Who knew that you, along with billions of other people, could be infected with undetected microscopic parasitic nematodes, or round worms? And that they spit venom?
Parasitologist Adler Dillman of UC Riverside knows. In fact, he recently received a $1.8 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study these parasitic nematodes, which infect a quarter of a billion of the world's population and can cause blindness, cognitive issues and sometimes death.
Want to learn more about this research? The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology has booked him as a guest speaker as part of its fall weekly seminars, coordinated by nematologist and assistant professor Shahid Siddique.
Dillman will deliver his in-person seminar, "Nematode Venom Contains Potent Modulators of Insect Immunity," at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 27 in 122 Briggs Hall Drive, off Kleiber Hall Drive. It also will be broadcast live on Zoom at https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/
"Parasitic nematodes are master manipulators of host immunity," Dillman says in his abstract. "Little is known about the identity and function of the cocktail of effectors they release during active infection. We have developed an effector discovery model using entomopathogenic nematodes and fruit flies, which we are using to identify and characterize potent modulators of insect immunity."
Dillman, who joined the UC Riverside faculty in February 2015 and is now an associate professor, focuses his research on identifying the specific proteins in a nematode's spit or venom that can trick the immune system to ignore its presence. His model organism is the fruit fly. He hopes that his research could lead to treatments for autoimmune diseases in humans, such as celiac, Crohn's or inflammatory bowel diseases.
UC Riverside featured him, his NIH grant and his research in a press release "Parasitic Worm Venom Evades Human Immune System," posted July 20, 2020 on EurekAlert. "By some estimates, nearly a quarter of the world's population is infected with various types of microscopic worms, or nematodes, with effects ranging from cognitive impairment and blindness to debilitation, elephantiasis, and death," writer Jules Berstein of UC Riverside related. "Examples include hookworm, which thrives in the American South, causing developmental delays and anemia; and pinworms, which commonly infect children and child care workers with an itchy perianal-area rash."
"You can have a person riddled with infection who never realized there's a 2-centimeter-long worm in their eye and thousands of parasites in their blood," Dlllman told her. "The immune system never signaled something was wrong. How is that possible? We know very little about how that works."
Devastating Parasites. Nematodes, he says, are "devastating parasites of humans, capable of modulating our biology in numerous ways, including suppressing our immune systems. The goal of my lab is to understand this modulation and to characterize the chemical pathways that allow it to happen. There's compelling data that parasites could even be used to treat autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's or inflammatory bowel disease. Parasitic worms are just the coolest things you could study because there are so many strange interactions, both positive and negative, that occur between the worms and their hosts."
Aylin Woodward of Business Insider spotlighted Dillman's work in a Sept. 13, 2020 news story headlined "A Scientist Won $1.8 Million to Study the Venom Parasitic Worms Use to Live Undetected in Our Bodies. He Thinks It Could Help Treat Celiac Disease. The Dillman lab is "looking at 500 or so different types of proteins released by nematodes that infect fruit flies," she wrote, quoting Dillman: "Flies are cheaper and easier to work with, and the parasites that affect insects release the same proteins as those that infect mammals."
"An analysis of research on this subject, published in 2017, described how the presence of nematodes and other parasites can lower inflammation in IBD and reduce the severity of multiple sclerosis, type 1 , asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis in animals," Woodward pointed out. "A 2010 study, in fact, described a patient with IBD who deliberately infected himself with a parasitic worm called a whipworm. The man's immune system started producing a type of protein crucial to healing his digestive tract, and the disease went into remission."
Dillman received his doctorate in 2012 from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a private research university in Pasadena, and then served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford from 2013 to 2014. He holds a bachelor's degree (2006) from Brigham Young University.
Shahid Siddique may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org./span>
The multi-talented professor, researcher, teacher and editor--with a deep background in administration--is the newly appointed Associate Dean for Research and Outreach for Agricultural Sciences, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"Jason's position is effective today, Oct 25," announced Dean Helene Dillard. "Jason succeeds Anita Oberbauer, who was reappointed earlier this summer as executive associate dean for the college."
"He has a long history at land-grant institutions, beginning with his Ph.D. in evolutionary systematics and genetics at Virginia Tech and later as a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago," she related.
In an email to fellow members of his department today, Bond wrote: "Like everyone, the events over the last year and half related to the pandemic, like how we communicate science, global change, and the massive social problems these issues are revealing, have really left an impression on me, and consequently feeling like I should be doing more. I have been impressed with Dean Dillard and the group that she has advising her, and am really excited about the opportunity to help facilitate the research, outreach, and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) missions of the College in a meaningful way."
