- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
By popular demand, ant specialists (myrmecologists) from the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will answer questions at the 12th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, set Saturday, Feb. 18.
They will staff a table in the hallway of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. This is part of the events scheduled by the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building.
What's Biodiversity Museum Day? It's a Super Science Day showcasing 11 museums or collections on campus. It's free and family friendly.
But back to the ants.
"The Ward lab and alumni will be at UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day to share our specialized expertise on ants," said doctoral candidate Jill Oberski of the Ward lab. "We're happy to answer questions about ants or any other insect, and we also have enthusiastic 'fun facts' at the ready."
Participants will include Oberski and doctoral candidate Zachary Griebenow; graduate student Ziv Lieberman; and 2020 alumnus Brendon Boudinot, a noted ant researcher whose most recent title is "Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow" at the Institute of Zoology and Evolutionary Research at Friedrich Schiller University Jena.
Professor Ward's webinar on ants drew widespread interest at the 10th annual Biodiversity Museum Day, a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (See his presentation at https://youtu.be/d8eRNsD8dxo.)
Ward, an authority on ant systematics, offered an hour-long, introductory presentation on "our friends, the ants" and answered scores of questions, drawing viewers from as far away as Virginia. He illustrated his webinar with ant images taken by his former doctoral student and noted macro photographer Alex Wild (PhD from UC Davis in 2005), curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin.
Ants originated about 120 million years ago (early Cretaceous period), evolving from "wasp-like creatures," Ward said in his presentation. They are members of the order Hymenoptera, and their closest relatives include honey bees, cockroach wasp and the mud daubers. California has some 300 species of ants, but thousands more are in the tropics, like Costa Rico, Ward said. Globally, "there may be as many as 40,000 to 50,000 species of ants," but only about 14,000 are described.
"Ants have occupied almost all of the world's land surfaces, from deserts to rain forests," Ward said. "There's a few places they're absent. They're not in Antarctica, no surprise! They haven't colonized the Arctic and a few very high elevation tropical mountains, but apart from that, almost any place you go on land you'll see our friends, the ants. And they have assumed a quite a diverse array of ecological roles. Some of them are predators, others are scavengers, and some are seed collectors, and these habits vary tremendously among different species in different parts of the world."
In addition to ants, the Ward lab will field questions about other insects. Boudinot, Griebenow and Oberski are veterans of UC Davis teams that won national championships in the Entomological Society of America's Entomology Games or "Bug Bowls." The Games are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. Griebenow captained the 2022 team, which included Oberski; Erin “Taylor” Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab; and Madison “Madi” Hendrick of the Ian Grettenberger lab. UC Davis defeated Alabama's Auburn University to win the national championship.
Boudinot anchored three of the four national championship teams: in 2018, 2016 and 2015.
- 2018: The University of California team (UC Davis/UC Berkeley) defeated Texas A&M. Members of the UC Team: captain Ralph Washington Jr., then a UC Berkeley graduate student with a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis; doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Jill Oberski and Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, and doctoral student Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab.
- 2016: UC Davis defeated the University of Georgia. Members of the UC Davis team: captain Ralph Washington Jr., Brendon Boudinot and Emily Bick.
- 2015: UC Davis defeated the University of Florida. Members of the UC Davis team: captain Ralph Washington Jr., and members Brendon Boudinot, Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri.
The UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, traditionally held during Presidents' Weekend, is expected to draw large crowds. The list of the 11 museums or collections:
- Anthropology Museum, 328 Young Hall and grounds, noon to 4 p.m.
- Arboretum and Public Garden, Habitat Gardens in the Environmental GATEway, adjacent to the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 and main hall of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.
- Botanical Conservatory, the greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- California Raptor Center, 1340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis Road, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building/Esau Science Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Nematode Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building/Esau Science Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, 9 am. to 3 p.m.
- Marine Invertebrate Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building/Esau Science Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive, 9 am. to 3 p.m.
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1394, Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Paleontology Collection, 1309 Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road, 12 noon to 4 p.m.
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute Brewery and Food Processing facility, Old Davis Road, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (See news story)
More information is on the Biodiversity Museum Day website.