That these students were, even after a four-hour, 226-mile bus trip from Tulare County to Yolo County.
Destination: the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, campus.
The 11 students, all children of California migrant workers, filed into the Bohart Museum to learn about the diversity of insects, and polish their journalism skills by participating in a press conference.
And then something unexpected happened.
It occurred after they learned about the museum's global collection of nearly 8 million specimens--from pollinators to pests to parasites. It occurred after they went eye-to-eye with the critters in the live petting zoo, holding walking sticks and touching a tarantula named Coco McFluffin. It occurred after they quizzed Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, at their press conference.
The unexpected: On the way home, most said they wanted to become entomologists.
And most said they wanted to study at UC Davis.
At the Bohart Museum, Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, opened drawer-after-drawer of specimens, introducing them to the beauty of the butterflies, from the large blue Morpho to the iconic monarch. The students marveled at the diversity of insects, from orchid bees to rhinoceros beetles. "You can become an entomologist," Yang told them, "and collect insects and find new species."
Then, the visitors switched from budding entomologists to budding journalists. Wearing press badges and carrying yellow notepads (jotted with "who, what, when, where"), they quizzed Kimsey on her occupation, the Bohart Museum collections, and her childhood.
They sat on the floor, circling her, and politely raised their hands to ask questions.
“Yes?” she said. “Go ahead.”
.”How long have you here at UC Davis?
“I've been on the faculty for 28 years,” Kimsey told them. “I got my bachelor's degree here in 1976 and then went on to get my doctorate in 1979. That was a long time ago. It makes me feel old.”
What do you like best about your job?
“I like insects and I like being with people.”
What do you study?
How many specimens are there at the Bohart Museum?
“We have nearly eight million specimens and they're from all over the world. Scientists come here to study them. We also have open houses during the academic year and the museum is open Monday through Thursday for visitors.”
How many live insects do you have at the Bohart?
“We have 200 to 300 in our petting zoo. We have Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Some of the tarantulas get grumpy like people do. And when you see them, there are three illegal words you're not allowed to say here at the Bohart Museum: yuck, eww and gross.
Have you ever been stung by a bee?
“Yes, but it just hurts for a little while, but some people are allergic to them and get very sick. Honey bees sting when they're guarding their hive, their home. It's a defensive measure.”
“When I was five, my parents gave me an insect net.”
Do you have a sister and does she like bugs?
“Yes, I have a sister but she's never liked bugs. She likes horses and now raises horses.”
Have you ever eaten a bug?
“When I was little I used to eat bugs and my sister ate an earthworm or maybe it was the other way around. I was two years old and have no memory of that.”
What do you think is the most beautiful insect?
“The Western yellow tiger swallowtail is big, yellow and pretty.”
Kimsey said her major professor, Richard M Bohart, for whom the museum is named, influenced her to study bees and wasps. She said she enjoys collecting insects throughout the world.
As she spoke, the students--all staffers for the Migrant Voice newspaper--jotted down her comments.
Preparation played a key role in their visit to the Bohart Museum. Before embarking on their trip, the youths studied insects as well as journalism techniques, said Gloria Davalos, area administrator of the Migrant Education Program, Tulare County Office of Education. “I have four school districts in Tulare County that participate in journalism: Tulare City, Tipton, Pixley and Earlimart. “Of these schools Tulare City attended the study trip to UC Davis. In Tulare City we have Roosevelt School, Pleasant School, Heritage School, and Maple School.”
How did they prepare for the press conference? “The students participated in an extended day journalism curriculum that taught them what a newspaper entailed, the different parts of a newspaper parts of an article--hook, lead sentence, details, and conclusion--how to conduct an interview, how to create meaningful questions for an interview utilizing the five W's--who, what, when, where, and why.”
“We loved our Bohart Museum experience,” Davalos said. “It was fascinating to think of insects in a different light and to expose our migrant students to a realistic career in something that is common in all parts of the world."
Kimsey smiled when she told the 11 students the "one" visitor rule: No saying "yecch" or "ick" or "gross" when you meet the petting zoo residents, including the Madagascar hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, and walking sticks. They quickly obliged, apprehensive looks quickly flashing into approving smiles. "Cool!" "Neat!" "Can I hold it?"
