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.
(Editor's Note: An indepth story on the UC Davis award winners is pending.)
Rosenheim won the Distinction in Student Mentoring Award, and Gillung, the Student Leadership Award.
They will be honored at the PBESA meeting, themed "Practical Solutions Through Science and Industry Partnerships," set June 10-13 at the Atlantis Casino Resort, Reno.
PBESA President Brad Higbee reported that the branch received 31 nomination packets for 13 different awards. Nominees represented nine different institutions across six U.S. states and two other countries. Winners were selected by a diverse group of 36 anonymous judges from PBESA, he said.
The other recipients:
- Pacific Branch C. W. Woodworth Award: Roger Vargas, USDA ARS, Hilo, Hawaii
- Award for Excellence in Teaching: William Walton, University of California, Riverside
- Award for Excellence in Extension: David Haviland, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: Alan Knight, USDA ARS, Wapato, Wash.
- Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award: No awardee this year
- Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Award: Jeffrey Fabrick, USDA ARS, Maricopa, Ariz.
- Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology Award: Alec Gerry, University of California, Riverside
- Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA ARS, Logan, Utah
- Excellence in Early Career: Amber Tripodi, USDA ARS, Logan, Utah
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award: Adekunle Adesanya, Washington State University
- Entomology Team Work Award: led by Doug Walsh of Washington State University and including Sally O'Neal, Erik Johansen, Shane Johnson, Mark Waggoner, Harvey Yoshida, Jamey Thomas, and Mike Lees. "Pest and Pollinator Management Team"
PBESA represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Dr. Godfrey was internationally acclaimed for his research on rice and cotton. He was heavily involved in developing IPM to maintain the sustainability of California agriculture, seeking “to reduce the ‘footprint' of agriculture on the environment and society, and to advance the science of entomology and applied insect ecology.”
At UC Davis, he taught arthropod pest management and agricultural entomology. He developed IPM strategies for not only rice and cotton but for such field and vegetable crops as alfalfa, dry beans, timothy grass, melons, mint and onions.
A member of the entomology department since April 1991, Dr. Godfrey served as its vice chair in 2008, and also that year, as president of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America.
“Larry was an outstanding contributor to the department, not only as a researcher and teacher, but also in the effective ways that he connected with clientele through outreach,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “He was a member of our department's Executive Committee and I could always count on Larry for sound advice.”
“Being the two Davis faculty with agricultural entomology extension duties, Larry and I shared a lot over the last 25 years and he was my closest colleague in our department when he passed today,” said Extension entomologist and distinguished professor Frank Zalom, an IPM specialist and a past president of the Entomological Society of America. “I've always respected him for being quiet and humble despite his many accomplishments. He filled the shoes of several faculty members who retired before he came to Davis and he did his job exceptionally well. It's hard for me to imagine not having him nearby as the go-to entomologist for field crops, although his research, extension, and, most importantly his graduate students, will serve as his legacy for years to come.”
Said professor Jay Rosenheim: “Larry was a researcher who always placed the farmer's needs first. This is why he was so highly valued by California's growers of rice, alfalfa, cotton, and vegetable crops, and why his research program grew and grew over his years at Davis. He was also an excellent communicator, and epitomized the role of researcher/educator in the Land-Grant system. Despite his illness, he continued to work tirelessly on his pest management research, refusing to compromise on his commitments. His dedication to our profession was truly remarkable.”
Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long, who collaborated with Dr. Godfrey on dry bean research, said: “He was an incredibly dedicated field crop entomologist and terrific colleague with team spirit, and his loss leaves a big hole in our lives and I'll miss him.”
“What I admired about Larry was his stoicism,” said former graduate student Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, now a postdoctoral fellow at North Carolina State University. “Nothing seemed to wear down his resolve.”
Dr. Godfrey, born July 7, 1956, grew up on an Indiana farm, and was a 1974 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School. He received two entomology degrees from Purdue University, West Layfayette: his bachelor's degree in 1978 and his master's degree in 1980. He earned his doctorate in entomology in 1984 from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, studying with major professor Kenneth Yeargan. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi and Gamma Sigma Delta.