Bond added that he has "no intention of abandoning my research/systematics program, teaching, or other Departmental obligations." He noted that he and his wife, Kristen (who coordinates a nurse training program for Dignity Health) graduated their only daughter this past June from Davis High School and "we are now empty nesters."
Professor Bond joined the UC Davis faculty in 2018 from Auburn University, where he directed the Auburn University Museum of Natural History (2011–2016), and served as professor and chair of the Auburn Department of Biological Sciences (2016–2018). He played a major role in the design and construction of a new state-of-the-art collections facility. He also directed the Alabama Natural Heritage Program, guiding its conservation activities of endangered and threatened species in the Southeast.
Bond was recently named co-editor-in-chief of the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity (ISD), published by the Entomological Society of America, and will serve a four-year term, starting Jan. 1. His credentials also include associate editor of Systematic Biology (2019–present) and editor of New World Mygalomorphae for Zootaxa (2016–present).
In his research, Bond specializes in the evolutionary diversification of terrestrial arthropods, specifically spiders, millipedes, and tenebrionid beetles; and researches the landscape scale genomics of California species, with an emphasis on understanding the impact of global change on biodiversity. (See Bond laboratory.) He is also a principal investigator associated with the California Conservation Genomics Project, a state-funded initiative with a single goal: to produce the most comprehensive, multispecies, genomic dataset ever assembled to help manage regional biodiversity.
Born in Johnson City, Tenn., Jason spent his childhood in Lewisville, N.C., a small town just outside of Winston-Salem. His American roots run deep; his ancestors made munitions for George Washington's army. His father grew up on the campus of East Tennessee State University, where his grandfather served as head of facilities. “The Bond Building” bears his name.
Jason received his bachelor's degree in biological sciences, cum laude, in 1993 from Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, and his master's degree in biology in 1995 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. He earned his doctorate in evolutionary systematics and genetics in 1999 from Virginia Tech.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Bond served for a number of years as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew chief.
She came, she saw, she oviposited, she nectared and she left.
That's the extent of our sole monarch sighting in our Vacaville pollinator garden this year. This occurred Oct. 9.
But the good news is that more monarchs are gathering on the overwintering sites along the California coast than this time last year. And this is occurring during a major drought year.
In an article, Monarch Butterflies Return to Pacific Grove. And the Drought May Be the Reason for Their Rebound, published yesterday (Oct. 21) in the San Francisco Chronicle, Tara Duggan wrote:
"For once there is some promising news for western monarch butterflies: Around 2,600 of the migratory insects were counted at Pacific Grove Thursday, after zero were observed at the famed Monterey County sanctuary last year. And overall, conservationists estimate the current population that has arrived in its annual wintertime migration to the California coast to be around 10,000 compared to 1,900 last year.
"One possible reason for the rebound: this year's drought, since warm and dry conditions in early spring can help with their migration."
Many others haves noticed the uptick, too. On Oct. 14, entomologist David James of Washington State University wrote on his Monarchs Butterflies of the Pacific Coast Facebook page: "Another exciting and encouraging update on monarch arrivals at the California overwintering sites. Combining all the reports I've received over the past few days there are an estimated 1500 butterflies at 5 overwintering sites from Santa Cruz to Pismo Beach. And still the butterflies are arriving... The highest number at one site is about 700 at a site in the Pismo beach area. This exceeds the highest number seen at one site in 2020 (550 at Natural Bridges). Pacific Grove is reported to have about 200 butterflies. This is especially notable since none were recorded at this site in 2020. Inbound migration will continue for a few more weeks yet but even at this early stage we are close to exceeding the entire population counted at overwintering sites in 2020. Good news, indeed!"
Volunteers counted only 1900 on the overwintering sites along the California coast in 2020, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Compare that to approximately 29,000 in 2019 and almost 200,000 in 2017.
"But on Wednesday (Oct. 20) volunteers counted 8,000 of the butterflies at two groves in Pismo Beach, compared to 300 last year," wrote Duggan.
Scientists, including Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, say the main reasons for the decline of the monarchs are habitat loss and pesticides.
Plant milkweed, plant nectar sources and lose the pesticides.
(Editor's Note: Due to UC ANR server issues, images aren't visible. Click on the icon to see the image)
It's the work of museum associate Christine Melvin, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis. It will soon be a beautiful banner that will grace the Bohart.
The Bohart folks ask: "Can you identify all the animals and plants?" The flora and the fauna? Is your favorite insect there? Or maybe your favorite number? 75?
Directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, the Bohart Museum houses nearly 8 million insect specimens and is the seventh largest insect museum in North America. It is also home to a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. A gift shop (now online) is stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, books, candy, collecting equipment, and more.
