One recipient is a faculty member, one is a postdoctoral fellow, and another, a graduate student.
- Molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis School of Medicine's Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (and soon will transition to the University of Idaho), has been named the recipient of the Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology Award.
- Ant specialist Marek Borowiec, who received his doctorate in entomology in June 2016, studying with major professor Phil Ward, won the Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at Arizona State University, Tempe.
- Third-year graduate student Ralph Washington Jr., who studies with major professors Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and assistant professor Brian Johnson, won the Student Leadership Award.
The three will be among the 13 award recipients honored by PBESA,which encompasses 11 Western U.S. states, plus several U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Shirley Luckhart, who received her doctorate in entomology in 1995 from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, joined the UC Davis faculty in 2004 from Virginia Tech. Since 1997, the National Institutes of Health has continuously funded her research on host-parasite interactions in malaria.
Highly regarded expertise on molecular cell biology and biochemistry of malaria parasite transmission, she is a Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2014. She and her colleagues drew international acclaim when Time Magazine, in 2010, named their work on a “malaria-proof” or genetically engineered mosquito as one of the “Top 50 Inventions of the Year,” ranking it No. 1 in the health category.
While most of her work has been lab-based, Luckhart has worked with collaborators in Kenya for the past 20 years and on highly productive field- and lab-based collaborative projects in Mali, Cameroon, and Colombia. Her career includes principal investigator on large awards to both national and international teams and co-director of multiple National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grants. She currently serves on the NIH Vector Biology study section and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Biodefense and Emerging Infections Research Resources Repository (BEI Resources).
For the past five years, Luckhart has chaired the national BEI Vectors Focus Group, which works with NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases leadership to significantly expand vector and vector-borne pathogen resources globally.
At UC Davis, she served as interim co-director of the Center for Vector-borne Diseases from 2014-15 and chaired the graduate level Designated Emphasis in the Biology of Vector-borne Diseases from 2012 to earlier this year. She also directs a large collaborative insectary facility at UC Davis, providing support to vector-borne disease research programs in the School of Medicine, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Veterinary Medicine.
Luckhart has published 93 peer-reviewed articles, with more than 2500 citations, and five book chapters. Throughout her career, she has taught and mentored nine doctoral students, who have gone on to successful careers at the state, national or international level. In recognition of her work, she received mentoring awards from the UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research (2012) and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association (2016).
Luckhart will transition to the University of Idaho, effective May 15, as will her husband Edwin Lewis, associate dean for Agricultural Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They will expand their research programs and co-direct the new Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem, which will focus on how the impacts of land use, including agriculture, urbanization and deforestation, interact to impact transmission and control of disease agents of people, animals and plants.
Luckhart's primary appointment is in the Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences (PSES) in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and her secondary appointment is in the Department of Biological Sciences. Lewis' appointment is in PSES.
Marek Borowiec, who holds a master's degree in zoology from the University of Wroclaw, Poland, joined the Phil Ward lab in 2010, receiving training as a molecular phylogeneticist and computational biologist. Borowiec is now a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of evolutionary biologist/ant specialist Christian Rabeling, Arizona State University, where he studies the genomics of speciation and evolution of social parasitism in Formica ants.
One of the highlights of Borowiec's career: last year he won the coveted George C. Eickwort Student Research Award, sponsored by the North American Section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI-NAS).
“Marek is an astute and dedicated scientist, with an insightful mind, diverse interests, and trenchant drive,” wrote Phil Ward in the awards nominations packet. “Marek's Ph.D. research was motivated by a strong interest in the patterns and processes underlying the genesis of biological diversity. He explored this through a range of studies on ant systematics, phylogeny and biogeography. The principal focus was on the evolution of army ants—those charismatic and notorious creatures that have a profound ecological impact in many communities—and he showed decisively that the ‘army ant syndrome' evolved independently in the New World and Old World tropics, settling a long-standing controversy on this matter.
Borowiec has published more than 25 papers, many focusing on the phylogeny of army ants, relationships among “basal” lineages of ants, and a collaborative phylogenomic project on ants and their relatives.
Ralph Washington Jr.
Ralph Washington Jr., who received his bachelor of science degree in entomology at UC Davis in 2010, is known as an outstanding scholar and leader. He holds a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He has also previously received a Gates Millennium Scholarship, a Ronald E. McNair Graduate Fellowship, and a Monsanto Graduate Student Scholarship.
