What do you get?
An epic battle during the 15th annual Bruce Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battle on the Briggs Hall lawn at the University of California, Davis.
Who won? It was not distinguished professor Bruce Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
It was undergraduate student Andrew Kisin of the lab of Aldrin Gomes, UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior.
Hammock, clutching three water balloons, didn't stand a chance as Kisin raced toward him with a container full of water. The rest is history. Drenched history.
The annual battle amounts to 15 minutes, or "15 Minutes of Aim." That's how long it takes for the some 40 participants to toss 2,000 water balloons. Currently 28 researchers--from the United Staes, China, France, Ukraine, Lebanon, Japan and Korea--work in the Hammock lab. They include postdoctoral scholars, researchers, graduate students, visiting scholars, visiting graduate students, visiting summer students, short-term visiting scholars and student interns.
Trained as a entomologist, chemist and toxicologist--and who now focuses his research on human health, Bruce Hammock is known for his work on using natural chemical mediators to control inflammation and intractable pain. He co-discovered the soluble epoxide hydrolase, and many of his more than 1100 publications and patents are on the P450 branch of the arachidonate cascade where the soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) degrades natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory compounds.
Kisin, a second-year UC Davis student from San Jose, just enrolled at UC Davis a week ago. Majoring in biological sciences, he joined the Gomes lab to study "the effects of drugs such as ibuprofin on organs and may also study how proteasomes contribute to aging."
The annual event is open to all UC Davis personnel and their families. They fill the balloons, toss them and clean up the remnants--and then look forward to next year's battle.
Odds are that you won't find many water warriors like Bruce Hammock, whose credentials rival noted academicians worldwide. A native of Little Rock, Ark., who holds a doctorate from UC Berkeley, Bruce joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980. He is the founding director (1987-present) of the UC Davis NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) Superfund Research Program and is a founding member (1990-present) of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has directed the UC Davis NIH/NIEHS Combined Analytical Laboratory for 25 years.
Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He is the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry. The Eicosanoid Research Foundation recently honored him for work on oxidized lipids.
But on one day in July--for 15 minutes--Bruce Hammock turns from academician to water warrior. And yes, he's excels at that, too! See what happened to his doctoral student Cindy McReynolds in one of the photos below.
They're featured in a recent Entomology Today blog, published by the Entomological Society of America (and written by yours truly) and headlined "Bugs and Beat."
Well, move over. Think about the three-cornered alfalfa hopper (Spissistilus festinus) and the male insect organ, the aedeagus.
A group of seven graduate students in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology performed such tunes as “E Major Homeboy (Spissistilus festinus),” “Tragedy (of the Clocks),” and “Jackson's Song (Aedeagal Bits),” as well as a cover song, “Island in the Sun” by Weezer. All are members of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association, headed by Brendon Boudinot, president.
Graduate student Michael Bollinger of the lab of Frank Zalom (a former president of the Entomological Society of America) composed the first three tunes.
The performance capped a day of insect-related activities that included maggot art, cockroach races, nematode identification, scavenger hunts, and honey tasting. Bugs rule!
- Molecular geneticist and drummer Yao “Fruit Fly” Cai of the Joanna Chiu lab dressed in a fruit fly costume (Drosophila melanogaster), which he described as “our favorite model organism in Insecta!”
- Bark beetle specialist and rhythm guitarist Jackson “Darth Beetle” Audley of the Steve Seybold lab portrayed an Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis).
- Honey bee researcher and bass guitarist Wei “Silverfish” Lin of the Brian Johnson lab wore a costume that celebrated his moniker (Lepisma saccharina), a small, wingless insect in the order Zygentoma.
- Ant specialist and keyboard artist Zachary “Leptanilla” Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab dressed as “a generic male leptanilline ant (Formicidae: Leptanillinae).” However, he noted “the yellow color is not anywhere near so vivid in real life.”
- Systematist and tenor saxophonist Jill “Jillus Saximus” Oberski of the Phil Ward lab dressed as a “generalized heteropteran,” which she described as “most likely a member of the family Acanthosomatidae (shield bug) or Pentatomidae (stink bug). My family and friends have called me Jillybug, so I came to be the band's representative of Hemiptera.”