Said Yeargan: "As I stated in my letter of recommendation for Larry many years ago when he applied for the position at UC Davis, Larry was an outstanding 'synthesizer' of information. He had a knack for looking at a problem, thinking through all the ramifications, and coming up with logical, practical ways to approach the problem – and usually finding a solution. He will be missed by many." It was at the University of Kentucky where Larry met his wife-to-be, Kris Elvin, then a postdoctoral scholar.
Dr. Godfrey began his career as a product development specialist for Union Carbide Agricultural Products Co., Inc., Research Triangle, N.C., before joining the University of Nebraska's Department of Entomology from July 1987 to March 1991 as a research associate.
“Growing up on a farm in Indiana, I saw first-hand the ‘battles' that farmers and homeowners face trying to produce crops and grow landscape plants in competition with insects,” Dr. Godfrey recalled in an earlier interview. “I became fascinated with insects through the typical ‘bug-in-a-jar' hobby. A county Natural Resources Field Day cultivated my interest in entomology and this led to enrollment in the 4-H entomology project. By the time I was several years into the 4-H project, I was transporting a dozen wooden collection boxes full of pinned insects to the county fair.”
“My first summer job involved surveying for Japanese beetles as they progressed across Indiana. This was an invasive insect in the Midwest in the mid-1970s; this same insect is of serious concern now in California an invasive pest that could damage many crops—such as grapes—and ornamentals—such as roses.”
Dr. Godfrey was one of 24 founding members of the California Invasive Species Advisory Committee, appointed by then Secretary A.G. Kawamura of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to recommend “ways to mitigate non-native species' effects on resources throughout the state.” The goal: to protect California's environment, food systems, human health and economy from invasive and destructive pests, plants and diseases.
At UC Davis, Dr. Godfrey zeroed in on invasive insect and mite pests such as silverleaf whitefly, panicle rice mite, and rice water weevil. In addition, he targeted scores of pests, including alfalfa weevils, blue alfalfa aphids, spotted cucumber beetles, and two-spotted spider mites. He researched plant response to insect injury, refining economic thresholds.He also researched various pest management tactics, including biological control, reduced risk insecticides, mating disruption, cultural control, and host plant resistance.
Highly respected by his peers, Dr. Godfrey received the Excellence in IPM Award in 2005 from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), followed by the PBESA Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension in 2010. Nationally, he was elected chair of ESA's Section F (crop protection) in 2002.
For many years, he served as the advisor to the UC Davis Linnaean Games teams, which won regional (PBESA) and national (ESA) championships in college-bowl type competitions involving insect questions. He himself was on the championship 1983 University of Kentucky team, the second annual Linnaean Games in the North Central Branch of ESA “where it all started,” he said. “It was a few years before the other branches started this competition and several years before they did it at the national meeting.”
As part of his Extension work, Dr. Godfrey wrote publications, regularly met with growers, and delivered scientific talks at workshops. He addressed the annual California Rice Field Day for 25 years and also spoke at alfalfa IPM workshops, among others. He was a subject editor for the Journal of Cotton Science and the Journal of Integrated Pest Management. In addition, Dr. Godfrey served on many departmental, college and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources committees.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, April 29 in Salem, Ind., where he grew up. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to pet rescue groups or groups that support young people interested in entomology or agriculture. A memorial and celebration of his life will take place at UC Davis in the near future.
He is survived by his wife, Kris Godfrey; his mother, Laura Godfrey; and sister, Carol Green and family. He was preceded in death by his father, Don Godfrey.
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 at the PBESA meeting, April 2-5 in Portland, Ore. PBESA encompasses 11 Western U.S. states, plus several U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
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."
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.
He is a subject editor for ZooKeys, an innovative systematics journal, and Biodiversity Data Journal; he receives frequent requests to review manuscripts for other journals.
Shirley Luckhart was lauded for her “highly regarded expertise on molecular cell biology and biochemistry of malaria parasite transmission.” Her expertise on vector-borne diseases encompasses mosquito and black fly vectors of filarial nematodes and Lyme disease ecology as well as mosquito biology, disease pathogenesis, and transmission blocking agents for malaria.
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.
She was named 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. These efforts also led to the development of an independent Allied Insect Biology working group to engage scientists in trans-disciplinary workshops and collaborations across plant, animal, and human vector-borne diseases. In recognition of her efforts, Luckhart was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Keystone meeting in Taos, N.M., in May 2015.