Washington is active in leadership roles on the UC Davis campus, UC systemwide, and in PBESA and the Entomological Society of America (ESA). He captained the UC Davis Linnaean Games team to several first place wins at the PBESA level and then led his team in winning the national championship in both 2015 and 2016. He was an integral part of the UC Davis Student Debate Team that won the ESA's 2014 national championship. In addition, he swept first place in the Natural History Trivia Competition at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Naturalists.
Washington's leadership activities include 2015-2016 co-chair of the UC Council of Student Body Presidents, and 2015-2016 Chair of the UC Davis Graduate Students' Association. He was named Graduate Student of the Year in 2015 and 2016 at the UC Davis Black Affirmation Awards. He is currently president of the University of California Student Association. He is active in social justice issues, including gender-based violence and misconduct, and institutional oppression.
Washington was one of nine people invited to speak at TEDxUCDavis Conference (Igniting X). "All human beings are born curious, but the wrong conditions can jeopardize that curiosity," he said, speaking on “Science, Poverty and the Human Imagination.”
“Many children in poverty grow up feeling a lack of control over their circumstances, and this severely inhibits their ability to imagine a reality other than their own,” said Washington, who grew up in an impoverished family. “Targeted science education starting from a young age can inspire and help struggling children."
Other 2017 PBESA award recipients to be honored at the PBESA meeting in Oregon:
- Pacific Branch C.W. Woodworth Award: Gerhard and Regine Gries, Simon Fraser University, Canada
- Award for Excellence in Teaching: Helen Spafford, University of Hawaii, Manoa
- Award for Excellence in Extension: Carol Black, Washington State University (WSU), Pullman
- Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: Elizabeth Beers, WSU
- Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Award: Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University, Corvallis
- Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: David Crowder, WSU
- Distinction in Student Mentoring: James Strange, USDA, Logan, Utah
- Excellence in Early Career: Sarah Woodard, UC Riverside
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award: Amelia Lindsey, UC Riverside
- Entomology Team Award: Lisa Neven, Wee Yee and Sunil Kumar, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins--for their project “Pest Risk Analyses for Temperate Fruit Flies in Exported Fruits Team”
It's good to see UC Davis mosquito researchers featured in the KQED's science program, "Deep Look."
KQED journalists recently traveled to the UC Davis campus to visit several mosquito labs. The end result: The KQED news article on “How Mosquitoes Use Six Needles to Suck Your Blood,” which includes an embedded video. The National Public Radio's health blog, “Shots,” includes a shorter version. You can also see the Deep Look video on YouTube (embedded below).
- Parasitologist and entomologist Shirley Luckhart, professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine's Department of Medical Microbiology and immunology and the Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro, professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (PMI), UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and an associate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology
- Virologist Lark Coffey of PMI
- UC Davis post-doctoral researcher Young-Moo Choo of the Leal's lab who discovered a receptor by dissecting mosquitoes' mouthparts and genetically testing them.
“Mosquitoes don't find the blood vessel randomly," Leal said, pointing out that the receptors respond to chemicals in the blood.
The receptor that the Leal lab discovered is called 4EP, and may lead to drug companies developing new mosquito repellents. “First they'd need to find a repellent against the receptors," Choo told Quirós. "Then they'd treat people's skin with it. When the mosquito tried to penetrate the skin, it would taste or smell something repulsive and fly away.”
But back to the video. The narrator reveals the sophisticated tools that the mosquito uses to draw your blood.
- A protective sheath retracts: inside are six needles, and two of them have sharp, tiny teeth
- The mosquito uses the sharp, toothed needles to saw through your skin
- Other needles hold the tissues apart while she works
- Receptors on the tip of one of her needles guide her to your blood vessel.
- She uses the same needle like a straw to sip your blood
- She uses another needle to spit chemicals into you so your blood will flow easily. That's what gives you the itchy, scratch-me-now welts.
Of course, it's the viruses or parasites that the mosquito transmits that can sicken and kill us. Depending on the species, they give us such diseases as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, Zika virus and elephantiasis.
As KQED says "This is the deadliest animal in the world. Mosquitoes kill hundreds of thousands of people each year...the most vulnerable people: children and pregnant women."
KQED performed an excellent public service in reporting and sharing this scientific information, gleaned from the UC Davis labs. The first day the video was posted, it drew nearly 400,000 views.
We worry about what mosquitoes do to us. If mosquitoes could talk--if they could communicate with us--they ought to be worried about what we're going to do to them.
(Access the American Mosquito Control Association website to learn the biology of mosquitoes.)
It shouldn't be, nor is it, at the University of California, Davis.