- Molecular geneticist and vocalist Christine “The Clock” Tabuloc of the Joanna Chiu lab wrapped herself in butterfly wings.
- Ant specialist and bass guitarist Brendon “Hype Man-tis” Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab dressed in a green helmet, a blue and gold EGSA bee shirt, and a UC Davis cow costume to showcase his department and campus-wide love of bovines.
Drummer Yao Cai, who grew up in Southeast China and holds an undergraduate degree in plant protection and a master's degree from China Agricultural University, has been playing drums since age 17. “We formed as a short-lived band for a show. After that, I realized that I really wanted to keep playing and improved my drum techniques. Thus, we started another band in college and played for six years in college, as an undergrad and graduate student.
“It is very interesting that I was in a band that was the first band in Department of Entomology in China Agricultural University and now we started the first band in Department of Entomology at UC Davis,” Cai added.
Rhythm guitarist Jackson Audley said he “started learning to play the guitar when I was about 11 or 12-ish. The first band I joined was a Blink-182 cover band, in which I played the bass guitar, and we played together for most of eighth grade. Then in early high school I joined a Smashing Pumpkins/Radiohead cover band as the second guitarist. Shortly after joining that band, we started making predominantly original music. By the end of high school, we had played a few small shows around the Atlanta area and had recorded a few songs. Unfortunately, the band did not survive the transition into university and we broke up.”
Since then he's mostly played “for fun, and I like to jam with folks.”
Jill Oberski, a native of Twin Cities, grew up mostly in Chaska, “a sleepy suburb of Minnesota.” She received her bachelor's degree in Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she double-majored in biology and German studies.
“I started playing the piano in kindergarten and switched to saxophone in fifth grade,” Oberski related. “I played classical and jazz in my school bands from sixth grade through college and pit orchestra, pep band, and marching band in high school as well. I've always been better at classical than rock, jazz, or Latin.”
“I probably reached my highest point in late high school, when I served as co-section leader for the saxes in the Minnesota all-state symphonic band,” Oberski said. “We even got to play a concert in Minneapolis' orchestra hall. These days I'm only involved in the entomology band and some very casual ukulele playing.”
Brendon Boudinot, who received his bachelor's degree in entomology at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, performed on a metallic sky-blue bass and served as emcee. “I just love art,” said Boudinot, president of the UC Davis EGSA. “Music is a family thing for me in a number of different ways. Although I have played instruments alone or in groups for many years, nothing really clicked in me until I heard Michael and Yao play together. They shred.”
Vocalist Christine Anne Tabuloc, who grew up in the Los Angeles area and received her bachelor's degree from UC Davis in biochemistry and molecular biology, says she does not play an instrument. “I'm far less talented than everyone else in the group,” she quipped. “I've been singing for as long as I can remember. I've been writing lyrics since elementary school. However, I never got around to getting music written for them. I was in choir before and have had solos but that's pretty much it.”
Bass guitarist Wei Lin, who grew up in Xiamen, “a beautiful island in southern China,” received his bachelor's and master's degree at China Agricultural University, majoring in plant protection and entomology. “This was my first experience in a band. I just started to learn bass last year when this band was built.”
Following the four-set gig, Boudinot told the appreciative crowd, “That's all we know!”
Pending performances? “The band,” he said, “is on hiatus.”
(Editor's Note: Listen to a clips of their music on YouTube.)
If you've ever watched a mating pair of mantids and seen the male lose his head, or seen other insect mating rituals, then you ought to read entomologist Emily Bick's review of the play, An Entomologist's Love Story, which showing at the San Francisco Playhouse through June 23.
And see the play.
Emily Bick, a doctoral candidate in the Christian Nansen lab, University of California, Davis, recently attended a world premiere showing and penned a review published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in its Entomology Today.
Her review is drawing high praise. San Francisco Playhouse tweeted: “Quite possibly the coolest review we've ever received.”
Bick, who holds a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University and a master's degree from UC Davis, is a board-certified entomologist and a member of the 2016 UC Davis Linnaean Games Team that won the ESA national championship for expertise in answering questions about insects and entomologists. Bick also will compete in the 2018 national championships, scheduled in November in Vancouver, B.C., as a member of the UC Berkeley-UC Davis Linnaean Games Team.
