- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Newton, a first-generation college student, studies with Professor Jason Bond, associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Her dissertation focuses on species delimitation in two trapdoor spider groups, Antrodiaetus unicolor complex and Aptostichus icenoglei sister species complex, and evaluation of interspecific relationships within the genus Aptostichus. She covered two chapters of her dissertation in her exit seminar.
What sparked her interest in spiders? “I actually used to be terrified of spiders,” Lacie acknowledged. “It wasn't until fall semester of my sophomore year when I took a zoology course that I began to appreciate not only the vast amount of diversity within spiders but also how amazing they are as a group, such as the tensile strength of spider silk being comparable to steel, spider venoms playing a role in potential medical applications, and a myriad of feeding strategies, etc..”
Born and raised in Eupora, Miss., Lacie received her bachelor of science degree in biological sciences from Millsaps College in 2016 and then enrolled in the graduate school program at Auburn University, Alabama, studying with Professor Bond. When he accepted the Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in 2018, Lacie, along with other lab members, transferred to UC Davis.
Her research on folding-door spiders or the Antrodiaetus unicolor species complex led to a journal article published in Molecular Ecology: “Integrative Species Delimitation Reveals Cryptic Diversity in the Southern Appalachian Antrodiaetus unicolor (Araneae: Antrodiaetidae) Species Complex.” UC Davis co-authors are Professor Bond, who is the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, and project scientist James Starrett of the Bond lab.
Newton is active in both the American Arachnological Society (AAS) and the Society of Systematic Biologists. She won a second-place award for her oral presentation on species delimitation at the 2019 AAS meeting, held at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va.
At UC Davis, Newton served as a teaching assistant for the “Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity and the Tree of Life” course. Her resume also includes:
- mentoring undergraduate students in the Mentoring Program, Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Entrepreneurship (ESTEME) organization, a graduate student organization dedicated to improving equity and inclusion in STEM fields, entrepreneurship, and leadership positions.
- volunteering on the admissions committee for GOALS, the Girls' Outdoor Adventure in Leadership and Science, a summer science program for high school students to learn science hands-on while backpacking through the wilderness.
A "powerhouse" of arachnologists will participate at the open house and conference, said conference chair Bond. Hosting the conference with him are Lisa Chamberland, postdoctoral research associate, Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
Professor Eileen Hebets of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is co-hosting the open house as part of a U.S. National Science Foundation grant, “Eight-Legged Encounters” that she developed as an outreach project to connect arachnologists with communities, especially youth.
Some 20 exhibits and activities will line the hallway of the Academic Surge Building, said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. “There will be everything--spider specimens, live arachnids, activities, artwork, etc.," Bond related.
UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey directs the Bohart Museum, home of eight million insect specimens, a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, and tarantulas) and a gift shop stocked with insect-themed treasures, from t-shirts to books to jewelry.
Another highlight of the AAS conference will be a series of public lectures, aimed for both novices and experts alike, on Tuesday, June 28, from 7:30 to 9, in the newly constructed 600-seat lecture hall, located in the campus core. The event is free and open to the public.