Medical entomologists and other scientists at UC Davis are planning a Malaria Awareness Day from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, April 25 in the Memorial Union.
The event will take place in MU II (second floor) and is free and open to the public.
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tell the alarming story.
"It is a leading cause of death and disease in many developing countries, where young children and pregnant women are the groups most affected," the CDC points out, citing these figures from the World Health Organization's World Malaria Report 2013 and the Global Malaria Action Plan:
- 3.4 billion people (half the world's population) live in areas at risk of malaria transmission in 106 countries and territories
- In 2012, malaria caused an estimated 207 million clinical episodes, and 627,000 deaths. An estimated 91% of deaths in 2010 were in the African Region.
The most vulnerable groups, CDC says, are young children, who have not yet developed partial immunity to malaria; pregnant woman, whose immunity is decreased by pregnancy, especially during the first and second pregnancies; and travelers or migrants coming from areas with little or no malaria transmission, who lack immunity.
Africa, according to CDC, is the most affected due to a combination of factors:
- A very efficient mosquito (Anopheles gambiae complex) is responsible for high transmission.
- The predominant parasite species is Plasmodium falciparum, which is the species that is most likely to cause severe malaria and death.
- Local weather conditions often allow transmission to occur year round.
- Scarce resources and socio-economic instability have hindered efficient malaria control activities.
The schedule for the UC Davis Malaria Awareness Day:
10 to 10:30 am.: Coffee/social/posters
10:30 to 10:50: "General Malaria Biology" by medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro, professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
10:50 to 11:20: Conducting Field Research in Rural Africa" by medical entomologist Anthony Cornel, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and based at the UC Kearney Agriculture and Research Center, Parlier
11:10 to 11:30: "Marlaria Parasites in the Mosquito" by molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor, UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and an adjunct professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology
11:30 to 11:50: "Mosquito-Borne Viral Diseases" by medical entomologist Chris Barker, assistant adjunct professor and assistant research scientist, UC Davis Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
11:50 to 12:10: "Disease Transmission by Non-Mosquito Vectors" by epidemiologist/veterinarian and disease ecologist Janet Foley, professor, UC Davis Department of Medicine and Epidemiology
12:10 to 1:30: A free lunch will be provided, but reservations must be made by April 21 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
No, not rhinos, cape buffaloes, hippos, lions, elephants, crocodiles or sharks.
It's an insect, the blood-sucking mosquito. Mosquitoes that transmit malaria, including Anopheles gambiae, kill more than people than any other animal on the planet.
"About 3.2 billion people--nearly half of the world's population--are at risk of malaria," according to the World Health Organization. "In 2015, there were roughly 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438,000 malaria deaths."
You'll learn more about mosquitoes and malaria, plus other pests and diseases, at the free public lecture on Thursday morning, April 7 in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visiotr Center, UC Davis.
Noted medical entomologist Matthew Thomas of Pennsylvania State University will speak on “Ecology and Control of Pests and Diseases: from Biblical Plaques to the Most Dangerous Animal on the Planet” at 10:45 a.m. in the Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) Hall. The talk is sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Storer Life Sciences Endowment of UC Davis.
At Penn State, Thomas serves as the Huck Scholar in Ecological Entomology and directs the Ecology Institute, in addition to his duties as a professor of entomology in the Department of Entomology and Centre for Infectious Disease Dynamics.
He will be introduced by Professor Shirley Luckhart of the UC Davis Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, coordinator of the event.
Thomas researches many aspects of the ecology and evolution of insect pests and diseases in his drive to understand the consequences of global change and to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of pest and disease management. His work involves predicting and understanding the impact of invasive species, and researching biodiversity and ecosystem health, plus many aspects of biological control.
Last December Thomas and his research team at Penn State, in collaboration with partners in Europe and Africa, received a five-year, $10.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate a new method for preventing the transmission of malaria.
“The method involves limiting mosquito access to houses by blocking openings and installing ‘eave tubes' that contain a unique type of insecticide-laced mosquito netting developed by Dutch partner In2Care that kills the insects as they attempt to enter,” according to a Penn State news release.
Thomas was quoted as saying: “Nearly half of the world's population is at risk of contracting malaria, and according to the most recent World Health Organization report, an estimated 438,000 people died from the disease in 2015. The use of insecticides to control mosquitoes has saved millions of lives, but this tactic is increasingly challenged because mosquitoes quickly evolve resistance to the very limited number of insecticides currently used in public health. The eave tube approach presents a novel strategy to help combat this challenge by simultaneously making houses more mosquito proof and providing a novel way of delivering insecticides, which creates opportunities for using a wider range of insecticidal products."
