"Most people are unaware of the glue on a spider's web because you can't see the droplets with your naked eye, but it's a really important feature of the web that spiders rely on to capture prey," says postdoctoral researcher and spider glue expert Sarah Stellwagen of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) lab of Mercedes Burns.
Stellwagen, who will speak at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on Wednesday, April 24, says that spider glue "is also a modified silk protein, but has lost its fibrous characteristics that we think of when we hear the word silk. Currently, there are only around 20 full-length silk genes known--but many many partial sequences--because these genes are really hard to sequence due to their size and repetitiveness."
Her seminar, titled "Towards Spider Glue: From Material Properties to Sequencing the Longest Silk Family Gene," is at 4:10 p.m. in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive. Hosts are Hanna Kahl, UC Davis doctoral student in entomology, and Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Stellwagen and colleague Rebecca Rensberg sequenced the genes that encode for the spider glue protein. Their work appears in the April edition of the journal G3-Genes Genomes Genetics. (See her website, http://www.spiderglues.com)
Of her UC Davis seminar, Stellwagen said: "I'll be talking about the biomechanics of spider glue--how droplets of glue on a spiders web stretch, and how environmental variables like humidity, temperature, and ultraviolet light affect that stretch. I'll also be talking about the molecular biology of the glue--discovering the DNA sequences that code for main proteins that make up the glue, and how that sequence relates to the mechanical properties." (See It's All About the Glue.)
She delivered oral presentations on "Towards Spider Glue:Sequencing the Longest Known Silk Family Gene" at the 2019 International Congress of of Arachnology, Christchurch, New Zealand, and the 2018 American Arachnological Society Annual Meeting in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Stellwagen received her doctorate in biological sciences in July of 2015 from Virginia Tech. Her dissertation: "Structure and Function of the Viscous Capture Spiral and its Relationship to the Architecture of Spider Orb Webs." She completed her master's degree thesis, from Clemson University, on "Spider (Aranea) Diversity, Habitat Distributions and Pitfall Trapping in Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars, coordinated by medical entomologist/assistant professor Geoffrey Attardo, take place at 4:10 p.m. every Wednesday in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, through June 5. (See list of seminars)
There may not be "time enough" for some species that are rapidly declining.
What's going on?
Butterfly guru Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of evolution and ecology, will speak on butterflies and the insect apocalypse at the third annual Butterfly Summit, an all-day event that begins 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 27 at Annie's Annuals and Perennials, 740 Market Ave., Richmond. Free and family friendly, it's co-sponsored by the Pollinator Posse, a Bay Area-based volunteer group co-founded by Tora Rocha and Terry Smith.
Shapiro has monitored butterfly population trends on a transect across central California since 1972 and maintains a research website at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu. A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1971 and author of the book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley Regions, he has studied a total of 163 species in his transect. His is the largest and oldest such dataset in North America.
Shapiro, who will address the summit at 11 a.m., is frequently quoted in the regional, national and international news media, including BBC, New York Times and the Washington Post. He was recently interviewed on the National Public Radio Program, Insight with Beth Ruyak, on "Butterflies as Heralds of the Apocalypse." He recently addressed a monarch butterfly summit at UC Davis at which he declared that "California monarchs are on life support." (See his presentation.)
10 a.m.: Bring the kids to see our caterpillars and adult butterflies, talk with our experts and share your experiences.
11 a.m.: Where have all the insects gone? Art Shapiro of UC Davis will share his thoughts on the insect apocalypse happening around the globe and will discuss the state of insects and butterflies in Northern California.
1 p.m.: Angela Laws, monarch ecologist from Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Mia Monroe, volunteer, will discuss how your gardening practices can help the plight of the California monarchs
All day: Stop by the regional information tables to learn about what you can do to help re-establish butterfly populations.
Pollinator Posse: Tara Rocha and Terry Smith, along with Jackie Salas, horticulturist at Children's Fairyland, Oakland, will be available for questions.
Andy Liu: A landscape architect and garden designer specializing in butterfly habitat, Liu will explain why his neighborhood is alive with Swallowtails, Gulf Fritillaries and many other winged wonders.
Tim Wong: He is known as known as the "Pipevine Swallowtail Whisperer." Wong an aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences.
Andrea Hurd: Hurd, with the Mariposa Garden Design, will share her methods for designing meadows for butterflies. She specializes in songbird, butterfly, and pollinator habitat gardens using California native and pollinator-friendly plants.
Robin North: North, a garden designer specializing in pollinator and songbird habitat gardens in the North Bay, will share ideas for designing Sonoma County habitat gardens.
Suzanne Clarke: Clarke, a Sonoma County Master Gardener and "Butterfly Whisperer," will show how to rear caterpillars at her table and discuss the benefits of gardening for habitat.
Alameda County Master Gardeners: They will be on hand to show how to garden for native pollinators.
What is the Pollinator Posse? It's a group formed in Oakland in 2013 to create pollinator-friendly landscaping in urban settings and to foster appreciation of local ecosystems through outreach, education and direct action, said Rocha, a retired Oakland parks supervisor. "With eco-friendly landscape techniques at the heart of our work, we teach respect for the creatures which keep Oakland– and the world– blooming."
"We envision a day when life-enhancing, thought-inspiring green spaces will grace every corner of the city and the world beyond," she said.
