice chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UC San Francisco, touched on pests and parasites of bees when he discussed his own research Jan. 9 at UC Davis.
"If you want to get 10,000 hits on your PLoS paper, use the word, zombie," DeRisi quipped, as the audience roared. When the laughter died down, he deadpanned: "I'm going to use in my next paper." (As of 7:30 p.m. today, Jan. 13, the accesss count soared to 32,443.)
When the parasitic fly lays its eggs in bees, this causes the bee to "night forage and travel to light," DeRisi said.
"This is a good high school experiment you can do at home," DeRisi said. "Find dead or dying bees beneath a light and place them in a jar and see what happens."
DeRisi added that "I do not believe that phorids are responsible for colony collapse disorder (CCD). It's not a major contributor."
"Although zombie bees are cool, they're not responsible for CCD."
DeRisi, a molecular biologist/biochemist and a 2004 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant (also known as "the genius award") designed and programmed a groundbreaking tool for finding (and fighting) viruses -- the ViroChip, a DNA microarray that test for the presence of all known viruses in one step.
Other bee experts share his views on that the parasitic fly is not a dominant factor in CCD. The parasitic fly also lays its eggs in bumble bees (which also could be described as "zombies."
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology believes that the bee's immune system is already depressed, and it's basically "easy pickings" for a fly searching to lay its eggs in an organism.
Perhaps the bees are already dead or dying when the flies find their hosts? Perhaps honey bees with healthy immune systems are not victims?
Could be. But the bees of interest now are zahm-bees!
If you let your bok choy go to seed, what a treat for the honey bees.
The mild unseasonable weather and blooming bok choy--perfect for foraging honey bees searching for food in January.
Mother Nature may fool them. Bok choy does not.
Bok choy (Brassica rapa chinensis), also known as Chinese cabbage, is a East Asian leafy vegetable. In Cantonese, bok choy means "white vegetable."
In bee language, it means "let's forage."
Check out the yellow pollen and the newness of the bees!
Can spring be far behind?
Kimsey, a UC Davis forensic entomologist, first became involved in the fly project in July 2007 when he received a call about the annoying flies from entomologist Bruce Badzik, integrated pest management coordinator with the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Complaints rose to a feverish pitch in late August, September and October. The flies seemed to land on people as if they were rotten meat. Kimsey witnessed the incessant “shoo-fly” behavior on the docks and encountered it on a personal basis.
While during research, Kimsey became known as "The Fly Man of Alcatraz." And, he became keenly interested in the history of The Rock, reading books and conversing with officials, former inmates, tour guides, and visitors.
One of the tour guides was a former Alcatraz inmate, Robert Luke, a convicted armed robber who did time on The Rock from 1954 to 1959. He was known as Alcatraz Inmate No. 1118AZ. "I was convicted of bank robbery with an automatic weapon and was sent to Alcatraz for attempted escape from Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas," said Luke, who now lives in Northern California and is a National Park Service volunteer on The Rock.
UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students met him, too.
"The students met Robert during their 2011 retreat to Alcatraz Island, and learned much of the intimate details of Alcatraz prison life and his extraordinary experiences as an inmate as he toured them around the main cell block," said Kimsey, who advises the UC Davis Entomology Club. "Robert and the students have remained in contact ever since."
The result: The Entomology Club and Entomology Graduate Students' Association asked Luke to give a talk on the UC Davis campus.
Luke will be on the UC Davis campus on Friday, Jan. 13 to talk to entomology undergraduates, graduate students and other interested persons about life on The Rock. His public presentation is from noon to 1 p.m. in 1002 Giedt Hall, located just north of Kemper Hall, in the UC Davis engineering/physical sciences district.
Luke, author of "Entombed in Alcatraz," will then head over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, to sign copies of his book from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. (Bring your own copy.)
Luke, now in his 80s, is a living resource on what Alcatraz was really like on The Rock.
And the annoying flies?
Kimsey identified the troubling fly as a “kelp fly” (Fucillia thinobia) or “cormorant fly” in the family Anthomyiidae. “But it’s not a kelp fly as such,” said Kimsey, who plans to publish his research in an entomological journal. “It has nothing to do with kelp. It lives in purge-soaked soil under dead cormorants found in rookeries all around the island. It does not exist in any other place.”
“Alcatraz,” Kimsey said, “is the perfect place to study this fly, with three species of cormorants utilizing the island, and this is the only breeding spot for Brandt’s and the pelagic cormorant in the San Francisco Bay Area.”