"The bugs weren't as scary as they looked,” Davalos said.
The mission of the Migrant Education Program, she said, is “to create a college-going culture empowering the child and family, through advocacy, education, and collaboration of resources, to reach their highest potential."
When the students departed the Bohart Museum, they thanked the scientists, who encouraged them to return and "not be strangers." The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is open to the public Monday through Thursday.
“We appreciate the time and opportunity spent with our migrant students and the wealth of knowledge they brought back,” Davalos said.
The students published their stories in "The Migrant Voice," part of the Tulare County Office of Education:
Some of the excerpts:
- "While at UC Davis, I asked Professor Lynn Kimsey who influenced her to get the job as an entomologist. She said 'Richard M. Bohart'; he was her teacher at UC Davis when she was then a student. She likes it that she gets to learn new things and travels a lot. Professor Kimsey has discovered new bugs."
- "The entomology museum is a great place to see new species of bugs....a professor showed us a container of unknown bugs from all over the world. Next, we opened a storage room that was organized like a library and we saw walls filled close to the ceiling with cases of beautiful and exotic dead butterflies...our journalism team learned that the entomologists not only get to find new species of bugs, but have the remarkable job of naming them. Before our journalism team went on our trip to UC Davis, I was grossed out and anxious about seeing and touching bugs. However, after visiting Davis' awesome entomology museum, I was thrilled that we had the opportunity to see and learn about exotic new species of bugs."
- "We went to college and learned about crazy bugs...We interviewed Professor Kimsey; she is an entomologist. An entomologist studies bugs. She told us her parents gave her a bug net when she was young. Professor Kimsey and her sister even ate a bug. One of her favorite bugs is the wasp. She has traveled to other countries and likes to learn new things. There are a lot of butterflies around the world. Some of the butterflies looked like they had eyes on them."
- "Professor Kimsey takes care of the bugs; she is also a teacher there. We interviewed her and she said that she has loved insects since she was five years old! She enjoys catching them and has been doing that since her parents gave her a bug net when she was little."
- "Do you know what a walking stick is? We do! A walking stick is an insect. It looks like a real stick. This is so other animals can't see it....we were even allowed to touch the walking stick. Their feet felt sticky...Bugs are fun to learn about and some can be helpful to people."
The students headlined their stories: "Beautiful UC Davis," "One Amazing Study Trip," "The Day We Went to UC Davis, "My Dreams, UC Davis!" and "Butterflies Everywhere!"
One wrote: "Now you know what college I went to visit. You should consider going there, too! I hope I go to UC Davis when I go to college. That is my dream."
In newly published research in Ecology Letters, "Dispersal Enchances Beta Diversity in Nectar Microbes," Vannette and colleague Tadashi Fukami of Stanford University's Department of Biology, examined microbial communities inhabiting the nectar of the sticky monkeyflower, Mimulus auranticus, at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in California's Santa Cruz Mountains.
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.
Why focus on nectar-inhabiting microbes? Previous work by Vannette and others shows that microbial activity in nectar can alter nectar chemistry and influence plant-pollinator interactions by altering nectar chemistry. In the Ecology Letters study, microbes were also found to change nectar chemistry, explaining ~50% of the variation in sugar composition in the field. This suggests that nectar-inhabiting bacteria and yeast can influence the nectar rewards available to pollinators in a natural setting.
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.
Diane Ullman's Entomology 1 class has scheduled a Student Art Showcase of ceramics, glass and paintings at a public reception from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, June 8 in the UC Davis Environmental Horticulture Courtyard.
The event, celebrating the work of the students, is free and open to the public.
Diane Ullman is a professor of entomology, an artist, and the co-founder and co-director of UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. She is the former associate dean for undergraduate academic programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Ullman received the Entomological Society of America's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014.
Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Steve Elliott, communication coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, both affiliated with the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, will receive the awards at the annual ACE conference, set June 13-16 in New Orleans.
