Sometimes you'll see him sitting cross-legged on the floor, circled by first graders. They're asking questions like "What is an insect?" and "How long do insects live?" and "What do they eat?"
Sometimes you'll see him holding Madagascar hissing cockroaches and explaining why they hiss.
Other times he's engrossed in answering questions from a fellow scientist, a walk-in visitor or a journalist.
Very dedicated, committed and enthusiastic. That's Steve Heydon, senior museum scientist at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis.
That's why we're glad to see Heydon receive the top award in the general contributions category at the UC Davis Staff Assembly's Citation for Excellence awards ceremony, held Aug. 2 at the chancellor's residence.
Chancellor Linda Katehi presented him the award.
Heydon was among two other individuals and two teams singled out for distinguished awards. Their names will be engraved on a perpetual plaque at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors' Center.
Katehi praised them for their time, efforts and investments. “I’m so proud of you,” she told them. Rob Kerner, Staff Assembly president, read the accolades and described them as the “cream of the crop” of UC Davis employees.
“Steve is a true UC Davis goodwill ambassador in that he takes pride in the university, his department, his colleagues, and his work, which in itself, has drawn national and international acclaim, Kerner said, in announcing the award.
His colleagues, who nominated him for the award, lauded him for bringing out “the best in everyone” and as someone who “sincerely cares." They added: "In his collaborations with other universities and government agencies, he is known for his almost intuitive competency and his quick response to queries. In short, he is a prized employee, the best of the best.”
Anyone who knows Steve Heydon (who has a doctorate in entomology) knows that he is "always willing to drop what he’s doing to help out a scientist, reporter, staff member, volunteer or the public," his colleagues wrote. "Steve treats everyone with the utmost respect and understanding, an earmark of an outstanding UC Davis employee."
Steve Heydon joins other outstanding UC Davis employees as 2012 recipients of the distinguished awards.
Individual Award, Supervision: Kathy Canevari, a former supervisor with UC Davis Extension who retired earlier this year.
Individual Award: Campus Service: Paul Cody, coordinator of the Campus Union Center for Student Involvement.
Team Award: General Contributions: School of Veterinary Medicine Dean’s Office, Curricular Support, comprised of Mike Beech, Melinda Carlson, Robin Houston, Linda Royce, Erin Seay, Linda Souza, Teresa Suter, and Ken Taylor.
Team Award: Campus Service: Office of Student Development management team comprised of Catrina Wagner, Courtney Robinson, Richard Ronquillo, Chuck Huneke, and Lisa Papagni.
What's it all about? The Staff Assembly annually seeks nominees for these honors. UC Davis employees must have distinguished themselves in one or more of the three areas of outstanding achievement: general contributions, campus service or supervision.
Hats off to all the winners and nominees who make UC Davis proud!
These displays inform, educate and entertain.
The California State Fair, Sacramento, traditionally features an Insect Pavilion, which includes exotic and invasive species. This year's state fair also showcased UC Davis displays: insect specimens (and live ones, too) from the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
For the last several years, the Dixon May Fair's Floriculture Building has housed Bohart specimens and a Laidlaw bee observation hive.
The 63rd annual Solano County Fair, Vallejo, now under way, is also bee-and-bug friendly. If you head over to McCormack Hall, the first thing you see is a skep or dome-shaped bee hive. (Beekeepers in many parts of the world still use skeps, commonly made of twisted straw.)
The McCormack Hall skep symbolizes "Home, Sweet Home," the theme of the fair.
Last Sunday we watched McCormack Hall superintendent Elisa Seppa and assistant superintendent Gloria Gonzalez prepare the ceramic skep/bees/bears display (on loan from the California State Fair), as another Solano County Fair employee Deborah Miller lent her artistic touch to the exhibitor displays.
The fair, which opened Wednesday, Aug. 1 and continues through Sunday, Aug. 5, also includes a number of insect-themed work from exhibitors. This is sort of like BYOB (Bring Your Own Bug.)
Rachel Dalmas, 15, of Fairfield is exhibiting a close-up image (and a best-of-division winner) of a flameskimmer dragonfly. Desirae Rivas, 8, of the Travis Youth Center, painted a ladybug and titled it quite succinctly: "Lady Bug Painting." It won a blue ribbon.
Is there a (future) entomologist in the house?
The ESA Governing Board today announced the new fellows, who will be recognized Nov. 11, 2012 at the ESA’s annual meeting in Knoxville, Tenn.
Page, the vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, since July 2011, is a pioneer in the field of evolutionary genetics and the social behavior of honey bees.
Page did much of his research at UC Davis. He received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 1980, learning from his major professor Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (for whom the UC Davis bee research facility is named). He then joined The Ohio State University faculty before returning to UC Davis as a faculty member in 1989.
He chaired the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1999 to 2004.
Page, who studies the evolution of complex social behavior in honey bees, from genes to societies, left UC Davis in 2004 to be the founding director of the new School of Life Sciences. Arizona State University, where he built a Social Insect Research Group that is now recognized worldwide.
Page was trained as an entomologist, evolutionary population geneticist, classical animal breeder, and mechanistic behaviorist, according to a news release issued by the ESA. "This training has defined his research approach of looking at the genetics and evolution of complex social behavior. He has taken a vertical approach to understanding the mechanisms of honey bee social foraging and how it evolves."
His work is contained in more than 225 research articles. Page has also co-edited three books and authored or co-authored two. Page is a highly cited ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) author in plant and animal science. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German National Academy of Science, and the Brazilian Academy of Science. In 1995 he was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize by the government of Germany.