Luckhart also received $100,000 from Grand Challenges Explorations, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to advance her work in developing nutritional supplements to reverse the malaria-induced intestinal damage that contributes to the development of non-typhoidal Salmonella (NTS) bacteremia in malaria-infected children.
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 just recently, when she stepped down from these duties. 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. She and 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 will expand their research programs and also 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.
Lewis won the PBESA's Integrated Pest Management Excellence Award in 2016,
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”
This is the third consecutive year that a UC Davis graduate student has won the prestigious award, the highest student award given by PBESA. Kelly Hamby of the Frank Zalom lab, won it in 2013; and Matan Shelomi, a graduate student in the Lynn Kimsey lab, Bohart Museum of Entomology, won it in 2012.
Aghaee, a fifth year Ph.D. candidate working on rice water weevil management in California rice, will receive the award at PBESA's 99th annual meeting, set April 12-15 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and will present a talk on the rice water weevil, Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus. He will be among the six Comstock recipients, all winners from their individual branches, honored at the national ESA meeting, Nov. 15-18, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Pacific Branch of ESA encompasses 11 U.S. states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming); several U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands; and parts of Canada and Mexico.
“Mohammad took on a very difficult project for his dissertation research,” said Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey, who nominated Aghaee for the award. “His project deals with the most important invertebrate pest of rice in California, the rice water weevil. The challenges arose not only from working in the rice system--wading through mud for hours--but also from working with this insect that cannot be reared in the laboratory and which has one generation per year. Therefore, all the field studies had to be conducted within the short window of time each year.”
Aghaee received his bachelor's degree in environmental sciences, genetics and plant biology in 2010 from UC Berkeley, with high distinction. He obtained his master's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2012, and expects to receive his doctorate in December 2015.
Aghaee fostered his interest in entomology through his employment as an undergraduate research assistant at UC Berkeley in the lab of aquatic entomologist Vincent Resh. Aghaee also traces his interest in entomology and pest management to his family's large garden, where they grew vegetables and fruits.
When he joined the Godfrey lab, Aghaee was awarded the competitive UC Davis Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship. His other honors include the William and Kathleen Golden International Agriculture Fellowship, and vegetation management award and a field studies scholarship. He teaches or serves as a teaching assistant for entomology classes and is a past president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association.
“Mohammad has a passion for public speaking and debating stemming from his involvement in the Berkeley Model Nations Alumni Association, starting in 2006, which organized crisis simulations for high school students around important political events,” Godfrey said.
Aghaee and Godfrey recently published an open-access article appearing in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management that discusses the rice water weevil's life history and invasion biology, as well as management strategies and future directions of research. They told the story of the weevil since it was first identified as a pest in 1881 by C. V. Riley and L. O. Howard. They then discussed reasons why it has been able to spread so rapidly — up to 36 kilometers per year in some cases — which is partly because of its ability to reproduce asexually.
“This invasive ability is aided by a particular and peculiar aspect of this weevil's biology, the fact that a small percentage of the population in its native range reproduces by parthenogenesis,” they wrote.
The most harmful insect pest of rice in the United States, it causes yield losses of up to 25 percent. Adults inflict damage by consuming leaf tissue, and the larvae feed on the roots of rice plants. A native of the southeastern U.S., the rice water weevil invaded Japan in 1976, Korea in 1980, China in 1988, and Italy in 2004.
Aghaee maintains secondary interests in post-Renaissance European history and contemporary Middle Eastern politics. He explores some of these themes in his freshman seminar titled "Bugs, Germs, and Steel: A History of Entomology in Warfare" where he and his colleagues teach students how basic scientific research and ecology has influenced human conflicts and technological progress. Outside of entomology, his leisure activities include oil painting, language acquisition, and culinary specialization in Persian and Indo-Pakistani cuisines.
The Comstock award memorializes John Henry Comstock (1849-1931), an American entomologist, researcher and educator known for his studies of scale insects and butterflies and moths, which provided the basis for systematic classification. Comstock was a member of the faculty of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., for most of his career, except for his service as a chief entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1879-81).
Zeroing in on the Rice Water Weevil
UC Davis Debate Team Wins ESA Championship