The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is one of the best in the world, according to information released today (April 3) by the Times Higher Education's Center for World University Rankings.
The rankings show UC Davis as No. 7 in the world, scoring 89.88 of a possible 100. Of the top 10, two are in California. UC Riverside is ranked as No. 2. The list:
- University of Florida, 100 score
- University of California, Riverside, 95.23
- Cornell University, 91.95
- Kansas State University, 91.29
- North Carolina State University, 90.88
- Michigan State University, 90.74
- University of California, Davis, 89.88
- University of Georgia, 88.98
- Nanjing Agricultural University, China, 86.74
- University of São Paulo, Brazil, 86.74
Performance indicators are grouped into five areas: Teaching (the learning environment); research (volume, income and reputation); citations (research influence); international outlook (staff students and research) and industry outcome (knowledge transfer).
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is led by chair Steve Nadler and vice chair Joanna Chiu.
According to the website:
"The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016 list the best global universities and are the only international university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions - teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook."
"The top universities rankings employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments. This year's ranking includes 800 universities from 70 different countries, compared with the 400 universities from 41 countries in last year's table. View the World University Rankings methodology here."
Overall, UC Davis scored No. 1 in the world in the subject, agricultural economics and policy, with a 100 score.
UC Davis rankings by subject:
- Agriculture, Multidisciplinary, No. 3
- Agronomy, No. 7
- Behavioral Sciences, No. 7
- Biodiversity Conservation, No. 3
- Biology, No. 10
- Chemistry, Applied, No. 9
- Ecology, No. 3
- Entomology, No. 7
- Environmental Sciences, No. 7
- Evolutionary Biology, No. 10
- Horticulture, No. 2
- Nutrition and Dietetics, No. 7
- Plant Sciences, No. 3
- Soil Science, No. 6
- Toxicology, No. 3
- Veterinary Sciences, No. 3
- Zoology, No. 5
Nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp of UC Davis will present the Science Night Live program on “Nematode Need-to-Know: Roundworms Are All Around You” at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the World of Wonders (WOW) Science Museum, 2 North Sacramento St., Lodi.
The two-hour event, free and open to the public, is billed as a “conversation with the parasitologist.” Beverages will be available, and a food truck will be on site.
“Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms--they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue," Camp said. "I find parasites particularly fascinating, because they are dependent on another organism (or organisms) for part or all of their life cycle."
The nematodes shown Feb. 1 will range in size from less than one millimeter to eight meters long or 30 feet.
Camp received her doctorate in December 2016, studying with major professor Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Camp, from rural northern Indiana, obtained her bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Chicago in 2005 and her master's degree in biology from Wake Forest University in 2007. As a graduate student at UC Davis, she focused her work on the evolutionary relationships and genetic diversity of Baylisascaris procyonis, a nematode parasite of raccoons. Her career plans: a researcher in infectious diseases or genetics/genomics or as a science communicator.
"I first became interested in parasites during my undergrad degree at the University of Chicago," she said. "My specific interest in nematode parasites developed when I read some of Dr. Nadler's work on the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for an invertebrate biology class."
The Bohart Museum of Entomology of UC Davis is hosting an open house on “Parasite Palooza: Botflies, Fleas and Mites, Oh, My” from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
Senior public health biologist Mike Niemala of the California Department of Public Health, who received his master of science degree from UC Davis, will participate in the three-hour open house, discussing ticks and other health issues, and handing out fliers and brochures.
Nematologist Lauren Camp, who received her doctorate in December, will head the program on nematodes. She studied with major professor Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Nematodes are a large group (phylum) of roundworms," she said. "Most nematodes are not parasites, but people may be familiar with some of the parasitic species. Some well-known nematode parasites of humans are pinworm, Ascaris, hookworm, and guinea worm. Dogs and cats can also become infected with nematodes including heartworm, hookworm, or Toxocara."
"I first became interested in parasites during my undergrad degree at the University of Chicago," she said. "My specific interest in nematode parasites developed when I read some of Dr. Nadler's work on the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for an invertebrate biology class. Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms- they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue. I find parasites particularly fascinating, because they are dependent on another organism (or organisms) for part or all of their life cycle."
