Nov. 1, 2011
DAVIS--Renowned ant specialist Brian Fisher, associate curator of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences and an adjunct professor of biology at both the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco State University, will deliver the Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar, UC Davis Department of Entomology, on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
Fisher will speak on “How Many Ants Can an Island Hold? Exploring Ant Diversity in Madagascar.”
A reception is set from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Recreation Pool Lodge on La Rue Road. His seminar is from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m., in the lodge, with a dinner to follow.
Fisher received his doctorate degree in entomology from UC Davis in 1997, studying with major professor Phil Ward. He obtained his master’s degree in biology in 1992 from the University of Utah.
Often found hip-deep in Madagascar mud, Fisher is a modern day explorer who has devoted his life to the study and conservation of ants and biodiversity around the world. His research sends him through the last remote rainforests and deserts of Madagascar and Africa in search of ants. Although his subjects may be small in stature, they make a huge impact on their ecosystems.
By documenting the species diversity and distribution of this “invisible majority,” Fisher is helping to establish conservation priorities for Madagascar, identifying areas that should be set aside to protect the highest number of species. Along the way, he has discovered hundreds of new species of ants. He has published more than 75 peer reviewed articles including the Ants of North America with Stefan Cover.
Every year, Fisher trains dozens of international graduate students in the taxonomy and natural history of ants, providing them with skills to use ants as an important indicator of biodiversity across the globe. He has appeared in a number of BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic films and has been profiled in Newsweek and Discover magazines.
“Our ability to dig deeper into their (ants’) hidden world can shed light on important ecosystem functions that have been overlooked out of ignorance or disinterest,” he says on his California Academy of Sciences website.
“Consider that the collective weight of all the ants in the world is equal to the weight of all the world's humans. It's a big subject with a big impact. That alone makes ants worthy of scientific study.”
Fisher, who has committed his life to exploring the world of ants, says ants are industrious, tenacious workers who live in colonies and obey a hierarchy of rulers. For the last 23 years, he has traveled the globe finding, collecting, identifying and naming ants, describing their behaviors, and cataloguing their traits. Of the estimated 22,000 ant species known to science, Fisher has personally discovered 1000 species of these.
Born in Normal, Ill., the son of a college professor and a fifth grade teacher, Brian Fisher knew he wanted to work in the outdoors but not as a park forester in a park. Flying to Europe the day after his high school graduation, he spent two years bicycling the continent, learning French and carpentry before returning home.
Once back, he enrolled at the University of Iowa, majoring in biology. “But I was itching to get to Latin America, learn Spanish and live the dream of a tropical plant collector,” he remembers. It was during a year in Panama that he worked part-time for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He also worked as an aspiring botanist, collecting specimens of tropical flora. It was during his stay in Panama that the love bug bit.
“You go to the tropics and the sheer diversity of insects are literally raining down on you,” he says. “At that point, I decided to switch from being a great botanical explorer to becoming an ant finder.”
The Nov. 9th seminar memorializes cotton entomologist Thomas Frances Leigh (1923-1993), an international authority on the biology, ecology and management of arthropod pests affecting cotton production. During his 37-year UC Davis career, he was based at the Shafter Research and Extension Center,, also known as the U.S. Cotton Research Station. He researched pest and beneficial arthropod management in cotton fields, and host plant resistance in cotton to insects, mites, nematodes and diseases.
Leigh joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1958, retiring in 1991 as an emeritus professor, but he continued to remain active in his research and collaboration until his death on Oct. 26, 1993.
At Shafter, Leigh focused his research on the biology, ecology, host plant resistance, control and management of insects and spider mites on cotton. He stood at the forefront of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of cotton pests, according to an article in the summer 1994 edition of American Entomologist. He taught courses on cotton IPM and host plant resistance.
Leigh was born March 6, 1923 in Loma Linda. A 1942 graduate of Beaumont High School, he worked briefly on a farm and then served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
His work as an agricultural inspector with the Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office from 1944-1945 sparked his interest in entomology. He received his bachelor of science degree in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1949, and his doctorate in entomology there in 1956. His thesis was on the influence of light, temperature and humidity on flight activity of the butterfly, Colias and involved both field and laboratory investigations.
Leigh served as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas from 1954 to 1958, where he worked on the biology, ecology and control of pink bollworm and boll weevil, using chemicals and cultural means. He joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology, advancing from assistant entomologist to associate entomologist in 1963. In 1968, he was promoted to adjunct lecturer and entomologist.
During his 37-year career, he authored more than 127 peer-reviewed publications.