Although Page resides in Arizona, his research bees are UC Davis-based residents. Bee breeder-geneticist Michael “Kim” Fondrk, who worked with Page at Ohio State University, UC Davis and ASU, manages the specialized genetic stock, which today includes 90 hives.
Of the 90 hives, about 70 have instrumentally inseminated queens as part of their pollen-hoarding breeding research program.
Back in 2006, Page told us: "Davis is still home to me. I raised my family there, my closest friends and colleagues are still in the entomology department there. I still feel very strong attachments.”
Former department chair Robert Washino remembers him fondly. He recently recalled that "Rob chose to return to UC Davis in 1989 to be with his former major professor (Harry H. Laidlaw Jr.). He later cared for him and his wife, Ruth, in their declining years. We all remember Rob’s scholarly side and his humanitarian side.”
Page joins three other UC-affiliated entomologists in the ESA Fellows Class of 2012: Joseph Morse, professor of entomology at UC Riverside; Henry H. Hagedorn, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1970; and R. Michael Roe, who trained at the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1981 to 1984 as a National Institutes of Health fellow in cellular and molecular biology.
And interestingly enough, Page is following in the footsteps of Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., who himself was elected an ESA fellow in 1991.
With the addition of Page, the UC Davis Department of Entomology now has 16 fellows who are current or former faculty members. The first was Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), for whom the Bohart Museum of Entomology is named. He received the honor in 1947. Fifteen others followed: Donald McLean, elected in 1990; Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), 1991; John Edman, 1994; Robert Washino, 1996; Bruce Eldridge, 2001; William Reisen, 2003; Harry Kaya, 2007; Michael Parrella and Frank Zalom, 2008; Walter Leal, 2009; Bruce Hammock and Thomas Scott, 2010; James R. Carey and Diane Ullman, 2011, and now Robert E. Page Jr., 2012.
Walter Leal isn’t participating in the Olympics, but he medaled just the same.
It was not for athletic prowess, but for scholarly achievements—the scientific equivalent of an international gold medal.
Leal, a chemical ecologist and a professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is the recipient of the coveted Silver Medal, the highest award given by the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE).
A native of Brazil and educated in Brazil and Japan, Leal researches how insects detect smells and communicate within their species. He is “one of the foremost authorities on the integration of chemical ecology with the molecular, biochemical and physiological interactions among insects and between insects and plants,” said chemical ecologist Coby Schal, professor at North Carolina State University, who nominated him for the award.
Bruce Hammock, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, wrote a letter of support, praising Leal for “his outstanding career achievements and excellence in moving chemical ecology forward." Hammock described him as “a world-renowned chemical ecologist, a pioneer in the field of insect olfaction, and on the cutting edge of research.”
ICSE president Paulo H. G. Zarvin of the Federal University of Parana, Brazil announced the award July 26 at the 28th annual ISCE annual meeting, held in Lithuania. It will be presented at the ISCE’s 29th annual meeting, set Aug. 19-22, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.
Declaring Leal’s program, launched in 1990, as “one of the best in the world,” Schal lauded Leal as “one of the most energetic and collaborative scientists I know.”
“Chemical signaling is fundamental to all life forms, including microbes, plants and animals,” Schal said,” and chemical cues allow animals to appraise their environment; to detect food, toxins, prey, predators and pathogens; to identify kin; and to evaluate and base mate choice decisions of potential reproductive partners.”
“Walter’s research, in two decades, has addressed almost every aspect of chemical ecology,” Schal said. That includes “the semiochemistry of mites, thrips, scarabs, bugs, aphids, cockroaches, moths, wasps and plants.”
Leal, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 2000, has designed and synthesized complex pheromones from many insects, including scarab beetles, true bugs, longhorn beetles and the citrus leafminer. He identified the complex sex pheromone system of the naval orangeworm, a key agricultural pest responsible for multi-million crop damage annually in California. The sex pheromones he discovered are now being deployed in the agricultural field to disrupt chemical communication and control the navel orangeworm population through the environmentally friendly technique of mating disruption.
Leal and his lab discovered DEET’s mode of action, something that had puzzled and eluded scientists for half a century. Scientists long surmised that DEET, patented by the U.S. Army in 1946, works by masking the smell of the host, or jamming the insect’s senses, thus interfering with its ability to locate a host. Not so: in groundbreaking research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the Leal lab found that mosquitoes can indeed smell the chemical repellent but they dislike it so they avoid it.
Leal is one of only 23 scientists to receive the ISCE Silver Medal since its inception in 1986. Two other University of California scientists also won the award: Dave Wood of UC Berkeley in 2001 and Ring Cardé of UC Riverside in 2009.
The thing about predators and prey is that it's the nature of things.
Take spiders. The many different species have different methods of catching, killing, confining and eating their prey.
Have you ever seen an orbweaver snare a honey bee in its web and then wrap it in silk blankets? The spider injects the bee with poison, feasts on it and/or pulls the carcass out of sight for later consumption.
‘Most spiders have toothed chelicerae, which they use in combination with their movable fangs to mash their prey into a small unrecognizable mass,” write authors Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney in their book, Tracks and Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates: A Guide to North American Species (Stackpole Books).
"Prey killed by hunting spiders such as tarantulas and wolf spiders have no silk on them, whereas orbweavers swaddle their prey with a thick white layer of white silk," they point out. "Jumping spiders and others eating soft-bodied flies may leave only the wings behind."
Those orbweavers work fast. They indeed "swaddle their prey with a very thick layer of white silk," so thick, so strong and so sticky that there's no escape.
That's the nature of things.