In her review, Bick wrote that the play “shows that life imitates art and art imitates life, with insect mating rituals serving as a proxy for human dating behavior.”
“The well-known antagonistic insect mating behavior of bed bugs' traumatic insemination, praying mantids' sexual cannibalism, and honey bees' mating plugs are all accurately described and then used to represent adversarial (human) dating behavior. Fireflies' bioluminescence, meanwhile, is cast in a romantic light.”
“The play brims with entomological humor, from anthropomorphizing bed bugs to a running joke that sometimes volunteers actually make life harder for researchers,” Bick noted. “While the public will be entertained by the gross descriptions of entomological behavior (pun intended), only we insect scientists will know that the “Lou” the protagonists keep referring to is actually Dr. Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (and that, yes, he does keep a bed bug colony there). Or, for those of us who have been lucky enough to take a tour, you know the Museum's offices really are that difficult to get to.”
The production team consulted with entomologists at the American Museum of Natural History and the California Academy of Sciences.
“Overall, An Entomologist's Love Story,” Bick wrote, “juxtaposes a range of complex human dating behaviors with a humorous yet biologically accurate description of example insect species' mating behavior. From an entomologist's perspective, I highly recommend seeing An Entomologist's Love Story if you are or will be in the San Francisco area before June 23.”
Bick, who is delighted that Entomology Today published her piece, says she can now list “published theater critic” to her resume.
(Editor's Note: Bick will compete in the Linnaean Games National Championships with the UC Berkeley-UC Team team at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14 in Vancouver, B.C. The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team is captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a graduate student at UC Berkeley and a former graduate student at UC Davis. Other members are Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab. The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team won the Linnaean Games hosted in mid-June by the Pacific Branch, ESA. For a look at the kinds of questions asked, watch the 2016 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube.)
Which team--the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team or the Washington State University team--would win?
That was the white-knuckle scene at the Linnaean Games competition hosted by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) at its meeting June 10-13 in Reno. The Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
The teams score points by correctly answering random questions. Per the rules, they often try to answer the question before it is completed.
Was the answer Dutch scientist Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek? Or not?
After hearing a portion of the question, WSU rapidly--and incorrectly--buzzed in the answer, Leeuwenhoek.
It was actually Jan Swammerdam.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis Team emerged victorious. The team, captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a graduate student in public policy at UC Berkeley, (formerly a graduate student at UC Davis), included UC Davis doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab, and Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab.
“Davis vs WSU was the final game of the night,” related Boudinot. “This went into Sudden Death as the teams were tied 90-90 after several UC Davis interrupts reduced their point total. We came back from DOWN to tie at about 15th question, and the sudden death question was specifically selected to be challenging. The key details were ‘Dutch ... microscopist from the 17th century.' WSU buzzed in on the interrupt and stated 'Leeuwenhoek,' which was incorrect, leading to their elimination. The correct answer was Swammerdam."
The complete question: What Dutch scientist, a microscopist, was the first to observe and describe red blood cells? As part of his anatomical research, Swammerdam (1637-1680) "carried out experiments on muscle contraction," according to Wikipedia. "In 1658, he was the first to observe and describe red blood cells. He was one of the first people to use the microscope in dissections, and his techniques remained useful for hundreds of years."
What a close competition! Congratulations to both teams!
PBESA will sponsor the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team at the National Linnaean Games at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14, in Vancouver, Canada. Runner-up WSU (my alma mater!) also will compete.
Some of the questions asked at this year's PBESA Linnaean Games, as related by Ralph Washington Jr.:
Question: Name the fungal agent that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes white muscardine disease and is commercially packaged as a biological insecticide for the control of termites, whiteflies, and other insect pests?
Answer: Beauveria bassiana
Question: Name the process through which spiders use silk to fly and disperse.
Question: Where are you most likely to encounter a rheophilic insect?
Answer: In moving streams.
UC Davis has done well in the Linnaean Games over the years. It won national championships in both 2015 and 2016; Washington captained both teams. Boudinot was a member of both teams, and Bick, the 2016 team.