In his memory, his family and associates set up the Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar in Entomology Fund at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The alumni seminar is now known as the Thomas and Nina Distinguished Alumni Seminar, memorializing he and his wife, Nina Eremin Leigh (1929-2002). The family includes two sons, Michael and Nicholas.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
Oct. 25, 2011
DAVIS--The Beez Kneez, a Sacramento-based band formed and led by Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will reunite for one last performance on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Straw Hat Pizza, 2929 Mather Field Road, Rancho Cordova.
The group, which performed as a seven-piece band in the Sacramento area from 1995 until Oct. 17, 2004, will entertain from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
“Our first performance was at the original Shakey’s Pizza (57th and J streets,” Gary recalled. “Shakey Johnson was there! We were the last band to perform at Shakey's. A big fire destroyed this jazz landmark on Jan. 8, 1996.”
“Guess our hat jazz reached the ignition point,” he quipped.
“Over the years we had a super bunch of faithful fans, and we miss you. Since we disbanded, many of our faithful Beez Kneez fans have repeatedly requested more performances.”
So there’s just one more—Oct. 26.
All surviving members of the original cast will be there. (Tom Tucker is deceased.)
Gary promises that “we’ll play our most popular songs that we recorded on two CDs.”
They include "When the Saints Go Marching In," "If I Had You," "Just a Little While to Stay Here," "New Orleans," "Long Way to Tipperary" and "My Gal Sal."
Gary is the author of a newly published book on beginning beekeeping titled “Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.”
“Keeping bees is far more challenging than caring for common pets,” said Gary, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career.
Gary trains bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits over the last 35 years include 18 films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes”; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials, and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states.
He once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. He holds the Guinness World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
Oct. 27, 2000
This is the 59th annual presentation of the honor, which recognizes exceptional research contributions of a campus faculty member. Traditionally, the recipient presents a springtime campus lecture related to his or her research.
Hammock, who was elected last year to the National Academy of Sciences, investigates new biological pest controls and analytical methods for detecting environmental contaminants.
"Bruce Hammock has had an outstanding research career," said George Bruening, acting chair of the Academic Senate's Faculty Research Lecture selection committee. "His research efforts have had an unusually broad impact on many different areas of biology, agriculture and medicine."
A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, Hammock has studied basic questions of biology and biochemistry that have practical implications for improving human and environmental health.
His current work is focused on three areas: finding improved pest-control agents; determining the human-health effects of pesticides, food additives and drugs; and developing rapid analytical methods for detecting environmental and food contaminants.
In the area of pest controls, Hammock has been studying natural agents, such as viruses, that can act as pesticides. He and colleagues have genetically engineered insect-specific viruses so that the viruses would interfere with the growth and development of certain caterpillars that feed on agricultural crops.
In research related to human health, Hammock studies "xenobiotics"-potentially harmful synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals to which people are exposed-including pesticides and drugs.
Intent on developing methods that will accurately predict the toxic risk of human exposure to these chemicals, Hammock's laboratory is examining various enzymes in the liver that are important in breaking down the chemicals to eliminate their toxicity. The researchers have worked to better understand how these liver enzymes work so that their activity can eventually be changed to make improved pharmaceuticals.
In his third area of research, Hammock has done pioneering work in using "immunochemical" methods to detect pesticides, food contaminants and industrial compounds in food, the environment and humans. The technology has been approved for use in the United States and Europe and is being used in developing countries to improve their food supplies.
Hammock, 53, is a native of Little Rock, Ark. He earned a bachelor's degree in entomology from Louisiana State University in 1969 and a doctoral degree in en-
tomology/toxicology at UC Berkeley in 1973, and was a Rockefeller Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University. He worked at UC Riverside for six years before coming to UC Davis.
In addition to his research, Hammock teaches, mentors students and works with visiting scholars. Away from the laboratory, he enjoys rock climbing and kayaking.
He was elected in 1999 to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors for scientists in the United States. He has received numerous other academic awards including the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Award in 1995 for his research contributions to U.S. agriculture and the $250,000 Burroughs Wellcome Toxicology Scholar Award from the Society of Toxicology in 1987.
The Faculty Research Lecturer award was established in 1941 by the Davis Sigma Chi club and is given annually to a faculty member whose research contributions have greatly enhanced human knowledge and brought widespread honor and recognition to themselves and the university. In 1951, the UC Davis Academic Senate, composed of ladder-rank faculty members, assumed responsibility for the award.