Judges awarded Kathy Keatley Garvey:
- A silver award (second place) for a photo series entitled the "Predator and the Pest: What's for Dinner?" on her Bug Squad post on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website on Oct. 3, 2016. Her series showed a praying mantis eating a cabbage white butterfly. Judges commented" "Definitely tell a story, interesting angles and good macro technique. Caught in the moment, but has a still life feel to it, like it's a diorama in a museum and we get to look at the scene from all sides. A unique look and good capture. "
- A bronze award (third place) for her feature photo, "Save the Monarchs," posted Aug. 8, 2016 on her Bug Squad blog. It showed a monarch clinging to a finger. Judges commented "The detail in this photo is incredible. The lighting on the hand against the black background is definitely striking. And it makes the white spots on the monarch pop! Beautiful!"
- A bronze award (third place) for blog writing on her Bug Squad blog posted Sept. 6 and entitled "A WSU-Tagged Monarch: What a Traveler!" Judges wrote: "Short and sweet and to the point. Perfect for web reading. The photo is so helpful to the reader. The call to action at the end is a plus and not something I've seen on other entries. Fabulous use of social media to extend the reach of the article, too. "
Judges awarded Steve Elliott:
- A gold (first place) award for promotional writing for his story, "Safflower Makes an Areawide IPM Program Work. published in the newsletter, Western Front. Judges scored his work 100 out of a possible 100. They wrote: "You had me at Rodney Dangerfield. Very creative, the lead drew me right in wanting to read more. Excellent flow, packed with information in a narrative style. Congratulations on the terrific analytics for the newsletter."
- A bronze (third place) for his photo essay, "Loving the Land of Enchantment." Judges wrote: " Good variety of shot sizes which keeps it interesting. Diversity of stories along with photo content is engaging, and sticking to the IPM theme helps. There is so too much text info that it was difficult wade through. The words compliment the photos instead of the usual where the story supersedes the photos."
They also won ACE awards last year: Garvey, a gold, two silvers and a bronze, and Elliott, a silver.
The Western Integrated Pest Management Center is funded by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to promote the development, adoption and evaluation of integrated pest management, a safer way to manage pests. The Western IPM Center works to create a healthier West with fewer pests. It is located in the UC ANR Building in Davis.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, headquartered in Briggs Hall, is affiliated with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). The department is globally ranked No. 7 in the world.
The poster competition, open to graduate students throughout the country, drew 14 posters that focused on bees and/or pollination. It is a traditional part of the symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The event took place in the UC Davis Conference Center.
Brand, who joined the Ramirez lab in 2013, received his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Dusseldorf, Germany, and then went on to pursue his master's degree there, studying the evolutionary history and the patterns of selection of olfactory receptor genes in a pair of sister lineages of euglossine bees.
"Pheromone communication has long been known to play a central role in the origin and evolution of species diversity throughout the tree of life," he wrote in the introduction on his poster. "What are the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms that control pheromone variation and signal detection?"
Other winners were:
- Second place, $750; Jacob Peters, Harvard University, “Self-Organization of Collective Nest Ventilation by Honey Bees”
- Third place, $500; John Mola, UC Davis, “Fire Induced Change in Flowering Phenology Benefits Bumble Bees"
- Fourth place, $250; Devon Picklum, University of Nevada, Reno, “Floral Visitation and pollen Deposition Bombus- Pollinated Dodecatheon Apinum and Pedicularis Groenlandica in the Sierra Nevada”
Judges were Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology; and two symposium speakers, keynote speaker Steve Sheppard, Thurber Professor of Entomology at Washington State University, Pullman, Wash, and Stacey Combes, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior.
Sheppard's address on “Bees, Mushrooms and Liquid Nitrogen… What?” reflected the broad spectrum of his research from expanding the genetic pool of honey bees to health-related aspects of mushroom slurry. Other speakers included Margaret Lombard, chief executive officer of the National Honey Board, and Maj Rundlof of Lund University, Sweden, an International Career Grant Fellow at UC Davis. Michael Karle discussed the new Food and Drug Administration rules concerning the use of antibiotics in bee colonies.
Another highlight of the symposium was the awards ceremony honoring the first class of apprentice-level master beekeepers from the UC Davis-based program. More than 50 apprentices received their first-level pins from instructors Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist, and apiarist Bernardo Niño.
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, chaired the event. Williams served as emcee.
The 2018 Bee Symposium will feature keynote speaker Thomas Seeley, the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and author of the widely acclaimed book, Honey Bee Democracy.