But they did when UC Davis student Hannah Trumbull, a human development major and political science minor from Albany, Calif., delivered her address at the recent UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences commencement.
What's a nematode, you ask?
Short answer: worms. Longer answer? “Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms—they exist in almost every known environment on the plant, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue,” says UC Davis nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp, received her doctorate from UC Davis last December.
Enter Hannah Trumbull. Last winter she enrolled in a human development course on longevity taught by James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, and a recipient of national and international teaching recognitions.
What Trumbull had to say about worms, aka flatworms, at her commencement address stirred the crowd.
“Out of all the lessons I learned at Davis, the one I am thinking about today, that I come back to again and again, is that the best I can hope for in my life is to uphold the standard of a healthy flatworm,” Trumbull told her audience.
“I took a human development course on longevity with Professor Carey last winter and one day he lectured about how to characterize nematode health as an example of lifespan measures.”
"Here are the four stages of nematode health, in order from most to least healthy, and I hope you'll see why this struck me as profound.
- A Class A nematode is in constant motion.
- A Class B nematode only moves when prodded.
- A Class C nematode does not move even when prodded.
- A Class D nematode is a dead nematode.
"To reiterate: Constant motion, moving when prodded, not moving when prodded, death. In essence, all possible human responses to life can be boiled down to categorize us as degrees of healthy nematodes.
"Walking out of Haring Hall after Professor Carey's lecture, I stopped and bought a square of baklava from the Afghan Student Association bake sale and got handed about seventeen half-sheet flyers encouraging me to rush a service sorority, come to a disco dance-a-thon, volunteer at a honey bee festival and learn how to make my own shoes. I smiled at the man in all white who preaches on the quad with his dog and the guy who wears a kilt and plays celtic flute music. Young people threw frisbees, climbed trees, and played guitar, and I knew that if I went up to any of them I would be welcome to join in. This university is a massive petri dish with as many opportunities for motion as you have hours in your day. The difference between a Class B and a Class C nematode is whether we choose to respond.
"When a swastika was spray-painted near campus that year, those same community members were at my door with flowers and hugs checking in on me and asking how they could help. When the Davis mosque was attacked in a hate crime this year, I was immediately at their doors with all the support I could give. Communities set us into motion by propelling us outside of our own petri dishes and respond to the ways that other people are prodded. As a textbook Class A nematode once told me: 'the name of the game is do your best every single time and never stop.' The hard part, and the empowering part, is that from here on out the rules of the game are open to interpretation.
"Nematodes do not undergo somatic cell division, so they only ever have 159 cells. In contrast, millions of the cells in your body have divided, died, and been replaced since we entered this room today. How lucky are we to have the chance to recreate ourselves, in these constantly moving bodies? Entering this new stage of our lives, we must be cognizant of the threat of stillness. It is easy to become jaded and apathetic Class C nematodes who do not even move when prodded. Say yes to constant motion, take the hand of the opportunities for creation around you and in your future. College has taught me that hard work pays off, as does intelligence, but most of all it pays off to keep moving. To do your best every time. As we move into the next stage of our lives, I encourage each of you to take what you have learned in the course of your journey, and find how it can motivate necessary motion, widely, constantly and to the best of your ability. Thank you."
At UC Davis, Trumbull served as a board member of Challah for Hunger, program leader at the Multifaith Living Community, program staff at YMCA Youth and Government, and a recreation leader for the City of Davis. She lived at the Turtle House, a cooperative living house where she published magazines of student art and operated a “Taco Trike” that raised money for Planned Parenthood.
Career plans? Trumbull draws inspiration from her mother, a kindergarten teacher, to go into public education policy, and her father, a general contractor and small business owner, "to try to one day build an intentional living community." Next step: working at the Bay Area nonprofit Rising Sun.
As noted entomologist May Berenbaum pointed out, it's "a celebration of Earth's 100,000-plus animal species that, by transporting pollen and facilitating flower fertilization, make life possible for two-thirds of the world's flowering plants."