The Pollinator Posse (see their Facebook page) is heavily into not only butterflies, but all pollinators. "Individuals and groups with separate distinguished achievements in the fields of entomology, horticulture, education, public works and volunteer engagement saw the challenge and opportunity of sustaining the indispensable work of pollinators by expanding habitat and awareness," said Rocha. "A generous gift of $10,000 from our founding sponsor, Clif Bar, launched Posse programs which have established acres of pollinator habitat; maintained existing habitat; and offered outreach and education to Oakland communities.
Their latest events include:
- A Tees for Bees at the Chabot Golf Course (filming for Tora Rocha's Jefferson Award)
- A Tee for Bees at the Redwood Canyon Golf Course (see images on Facebook)
- Sponsorship of a native pollinator garden and installation of three small "AirBeeNBees"at the Forgotten Soldier Community Garden in Auburn (See media coverage)
The Pollinator Posse will be a sponsor at the Forgotten Soldier's Earth Day celebration and will be helping youngsters create their own mini "AirBeeNBees."
Another highlight: the Pollinator Posse will be participating in the third annual California Honey Festival on Saturday, May 4 in downtown Woodland. This is co-sponsored by the City of Woodland the the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
The gift shop is offering a selection of insect-themed T-shirts, in both adult and children's sizes, for $10, and the Bohart-produced 2019 calendars for $8.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, says that "we have adult sizes in the clubtail and pondhawk dragonfly and dog-faced butterfly designs, and a variety of children's t-shirts."
It's a fun and innovative calendar, with art by UC Davis entomology student/artist Karissa Merritt, based on sentence collections from Kimsey's classrooms. Kimsey collects puzzling or humorous sentences ("What's that again?") written by her students. The calendar is a project of the non-profit Bohart Museum Society.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, also maintains a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. (More information is available on the website or by contacting email@example.com or (530) 753-0493.)
And that it did Saturday at the 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day--especially at the second annual "Virtual Reality Bugs" display at Briggs Hall, the administrative home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Medical entomologist/geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, an assistant professor in the department who researches tsetse flies, mosquitoes and other vectors, demonstrated his program all day to hundreds of participants.
They marveled at the 40-foot-tall, three-dimensional insects and spiders. They chose what they wanted to see towering over them: a black widow spider, ant, beetle, grasshopper, damsel fly, cicada, cockroach, and a tsetse fly.
What's a picnic without bugs?
Sebastian Ehrlich, 9, and his sister Kamila, 6, of Davis, accompanied by parents Ethan and Carolina Ehrlich, were among the first in line.
They loved Virtual Reality Bugs.
"My kids' favorite part of Picnic Day was the VR," their mother said. "Oh how I'd love it if one of them at least became a scientist."
Paul McClelland of Sunnyvale, a UC Davis graduate in zoology (1983), and his wife, Marjirjam, also delighted in seeing the gigantic bugs--and the computer and display techniques that made the display possible.
"They didn't have that when I was going to school," McClelland quipped.
Attardo describes VR as a "computer-generated simulation used to simulate real or imagined environments."
"It immerses the user by stimulating visual, auditory and touch-based senses," he says. He presented a program on "Using Virtual Reality to Engage and Instruct: a A Novel Tool for Outreach and Extension," at the 2018 Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in Vancouver, B.C.
Attardo's sketchfab.com account is at https://sketchfab.com/models/263750e5a9c54c56a77d63ac06f2f317. His first model was a tsetse fly.
Attardo says that "VR has great potential as a new way to present entomological content including aspects of morphology, physiology, behavior and other aspects of insect biology. This demonstration allows users of all ages to view static and animated 3D models of insects and arthropods in virtual reality."
"This is accomplished by placing users in virtual spaces with content of interest and allows for natural interactions where users can physically move within the space and use their hands to directly manipulate/experience content. VR also reduces the impact of external sensory distractions by completely immersing the user in the experience. These interactions are particularly compelling when content that is only observable through a microscope (or not at all) can be made large allowing the user to experience these things at scale. This has great potential for entomological education and outreach as students can experience animated models of insects and arthropods at impossible scales."
In his presentation to ESA, Attardo commented: "This isn't your parents' virtual reality! Early computers and monitors could not produce the frame rate/resolution required. Early attempts at VR were heavy, awkward and motion-sickness inducing. Increased processing power, smaller computers and high resolution screens have solved these issues."
As McClelland said, "They didn't have that when I was going to school."
Did you see "Dr. Bob" in Briggs Hall during the UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday?
Forensic entomologist Robert "Bob" Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology held forth in 122 Briggs, explaining forensic entomology to curious visitors and not-so-curious visitors. He and his graduate student/forensic entomologist Alex Dedmon fielded scores of questions.
Meanwhile, in the courtyard across the hall, all ages engaged in maggot art. They dipped a maggot in non-toxic, water-based paint, and let it crawl around on a piece of white paper. Voila! Suitable for framing!
Kimsey, master advisor in the Animal Biology program and an adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was recently named the faculty recipient of the 2019 Walker Advising Awards, sponsored by the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Elvira Galvin Hack, staff advisor in the Animal Biology program, won the staff advisor award. They will be honored at a May 2 ceremony, along with peer advisor Mirella Lopez of Animal Science, announced Susan Ebeler, associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES). The annual awards honor excellence and innovation in academic advising.
Kimsey received both his bachelor's degree and doctorate in entomology from UC Davis. His wife, Lynn Kimsey, a UC Davis professor of entomology, directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology on campus.