- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Those were two of the questions asked of the three-member team from the Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California, Davis, when they competed in the Linnaean Games at the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America's recent meeting in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
They not only answered those questions correctly but went on to win the branch championship. The UC Davis team--comprised of captain Ralph Washington, Jr., and members Jéssica Gillung, and Brendon Boudinot-- will now compete in November at the national Linnaean Games hosted by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in Minneapolis.
What's the answer to “What insect family can vector anthrax?” Tabanidae.
What caste of honey bee has the greatest number of ommatidia? The drone, the male honey bee. Ommatidia are the subunits of a compound eye.
The Linnaean Games, named for Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of modern taxonomy, are college bowl-style competitions involving insect science, including entomological facts, insect trivia and noted entomologists. The lively question-and-answer competitions are “an important and entertaining component of the ESA annual meeting,” said Richard Levine, ESA communications program manager.
The university-sponsored student teams, comprised of graduate students and occasionally undergraduate students, challenge one another at the annual ESA branch meetings for the championship and bragging rights. Each ESA branch then funds the champion team to compete in the national Linnaean Games. The runner-up team from each branch also competes in the nationals.
At the Pacific Branch meeting, UC Davis defeated Washington State University (WSU), Pullman, Wash., 125-60 in the finals to win the championship. WSU earlier defeated Utah State University, 80-40, and UC Davis defeated USU 170-30.
As an undergraduate student, Ralph Washington Jr. helped anchor the UC Davis 2010 team that competed in the nationals in San Diego. UC Davis narrowly lost to Ohio State University, which advanced to the finals and then went on to win the championship.
Washington, Gillung and Boudinot are all systematists. Washington, whose major professor is nematologist Steve Nadler, studies mosquitoes; Boudinot studies ants with major professor Phil Ward, and Gillung studies flies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, who directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Gillung is co-advised by Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Washington, a first-year doctoral student from Sacramento, Calif., and the newly elected president of the UC Davis Graduate Student Association, focuses on how mosquitoes choose to lay their eggs, and how those choices affect their evolution.
Boudinot, a second-year doctoral student from Washington state, is known for his expertise on the morphology of male ants. He is also interested in the biogeography and evolutionary history of ants.
Jessica, a second-year doctoral student from Brazil, is a prominent taxonomist of Diptera (flies), with special emphasis on the diversity and evolution of spider flies, family Acroceridae. Some Acrocerid adults are specialized pollinators, while larvae are internal parasitoids of spiders.
The trio is eagerly looking forward to making the 1900-mile trip from Davis to Minneapolis. Theme of the meeting is “Synergy in Science: Partnering for Solutions.” It will take place Nov. 15-18.
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.