Entomologist 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 (see https://entomologytoday.org/2018/05/21/entomologist-review-an-entomologists-love-story/) 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.)
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis Linnaean Games Team, comprised of graduate students from UC Berkeley and UC Davis, won the championship at the regional Linnaean Games 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.
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.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team defeated Washington State University (WSU) in a sudden death overtime to win the title.
“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."
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.
The UC Davis Linnaean team, captained by Washington, won the national championship in both 2015 and 2016. Boudinot served as a member of both championship teams. Bick was a member of the 2016 team, which also was comprised of graduate students Jéssica Gillung and Ziad Khouri, who study with Lynn Kimsey, director the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
The list of national champions over the last five years:
1st Place: Texas A&M
2nd Place: The Ohio State
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 (American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Johnston Atoll, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Islands and Wake Island) and parts of Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Yukon) and parts of Mexico (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Sonora).
Founded in 1889, the 7000-member ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its 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.
The purpose of the congressional briefing was to raise awareness for and increase understanding of areawide integrated pest management (AIPM) and the benefits of a comprehensive pest management policy, particularly as it relates to invasive species, Zalom said.
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.
Zalom drew attention to past areawide successes in controlling the yellow fever mosquito, the screw worm fly, and tephritid fruit flies in Hawaii. He also described the recently concluded areawide program that targeted the European grapevine moth which had been introduced into northern California, threatening the state's wine industry. 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's 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. (See information on the award-winning European Grapevine Moth Team.)
Gabbard, in particular, wants to protect Hawaii's coffee industry from the recently introduced coffee berry borer, and 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.
The briefing drew representatives from congressional offices with invasive species or pest management priorities, as well as the House Committees on Natural Resources; Agriculture; Interior, Environment, and related agencies; Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; the corresponding Senate committees; and relevant caucuses on invasive species and agricultural research.
Federal agencies represented included the Department of the Interior; USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Forest Service, and Office of Pest Management Policy; and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
The AIPM Act of 2018 creates a framework within the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Crop and Pest Management Program to coordinate AIPM projects with other federal agencies and cross-institutional teams, including farmers, ranchers, and land managers.
The objectives, as cited by the bill's authors:
- To support long term and sustainable solutions to reduce invasive species impacts on agriculture, including grazing, dairy farming and natural resources
- Increase the return on investments for farmers, ranchers and land managers by providing them with multiple invasive species management options
- Empower end-users—farmers, ranchers and land managers—to take a larger role in creating solutions for their agricultural business and industries
- Support efficient use of federal dollars through competition to control and/or eradicate invasive species
- Protect human health and the environment
Hammock will present a plenary lecture on Thursday, May 31, offering an overview of the current state of the science in the area of oxidized lipids.
ISSFAL is “the leading showcase of what is new, exciting, and interesting in science and research in this field,” said executive committee member and organizing committee chair Hee Yong Kim, who serves as chief of the laboratory of Molecular Signalling for the National Institute of Health's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH/NIAAA).
Hammock is known for his work on using natural chemical mediators to control inflammation and intractable pain. He continues as the founding director of the campuswide Superfund Research Program--this is the 31st year--and the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory. He has directed the NIH/ NIEHS Combined Analytical Laboratory for 25 years.
Hammock 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 degrades natural analgesic and anti - inflammatory compounds. The founder of several companies, he has helped raise more than $50 million in private capital, and currently is chief executive officer of the Davis-based EicOsis, where an orally active non- addictive drug for inflammatory and neuropathic pain is being developed for human beings companion animals. EicOsis is supported by several seed-fund grants and a NIH/NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) Blueprint Development Grant.
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. (See more on his website)
But have you ever heard of a song featuring the three-cornered alfalfa hopper, Spissistilus festinus, and another one spotlighting the male insect organ, the aedeagus?
And composed by a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, and performed by seven insect-attired UC Davis doctoral students?
That's what happened during the recent UC Davis Picnic Day celebration when the septet gathered in front of Briggs Hall to perform three songs composed by talented musician and entomologist Michael Bollinger, enrolled in the master's degree program, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The group performed Bollinger's compositions, “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.
The performance went well. Very well. So did Picnic Day.
“My goal was to make sure Picnic Day worked overall, and that, for the band, the sounds were balanced and each of the elements could be heard,” said emcee and band member Brendon Boudinot, president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) and a doctoral candidate specializing in ant evolution and classification.
The “Entomology at UC Davis” exhibit at Briggs Hall, the work of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won the campuswide “At One With Nature” category. And the band? It drew loud applause and high praise from the standing crowd.
Their name: “The Entomology Band.” (No take-offs of the iconic “Beatles,” “Buddy Holly and the Crickets” or “Adam and the Ants.”)
Bollinger's original songs capped a day of insect-related activities that included maggot art, cockroach races, nematode identification, scavenger hunts, and honey tasting.
- 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).” He said: “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.
The seven band members share a love of music.
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.
“We were all agriculture-related majors and we mainly wrote original songs,” recalled Cai. The campus concerts sometimes drew a thousand spectators. “After we graduated from graduate school, we stopped. I really missed the time playing drums with folks since I came to UC Davis. Fortunately, after a ‘gap year,' Jackson, Michael and I started jamming in September 2017. Later on, our current talented members joined.”
“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.”
Rhythm guitarist Jackson Audley said he “started learning to play the guitar when I was about 11-12 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, Minn., “a sleepy suburb of Minnesota.” She received her bachelor's degree in Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., 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 / marching band in high school as well. I've always been better at classical than rock/jazz/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--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, Olympia, Wash., performed on a metallic sky-blue bass. “I just love art,” he said. “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.”
“The Entomology Band is special to me, and I am just glad I could be a part of it.”
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 in 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.”