Think you can answer some of the questions?
- Watch the 2016 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
- Watch the 2015 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
The list of national champions over the last five years:
1st Place: Texas A&M
2nd Place: The Ohio State University
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Georgia
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: North Carolina State University
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: University of California- Riverside
2nd Place: Mississippi State University
The Pacific Branch of ESA is comprised of 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming), plus U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
As for the parent organization, ESA, it was funded in 1889 and is the largest organization in the world, serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its some 7000 members are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
Those catchy words headlined a recent notice of a congressional briefing.
What does coffee, wine and baseball bats have to do with integrated pest management (IPM), you ask?
Well, insects can wreak havoc on the coffee, wine and forestry industries. Consider these invasive species:
- the coffee berry borer, native to Africa, is a pest impacting the coffee industry
- the European grapevine moth, native to southern Italy, targets grapevines
- the emerald ash borer, native to Eastern Russia, Northern China, Japan, and Korea, is a forestry pest.
So there you have it: coffee, wine and baseball bats.
IPM specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a past president of the Entomological Society of America, played a key role in that U.S. Congressional briefing, held last month in the Rayburn House Office Building.
A newly authored bill by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Florida) seeks a broader expansion of AIPM and a broader invasive species policy. The bill, the Areawide Integrated Pest Management (AIPM) Act of 2018 (H.R. 5411), would amend the Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998 with respect to enabling competitive grants for certain areawide integrated pest management projects, and for other purposes.
Zalom moderated the panel and delivered a presentation on the history of AIPM and the need to manage some pests on an areawide basis. AIPM is particularly useful for sites that are not suitable for management on an individual basis, such as natural and urban areas or for public health pests. It is similar to IPM, Zalom said, in that its focus is on implementing systems-based strategies that utilize multiple tactics which emphasize prevention, avoidance, monitoring, and suppression using practices that are biologically-based and reduce risk to human health and the environment. However, its focus is on managing pest populations in all the habitats in which they occur. It involves multi-year strategic planning and organization, and it tends to utilize technologies that may be difficult or less effective when used on a limited scale.
First found in Napa County in 2009, the moth was eventually detected in nine California counties. A partnership that included the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), California Department of Food and Agriculture, County Agricultural Commissioner Offices, grape growers, and University of California Cooperative Extension Advisers and specialists implemented an applied research and public outreach and engagement program that ultimately resulted in the elimination of the insect from throughout these grape-growing areas. (For its work, the European Grapevine Moth Team, led by Lucia Varela, UC IPM advisor, won a Distinguished Service Team award in 2016 from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, and received an international award at this year's 9th International IPM Symposium.)
Note that Rep. Gabbard, in particular, wants to protect Hawaii's coffee industry from the recently introduced coffee berry borer, and Rep. Yoho, the U.S. citrus industry from the Asian citrus psyllid and the devastating bacterial disease that it vectors.
Partner host organizations included the ESA, Weed Science Society of America and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU).
Four panelists—Faith Oi of the University of Florida, Lee Van Wychen of the Weed Science Society of America, Paula Shrewsbury of the University of Maryland and Kelley Tilmon of Ohio State University--zeroed in on urban pests, aquatic pests, forestry pests, and agricultural pests, respectively, and the industry impacts.
- Oi elaborated on mosquitoes, including the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, a major public health issue.
- Van Wychen discussed the waterhyacinth, an aquatic pest in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and Everglades in Florida.
- Shrewsbury drew attention to the emerald ash borer, a pest in both urban and rural forests
- Tilmon covered the agricultural pest, the brown marmorated stink bug.
The panelists focused on various geographic topics to help Congressional offices from across the nation understand why AIPM is relevant to them and to support AIPM-related policies.
AIPM strategies not only offer important economic, health and environmental benefits, Zalom said, but the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 directs federal agencies to use IPM techniques in carrying out pest management activities.
Coffee, wine and baseball bats? The next time you're enjoying a ball game or sipping a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, think about the emerald ash borer, coffee berry borer and the European gravevine moth.
And the IPM specialists trying to protect us from invasive species...