Berenbaum wrote an excellent pollinator piece posted yesterday on the National Academy of Sciences' Facebook page. It bears repeating.
Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a past president of the Entomological Society of America, related: "Not entirely coincidentally, 2017 is an anniversary for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—it's the tenth year since the publication of the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America report, a committee I chaired."
"My association with pollinator issues goes back to 2004, when, as Chair of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources, I was an outspoken advocate for a study to determine whether North America's pollinator species were declining, as appeared to be happening elsewhere in the world. The committee released its findings in October 2006, among the most striking of which was a decline in the numbers of commercial honey bees such that, were the trend to continue, the U.S. apiculture industry, on which producers of over 90 crops depend, 'would vanish by 2035.' In a remarkable confluence of events, that same month, the first reports of what was later dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) surfaced; bees literally began vanishing, abandoning depleted, doomed colonies. Concern in the agricultural community and then the general public escalated and has remained high ever since. So, sadly, have losses; although CCD itself has declined, in the past year America lost one-third of its commercial colonies."
"The 2007 report also concluded that, unlike honey bees, population data for thousands of America's native pollinators (including its 4,000 native bee species) were sorely lacking and called for increasing efforts to engage the public in documenting, mitigating, and reversing declines," Berenbaum noted. "Since then, many data gaps have been filled and conservation strategies implemented. In 2014, President Obama prioritized a national strategy to promote pollinator health, including public-private partnerships to restore pollinator habitat."
This year the rusty-patched bumblebee "became the first continental bee to be protected under the Endangered Species Act," Berenbaum wrote.
Let's hope there will be many others.
Background on the rusty-patched bumble bee: Among those credited with sounding the alarm was Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. It was a long, dedicated and challenging effort by many people who care. In 2010 Thorp co-authored a petition sent to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The petition was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. In 2015, agency officials agreed to consider it. In 2016, they proposed protection. Then on Jan. 10, 2017, the agency listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species.
Other key players in making this all happen included natural history photographer/filmmaker Clay Bolt and his friends at the Day's Edge Productions, which created the award-winning film, A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee with support from the Xerces Society and others. The result: nearly 200,000 persons signed a petition seeking endangered status for the bee.
Thorp, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide. continues to sound the alarm on the declining bumble bee population, especially Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini), found only in a five-county area of northern California and southern Oregon.
He's been monitoring the elusive bee since 1998, but sadly, hasn't seen it since Aug. 9, 2006 when he spotted it in a meadow near Mt. Ashland. (See Bug Squad)
Thorp helped place Franklin's bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). "Bombus franklini occurs only in the USA," IUCN relates. "It is found only from southern Oregon to northern California between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges, in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine and Siskiyou and Trinity counties in Oregon and California, respectively. This area is around 190 miles in the north-south direction (40º58' to 43º30'N latitude) and 70 miles from east to west (122º to 124ºW longitude)."
Franklin's bumble bee is named in 1921 for Henry J. Franklin, who monographed the bumble bees of North and South America in 1912-13. During its flight season, from mid-May through September, Franklin's bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet pea, horsemint and mountain penny royal. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies, and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
As the end of the 10th annual National Pollination Week nears, there is so much more to be done to understand, protect and celebrate our pollinators to ensure that they don't "end."
As May Berenbaum said: "A week hardly seems long enough for the celebration!"/span>
Take the nectar of the sticky monkeyflower, Mimulus auranticus.
UC Davis community ecologist Rachel Vannette and colleague Tadashi Fukami of Stanford University decided to examine microbial communities inhabiting the nectar of the sticky monkeyflower at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in California's Santa Cruz Mountains.
Their paper, "Dispersal Enchances Beta Diversity in Nectar Microbes," published in Ecology Letters, revealed that contrary to popular assumption, “increased dispersal among habitats can actually increase biodiversity rather than decrease it."