"The small amount of insecticide used in the tubes means that it is cheap to treat an entire house," said Thomas. "Furthermore, retreatment is easy, as it requires simple replacement of small pieces of netting within the tubes."
Internationally recognized, Thomas is a recipient of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) Medal for Research Achievement, is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and an honorary professor at the University of Witwsatersand, South Africa. He also received Penn State's Alex and Jessie Black Award for Research Excellence
Mosquitoes will take the spotlight, front line and center, this month.
On Wednesday, April 8, Regents Professor Michael Strand of the University of Georgia, Athens, and internationally recognized for his research on parasite-insect host interactions, will speak on "The Role of Microorganisms in Growth, Development and Reproduction of Mosquitoes” at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs.
Next the Pacific Branch of the Entomologist Society of America (PBESA) will honor medical entomologist Thomas W. Scott, distinguished professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, at its 99th annual conference, April 12-15, in C'ouer d'Alene, Idaho. He will receive the coveted C. W. Woodworth Award for his outstanding work on dengue, a mosquito-transmitted disease.
And then on Friday, April 24, UC Davis will co-host the fourth annual Bay Area World Malaria Day Symposium, set from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, April 24 on the Clark Kerr campus, UC Berkeley. UC Davis and Zagaya, a non-profit organization that envisions a malaria-free world, are partnering on the project.
Michael Strand Seminar April 8
Professor Strand's talk is much anticipated. "Mosquitoes are well recognized as the most important arthropod vectors of disease-causing pathogens," Strand says in his abstract. "Interest in the gut microbiota of mosquitoes has risen recently as a potential tool for manipulating vector competency. In contrast, much less is known about the role of this community in mosquito growth, development and reproduction. In this talk I will discuss recent results from our lab group regarding the composition of the gut microbiome in different mosquito species and insights we have gained about the function of this community in mosquito biology and evolution."
Strand focuses his research in the areas of parasite-host interactions, virology, immunity and development. Current projects center on virus-host interactions, function of the insect immune system, and regulation of reproduction in mosquitoes and other insects.
Strand will be introduced by molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology School of Medicine, and co-director of the UC Davis-based Center for Vector-borne Diseases (CVEC).
Talk will turn to dengue at the PBESA meeting in Co'eur d'Alene, Idaho. Professor Scott, who has researched mosquito-borne disease for 35 years and is retiring in June, is a global authority on the epidemiology of mosquito-borne disease, mosquito ecology, evolution of mosquito-virus interactions, and evaluation of novel products and strategies for mosquito control and disease prevention. Among the top vector biologists in the world, he is recognized as the leading expert in the ecology and epidemiology of dengue.
Scott is known for his holistic and comprehensive approach in finding solutions to protect the world's population from dengue, a disease that infects some 400 million per year. Some 4 billion people in 128 countries, more than half of the world's population, are at risk for dengue. Currently no vaccine or drug is effective against this life-threatening disease.
Scott's most significant research contributions concern the ecology and epidemiology of dengue:
- Blood feeding behavior, longevity, dispersal, and vector-virus interactions of the mosquito Aedes aegypti;
- Longitudinal cohort studies of spatial and temporal patterns in human dengue virus infection in Peru and Thailand; (dengue research in Peru, Thailand, Puerto Rico and Mexico for the past 25 years)
- Impact of human movement on mosquito contact rates and spatial dimensions of dengue virus transmission; and
- Mathematical and computer simulation modeling of mosquito population biology and mosquito-borne pathogen transmission.
Scott co-founded the Center for Vector-Borne Research (CVEC), comprised of researchers throughout the UC System. See more information on Scott.
Patrick Duffy, chief of the National Institutes of Health's Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology, will keynote the fourth annual Bay Area World Malaria Day Symposium, set Friday, April 24 on the Clark Kerr campus, UC Berkeley. The symposium, to take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be co-hosted by UC Davis and Zagaya.
Duffy is an internationally recognized expert in human malaria pathogenesis, malaria in pregnancy, and malaria vaccine development. He has published more than 100 papers on malaria over his nearly 25-year career.
UC Davis co-host Shirley Luckhart, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology School of Medicine, and co-director of the Center for Vector-borne Diseases, will be one of the speakers.
Meanwhile, take a look at the spectacular mosquito images taken by entomologist/photographer Jena Johnson of Athens, GA (she is married to Michael Strand). This is the Aedes aegypti mosquito blood-feeding on her.