Also scheduled to participate: Adrienne Mora, a National Science Foundation postodoctoral research fellow in the UC Davis lab of Andy Sih, Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Mora studies trematode parasites, that she says, "behaviorally manipulate their fish hosts to perform strange behaviors that make them more likely to be eaten by final host bird predators."
Free and Open to the Public
The Bohart event, free and open to the public, will also spotlight such arthropod parasites as lice, mites, and bed bugs. The family craft activity will focus on origami paper hats; attendees can make and can attach stickers of parasites.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
"Dr. Ehler had a remarkable career at UC Davis,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “In his research he built upon fundamental investigations in integrated pest management (IPM) to provide practical biological control for many different systems. Les was both a national leader in the discipline of biological control, and an outstanding citizen of the department and university.”
Dr. Ehler, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1973 and retired in January 2008, was the first biological control specialist on campus and was known as the “quintessential biological control researcher.”
For four decades he championed the use of natural enemies to control agricultural pests and warned of the dangers of pesticides.
Dr. Ehler co-edited the 1990 book, Critical Issues in Biological Control and served four years as president and four years as past president of the International Organization for Biological Control. He also chaired the Entomological Society of America's Biological Control Section.
At UC Davis, Dr. Ehler battled pests such as obscure scale and aphids on oaks, stink bugs on tomato, aphids on sugar beet and white fir, and beet armyworm on alfalfa and sugar beet. His expertise ranges from the theory and practice of biological control to the ecology and management of insects and mites in natural, agricultural and urban environments.
“Les was a meticulous researcher and an excellent applied field ecologist,” said colleague and close friend Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Entomology. “When he took on a research project, you were confident the project would be conducted well and all aspects of the system considered. He made major contributions to our understanding of stink bug ecology and biological control of stink bugs. Les was also excellent at transferring his knowledge via classroom teaching.”
In the late 1990s, Dr. Ehler discovered that pill bugs, also known as roly-poly bugs, prey on the eggs of stink bugs. Up to then, most entomologists classified pill bugs as strictly vegetarians. Stink bugs, major agricultural pests, suck the juices from legume and brassica seeds and fruit of other crops.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Ehler led the Davis team that documented the environmental impact of malathion-bait sprays used to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly. The organophosphate was credited with killing the medfly, but also beneficial insects such as honey bees, and natural enemies of various insect pests.
In one study, Dr. Ehler assessed the non-target effects of malathion in the Bay Area. His studies in Woodside, a San Mateo County community on the San Francisco Peninsula, revealed that populations of a native gall midge exploded 90 times the normal level. Ehler compared the gall midge population in Woodside -- where planes sprayed up to 24 malathion applications -- to the untouched Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve near Stanford University. The gall midge is a gnatlike insect pest that lays its eggs in plants; the burrowing larvae form galls.
Dr. Ehler also helped organic farmers solve problems. He designed a stink bug management program for Yolo County organic farmer Robert Ramming of Pacific Star Gardens after learning of the stink bug invasion in his tomato fields.
“The stink bugs were overwintering in his backyard and in the spring, emerging to dine on mustard and then tomatoes,” Dr. Ehler noted in the feature story. “Stink bugs don't seem to prefer tomatoes — they like mustard and wild radish — but when these hosts were plowed under and no longer available, the bugs went for the tomatoes.” Solution: Don't cut the mustard. Plow it under only when the stink bugs aren't a threat to the tomatoes — that is, before they develop wings and disperse.
Quotes from the January 2008 feature story:
- Yolo County organic farmer Robert Ramming of Pacific Star Gardens: “Les determined what stink bugs prefer, their habitat and where they were overwintering. “We planted a five-foot strip of ‘trap' or ‘bribe' crops (mustard and wild radish) around the tomato fields and got rid of 90 percent of the stink bugs.”
- Rachael Long, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Yolo, Solano, Sacramento counties: “I greatly admire Les for his contributions to IPM that have helped us better understand the biology of some of our major agricultural pests and how to manage them. Les is one of those extraordinary field researchers with a broad knowledge of entomology that make him a great resource for information. In collaborating with Les on various projects I have a much better understanding on how landscapes impact IPM in cropping systems which I believe will help conservation efforts and improve pest control in our agricultural systems.”
- Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, then professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology: “Les began teaching biocontrol classes for our department in 1974, drawing hundreds of students. He was trained in the 1960s by the founders of integrated pest management (IPM) and he advocated biological control methods as an important IPM pest control strategy. His work led to a better understanding of how predators and parasites can control pests without pesticides.”
- Entomologist Michael Parrella, then associate dean of agricultural sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: “Les was the first faculty member hired in the Department of Entomology to teach and advance the science and practice of biological control. Trained in classical biological control at UC Berkeley, he was the heart and soul of biological control at UC Davis, and worked in many biological systems from tomatoes to urban landscapes. For many years, Les maintained his own USDA-certified quarantine laboratory which allowed him to work with biological control agents from all over the world. He was a meticulous researcher who maintained a ‘hands-on' approach with all the projects done in his laboratory and he trained many students who are now leaders in the field of biological control around the world.”
Emeritus professor Harry Kaya of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology said of his close friend and colleague:
"Les and I overlapped as graduate students at UC Berkeley and I have known him for over 45 years. We were reunited as faculty members at UC Davis when I joined the department in 1976. Les was the quintessential entomologist specializing in classical biological control. His research was always thorough and complete and others have commented on his many contributions to the discipline. We co-taught a class on biological control for many years; he covered the theory and application of parasitoids and predators and I did the lectures on pathogens. Les made sure that the students understood the basis for the theoretical aspects of biological control and their application in the field. In the laboratory portion of the class, he took the students into the field to show them biological control agents in action and developed a useful pictorial handout for identifying the common parasitoids and predators found in California. Even in retirement, he assisted farmers in dealing with the stink bug problems in tomatoes."
"Les was the most organized person that I know. Everything in his research lab and office and home had a place and was neatly and logically organized," Kaya noted. "A few years before he retired, he had a plan on what he wanted to do and purchased a fishing boat. The first time we went out, it was clearly a case of the blind leading the blind. We lost more fishing gear without getting a single bite. Les did not see this as a setback, but as a learning experience. He went fishing with professional guides, learned from them, and became an excellent fisherman. He not only took me but many others fishing for striped bass in the Delta, salmon and striped bass in the Sacramento River, and trout, bass, and kokanee at Lake Berryessa."
"I have lost a good friend and colleague. I will miss the many entomological and other stories and his sense of humor we shared on our fishing trips."
Born Jan. 6, 1946 in Lubbock County, Texas and reared on a family farm near the small town of Idalou, Les Ehler received his bachelor's degree in entomology from Texas Tech University, and his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley. He joined UC Davis in 1973 as an assistant professor, advancing in 1985 to professor of entomology and entomologist in the UC Davis Experiment Station. Dr. Ehler was an avid fisherman and enjoyed fishing, particularly for sturgeon and salmon.
He is survived by his son Brian of Susanville, Calif., and daughter Mary Ehler Yung and husband, Eric, of Sacramento, and granddaughters Emma Yung and Georgiana Grace Yung. He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Joseph, and sister Loretta. He is survived by brothers Eugene (Mary) of Denton, TX, Howard (Rita) of Midland, TX and sisters Jan Chapman (Carl) of Houston, TX and Amy Willingham of Irving, TX. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
The Society of Nematologists (SON) will present him with its Teaching Excellence Award at its 55th annual meeting, set July 17 – 21 in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Caswell-Chen, who joined the UC Davis Department of Nematology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology) in 1989, was praised as being an “exemplary teacher who loves to teach and interact with his students.”
“Ed is known for his enthusiasm, dedication, high-quality instruction and keen interest in helping his students understand and appreciate nematology—from the undergraduate level to the graduate level and beyond,” his nominators said.
“If I had to distill my endorsement of Ed into a single sentence, it would be that he has unbridled passion and dedication when it comes to getting undergraduates excited about science,” said nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “His dedication to teaching is truly altruistic, and although he has maintained a solid program of research, his major effort in recent years has involved teaching undergraduate and graduate students.”