The most recent recipients of the award have been poet Gary Snyder, plant pathologist George Bruening, Spanish literature scholar Samuel Armistead, political scientist Donald Rothchild, author and English professor Sandra Gilbert and animal behaviorist Peter Marler.—UC Davis News Service
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
April 29, 1999
Bruce Hammock, a professor of entomology, is one of 60 new U.S. members elected to the academy along with 15 foreign associates. A total of 13 new members were elected from the University of California, including six from UC Berkeley, three from UCLA, two from UC San Francisco and one each from UC Irvine and UC Davis.
Members are elected to the academy based on the originality and quality of their entire body of scientific research, rather than on a single achievement. With Hammock's election, UC Davis NAS members now number 18.
"Dr. Hammock has deserved NAS membership for some years now," said UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "He does rock-solid fundamental research that clearly benefits the human condition and the quality of our environment."
Hammock, 51, has been a member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980. His research has delved into basic questions of biology and biochemistry that have practical implications for improving both human and environmental health. His work is currently focused on three areas: finding improved pest control agents; determining the human health effects of pesticides, food additives and drugs; and developing rapid analytical methods for detecting environmental and food contaminants.
In developing new types of pest controls, he has been studying natural agents, such as viruses, that can act as pesticides. For example, Hammock and colleagues genetically engineered insect-specific viruses so that the virus would interfere with the growth and development of certain caterpillars that feed on agricultural crops.
In his second area of research, Hammock studies "xenobiotics" -- potentially harmful synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals, including pesticides and drugs, to which humans are exposed. In order to predict the toxic risk of human exposure to these chemicals, his laboratory is studying various enzymes in the liver that are important in breaking down the chemicals to eliminate toxicity. The researchers have worked on understanding how enzymes work so that their activity could be altered to make improved pharmaceuticals.
Hammock also has done pioneering work in using "immunochemical" methods to detect pesticides, food contaminants and industrial compounds in food, the environment and humans. The technology has been approved in the United States and Europe and is being used in developing countries to improve their food supplies.
Hammock, a native of Little Rock, Ark., earned a bachelor's degree in entomology from Louisiana State University in 1969 and a doctoral degree in entomology/toxicology at UC Berkeley in 1973, and was a Rockefeller Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University. He worked at UC Riverside for six years before coming to UC Davis. In addition to maintaining a vigorous research program, Hammock teaches, mentors students, works with visiting scholars and enjoys rock climbing and kayaking.
He has received numerous academic awards, including in 1995 the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Award, presented annually to an individual considered to have made the most significant contributions to U.S. agriculture in the previous five years. He also received the $250,000 Burroughs Wellcome Toxicology Scholar Award from the Society of Toxicology in 1987 and the Frasch Foundation Award in Agricultural Chemistry in 1982.
The National Academy of Sciences, established by congressional charter in 1863, serves as an advisory board on scientific issues to the federal government. (Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service)
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
By Bruce D. Hammock, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology
S. George Kamita, researcher, Hammock lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Susumu Maeda died unexpectedly of natural causes in his sleep on March 26, 1998, in Tokyo, Japan. At the time of his death, he appeared to be in perfect health and was enjoying the fruits of his labors to establish large research laboratories both in the United States and in his native Japan.
Susumu was born on April 9, 1950, the second son of Dr. and Mrs. Tsuneo Maeda of Matsumoto, Japan. He spent his youth in the Japanese Alps where he developed a lifelong love of mountain climbing and hiking as well as a deep interest in the natural history of insects. In his youth Susumu also studied the violin under the tutelage of Shinichi Suzuki and developed an intense love of classical music. His given name Susumu means 'to advance or progress.' Following his death he was given the Buddhist name Kenshininshakujyoshin which roughly means 'sincere seeker of knowledge' as a tribute to his lifelong commitment to science. Susumu is survived by his wife Hiroko of Davis and his parents.
Susumu graduated from Matsumoto-Fukashi Senior High School and was accepted to the University of Tokyo where he received his B.S. (1975), M.S. (1978, and Ph.D. (1983). His graduate research in the H. Watanabe laboratory focused on the densonucleosis virus of the silkworm Bombyx mori. In 1978 he accepted a position at Tottori University as an Assistant Professor. He spent one year studying with Yoshinori Tanada at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980 where he met Hiroko Murai who later became his wife. While in the U. S., Susumu also studied in the James and Ellen Strauss laboratories at the California Institute of Technology. Susumu actively taught at Tottori University until 1998 while at the same time commuting to Tokyo for research and internationally as a consultant on transgenic expression for companies involved in pharmaceutical and agricultural research. In 1987 he joined the Zoecon Corporation in Palo Alto, California, where he first expressed and insect neurohormone using a baculovirus and demonstrated that it disrupted insect development. In 1988 he joined the Department of Entomology at Davis, and in 1996 he accepted a concurrent position as Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Entomology and Baculovirology at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) in Wako, Japan. A research appointment at RIKEN is one of the highest honors for a scientist in Japan. With these two laboratories Susumu was poised to see his dreams come true.