The flower, in the family Phrymacease, is a native shrub common in chaparral and coastal scrub habitats of California and Oregon. It is primarily pollinated by Anna's hummingbird. Other common pollinators include bumble bees, carpenter bees, and thrips.
Dispersal is considered a key driver of beta diversity, which is “the variation in species composition among local communities,” Vannette said.
They are the first to publish work showing that increased dispersal can increase biodiversity.
In their experiment, they reduced natural rates of dispersal by eliminating multiple modes of microbial dispersal. “Specifically we focused in nectar-inhabiting bacteria and yeasts that are dispersed among flowers by wind, insects and birds,” they said. “We imposed dispersal limitation on individual flowers and quantified microbial abundance, species composition and microbial effects on nectar chemistry.”
This work has direct implications for conservation of many organisms in addition to bacteria and yeast, suggesting that preserving routes of dispersal among habitat patches may be important in the maintenance of biodiversity. In contrast to previous work showing that dispersal can homogenize communities or make them more similar, the published work demonstrates that dispersal can in some cases generate communities that are more different from each other. The authors hypothesize that this could be driven by priority effects, where early arriving species change the species that can establish within that habitat.
More broadly, “Studying the role of microbes in the environment addresses one of the biggest mysteries in science,” Vannette says. In her current work, she and her lab are investigating how microbial communities form, change, and function in their interactions with insects and plants. They are also researching how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators.
Vannette, a former postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty as an assistant professor in 2015.
Vannette's research was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through the Life Sciences Research Fellowship. Stanford also funded the research through grants from the National Science Foundation, the Terman Fellowship, and the Department of Biology at Stanford University.
So, here I am, an Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) perched on a rose bush in Vacaville, Calif., as dawn breaks. I'm eating aphids and minding my own beetle business, which consists of gobbling aphids and more aphids. And more aphids. Did I say more aphids? More aphids.
Wait, what's that? Something is heading straight toward me, its wings are flapping like crazy. Hey, I was here first. Go away!
Whoa, what are you doing? You've landed and you're licking me. What do you think I am, a honey stick?
That's what happened during a backyard encounter with an Asian lady beetle and a large syrphid fly. The fly, identified by senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the Plant Pest Diagnostic Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture, is a female Scaeva pyrastri.
Hauser and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, agreed that the syrphid fly is "going after honeydew on the beetle's head." Honeydew is a sugary, sticky liquid that aphids secrete when they're feeding on plant juices.
"The beetle was full of honeydew from feasting on aphids," Hauser noted, "and that is what the fly was after."
Talk about pollen!
The bumble bees, Bombus vandykei (as identified by Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis), were buzzing all over the Phacelia last week on the central campus.
One bumble bee carried a heavy load of orange pollen (collected nearby), while another, a small load of blue pollen. They both wanted the same flower.
I'll have what you're having! Move, please.
Sorry. I'm not finished here.
She didn't move. Not then.
Both the bumble bee and the plant are natives.
The genus Phacelia, also known by its common name, phacelia, or scorpionweed or heliotrope, is native to North and South America. Its genus includes some 200 species.
VanDyke's Bumble Bee is found in the Pacific Coastal states, including Washington, Oregon and California. Bombus vandykei is one of about 250 described species of bumble bees worldwide. All belong to the genus, Bombus.
The vandykei males are extensively blond, but not the females. In fact, the females are often confused with the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii. (A distinguishing feature: on the vandykei, the yellow abdominal band is on T3 rather than T4.) See BugGuide.Net.
Want to know more about bumble bees and how to identify them? Be sure to pick up a copy of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press), co-authored by Thorp and fellow scientists Paul Williams, Leif Richardson and Sheila Colla. It won a 2015 Outstanding Reference Sources Award, Reference and User Services Association, American Library Association.
A really innovative touch to the Princeton University site is the buzz. Click on the link, http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10219.html, and you'll hear the buzz.
It's just like being in a Phacelia patch filled with bumble bees!