Over the last five years, Caswell-Chen has taught 24 undergraduate courses, enrolling some 2400 students. His commitment to teaching includes five years of service as associate dean of the Graduate Program, UC Office of Graduate Studies. He is a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Nematology, and the Graduate Group in Ecology.
Caswell-Chen, who considers teaching his No. 1 priority, says the classroom is “an important forum for communication with students, and an opportunity for outreach with respect to the Agricultural Experiment Station mission, especially when lecturing to undergraduates in nematology, animal biology, and science and society courses.” His students describe his courses as informative, interesting and engaging.
Caswell-Chen said his philosophy of teaching “is that to be effective, teaching must engage students by highlighting the relevance of course material, and instructors must capture student attention through enthusiasm and supportive stimulation of student creativity. Interaction helps students learn how to think, ask questions, and form connections among the diverse facts they learn in their courses.”
“If students are participating and engrossed with the topic in the classroom, they don't immediately realize that they are learning—they are carried along by their thinking and engagement with the material,” he said. “All of these features of effective classroom instruction are relatively easy to attain when the subject matter is nematology—and biology, for that matter—because of the field's many fascinating and relevant aspects. In a nematology course, one can incorporate a wide range of intriguing topics, from nematode biodiversity and the deep, hot biosphere to soil ecology, to the fascinating interactions between nematodes and other organisms, to the importance of animal parasites and means for their management, to plant parasites, nematicides, and genetic engineering of crop plants for nematode resistance, to topics in aging and neurobiology from research on the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.”
Caswell-Chen is known for his research on the life history and ecology of C. elegans, a free-living or non-parasitic nematode that lives in temperate soil environments.
His interest and dedication to undergraduate education is reflected in his current service as the chair of the UC Davis Academic Senate Undergraduate Council, membership on the UC system-wide Educational Policy Committee, and his recent appointment as vice chair of that same Educational Policy Committee for the coming academic year.
UC Davis researcher Kristi Sanchez, former undergraduate student who received her doctorate from him in 2014 and served as his teaching assistant, described him as “the best professor I've ever had.”
“I have not met another professor at UC Davis who not just focuses on his research but enjoys, loves and wants to make teaching classes a priority for undergraduate students,” Sanchez said. “He is always about the students and making sure they understand the material. He always goes out of his way to provide more office hours so they can learn the material better or ask questions. And he is a professor who has the students text him instead of emailing him. The students love it.”
She credited him with inspiring her to pursue her degree and career in nematology. “Ed has given me many opportunities to pursue research questions that I would like to investigate, provides great advice and not just as a major professor but a father figure. He has pushed me to follow my goals and with my hard work, anything is possible.”
Said graduate student Chris Pagan, who has known Caswell-Chen for 12 years, beginning as an undergraduate student and then as a lab technician: “Ed makes the classroom a comfortable place. He is always approachable, and always genuinely interested in hearing what students have to say. Ed is always revising his lecture material and methods. He is constantly seeking new ways to keep students engaged.”
Nematologist Becky Westerdahl, UC Davis professor of entomology and nematology, praised Caswell-Chen for his excellence in teaching and as “one of the first professors at UC Davis to embrace the use of World Wide Web technology for teaching…He was instrumental in obtaining, establishing and maintaining the first web server for teaching in the Department of Nematology.” She said Caswell-Chen provides his students with “an excellent foundation, not just as future researchers, but as future educators as well.”
Caswell-Chen also teaches animal biology courses and Science and Society courses. He sometimes teaches freshman seminars by using the Campus Book Project selections, such as “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” and “Half the Sky.” He has also taught his own selection of topics, including “The Ancient Middle East: Cradle of Civilization, Religion and Science” and “Protest Songs.”
Caswell-Chen received his bachelor's and master's degrees in botany and plant pathology from Michigan State University in 1979 and 1982, respectively, and his doctorate in 1985 in plant pathology from UC Riverside. He began his academic career in 1985 as an assistant professor in the University of Hawaii's Department of Plant Pathology before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1989.