The viral diseases of the silkworm, B. mori, first caught Susumu's interest early in his career and this proved a focus for all of his later work. He specialized in the baculovirus of B. mori but worked on several other viruses as well in addition to the basic biology of the silkworm. Production of recombinant proteins like human interferon, development of viral insecticides, basic investigations of apoptosis, fundamental developmental biology, host range, genomics and other projects all emanated from his original theme.
Susumu probably is best known for his development of the B. mori expression system reported in 1985 in the journal Nature. This system is analogous to the similar system developed by Max Summers and Associates at Texas A&M University, but it uses as host the domesticated silkworm, an animal that has been in culture for thousands of years. This expression system opened the door to the inexpensive production of recombinant proteins in mass reared whole insects. This system thus had a great impact on the production of recombinant drugs especially in developing countries. Fundamental science also has benefited greatly from the use of this eucaryotic expression system. An application of the in vivo expression system was realized with the development of the first recombinant viral insecticides. Susumu's laboratory demonstrated the concept that these natural biological control agents could be modified to make them more useful in field and row crop agriculture using B mori and then moved on to develop viruses for the control of the most serious crop pests worldwide. He was involved in the first effort to modify these viruses by expression of neurohormones, insect enzymes and peptide toxins, and before his death the recombinant viruses resulting from his pioneering efforts were in field trial on three continents.
Many aspects of Susumu's research showed tremendous foresight and have an ever-expanding impact on science. However, one of his most noteworthy accomplishments was the total sequencing of the genome of a large DNA virus, the baculovirus of B. mori. Susumu initiated this work in earnest as soon as he arrived at Davis. At the time such an effort was criticized by many as a mindless goal. However, this virus was one of the first organisms to be totally sequenced, and helped usher in the concept of using high throughput sequencing to generate genomic databases. The now common human, crop, pest and other genomic projects attest to Susumu's farsighted approach. At RIKEN he was positioned to undertake a massive project to sequence the entire genome of the silkworm as a model system to study fundamental biology as well as agricultural pest insects. Susumu made extensive use of hypothesis driven science, but he also worked strategically. His project to sequence the genome of the baculovirus of B. mori was expected to lead to a molecular-level understanding of how viruses alter the behavior of their host and the complex biochemical interactions, which determine host range of viruses. Susumu also laid the groundwork through his sequencing projects to address some of the most fundamental questions in modern biology including apoptosis and recognition of self and nonself. It is sad to many of us that the full exploitation of this sequence must fall to others. Thus, a retrospective of Susumu's science illustrates a man who pioneered a technology that positively impacted both medicine and agriculture and also proved a valuable tool in elucidating basic life processes.
Susumu was active in many professional organizations including the American Society for Virology, Society for Invertebrate Pathology, Entomological Society of America, American Society for Microbiology and American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Susumu was honored by his colleagues with many awards, but possibly his most cherished occurred when Susumu and Hiroko had an audience with Emperor Akihito of Japan to discuss his research. He was recognized as a rising star of molecular virology in Japan. In both his laboratories in the U.S. and Japan, Susumu utilized advanced techniques in molecular biology to elucidate the intricacies of the interaction of insect viruses with their hosts. During the years that Susumu was a professor at Davis, he trained over 50 scientists who took his teaching throughout the world. His associates are now in Australia, China, Egypt, Japan, India, Israel, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, and other countries. He was known among his students as a hard working and enthusiastic scientist who brought inspiration as well as joy to his laboratory. Susumu was a conscientious faculty member, seldom missing a faculty or committee meeting and he worked hard to make Davis a still better intellectual community. The loss of such a vigorous, dynamic and caring scientist had a major impact on his colleagues around the world.
A mulberry tree planted in Susumu's honor recalls his first months in Davis when leaves from mulberry trees around the city vanished in the wee hours of the morning to feed his voracious silkworm colonies. In March of 1999 a symposium focusing on the current and future perspectives of baculovirus research was held in his honor at RIKEN and the resulting papers as well as a bibliography of his publications and several tributes are published in the RIKEN Review #22 (June, 1999). There is a great sadness that the University lost one of its brightest stars after little more than a decade. However, Susumu Maeda lived life to the fullest and shared much with his students and colleagues. We are fortunate that this wonderful scientist, mentor, colleague and friend shared this all too brief period with us.
"We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love"--De Stael