Meanwhile, the Bohart Museum scientists are seeking donations for their traveling insect specimen displays. They aim to raise $5000 by 11:59 p.m., Oct. 31 for their UC Davis CrowdFund project to purchase traveling display boxes for their specimens, which include bees, butterflies and beetles. These are portable glass-topped display boxes that travel throughout Northern California to school classrooms, youth group meetings, festivals, events, museums, hospitals--and more--to help people learn about the exciting world of insect science.
“When COVID halted our in-person outreach programs, we were still able to safely loan these educational materials to teachers,” said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. “Now that UC Davis is open again to students we have all these bright, students on campus with fresh and diverse perspectives. We want to support their talent, so the funds we are raising will go to students for the creation of new traveling displays. This fleet of new educational drawers will expand and update what we can offer. Some of our current displays were created 15 years ago! One can only imagine all the places these drawers have been and all the people who have been inspired."
Like to donate $5? $10? $25? $50? $100? Or more?
You can do so in memory of someone, a place, or your favorite insect! Here's to the bees, the butterflies and the beetles! (And maybe a dragonfly, a syrphid fly or a praying mantis?) Access the donation page and map at https://bit.ly/3v4MoaJ
If you're a member of the Bohart Museum Society--that's "the friends" arm of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis--you're probably looking forward to the upcoming pre-Halloween party (invitation only).
Or if you love science, you're probably looking forward to when the museum opens to the public. It's temporarily closed, you know, to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions. Admission when it does open? It's free. It's always been free.
But if you want to join the Bohart Museum Society, there are scores of membership benefits:
- Subscription to the Bohart Museum Society newsletter--mailed to you quarterly, as well as the electronic news emailed to you periodically
- Invitation only special events and programs member discounts on gift shop merchandise
- Members' Halloween Open House
- Access to the collections, and free information and identification services from staff
- Museum library use
Memberships are $25 for an individual; $15 for a student; $40 for a family; and $100 for a patron. And, endowment donations are gratefully received. See more information here.
75th Anniversary. The Bohart Museum, now celebrating its 75th year, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis. It is currently open only to UC Davis and research communities. As it says on its website: "We are currently open to members of the UC Davis and research communities who are vaccinated and/or have had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours per UC Davis policy. We need to focus on training our new interns and safely greeting the new UC Davis students first before we can open to the general public. Our store is on-line and items can be shipped or picked up curbside on Friday mornings. Please contact us by email at email@example.com."
The Bohart Museum, the seventh largest insect collection in North America, houses nearly eight million insect specimens, collected from around the world. It also is home to a live "petting zoo" comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas, as well as an online gift shop stocked with insect-themed jewelry, clothing, books, posters and other items.
Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, serves as the director of the Bohart Museum, which is named for its founder, noted entomologist Richard 'Doc' Bohart, 1913-2007, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for more than 50 years. Kimsey was one of his last graduate students.
Kimsey writes about him: "He led an outstanding career in entomology both as a scientist and teacher. Dr. Bohart ("Doc") began his career at Davis in 1946. He became well-known for the courses he taught on general entomology, insect systematics and a summer field course in insect identification. He served as chair of the Department of Entomology from 1963 to 1967. His scientific research on insect taxonomy and systematics is unparalleled. His publications include three of the most important books on the systematics of the Hymenoptera, including the well-used volume Sphecid Wasps of the World. His journal publications total over 200 articles. He revised many groups of insects, discovered new host-associations or geographic ranges, and described many new species."
"The collections made by him and his students during field courses form the basis for the Bohart Museum's unrivalled collection of the insect fauna of the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains," Kimsey points out. "He and his wife Margaret also contributed many specimens from their collecting trips around the world. He also provided generous personal financial support to the collection." Kimsey interviewed him in 1996 and you can access the one-hour video on this Aggie Video link.
Fundraising Project End Oct. 31. Meanwhile, the Bohart Museum is seeking donations for its traveling insect specimen displays. It has launched a CrowdFund project to raise $5000 by 11:59 p.m., Oct 31 to purchase traveling display boxes for their specimens, which include bees, butterflies and beetles. These are portable glass-topped display boxes that travel throughout Northern California to school classrooms, youth group meetings, festivals, events, museums, hospitals--and more--to help people learn about the exciting world of insect science.
“When COVID halted our in-person outreach programs, we were still able to safely loan these educational materials to teachers,” said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. “Now that UC Davis is open again to students we have all these bright, students on campus with fresh and diverse perspectives,” she said. “We want to support their talent, so the funds we are raising will go to students for the creation of new traveling displays. This fleet of new educational drawers will expand and update what we can offer. Some of our current displays were created 15 years ago! One can only imagine all the places these drawers have been and all the people who have been inspired."
The minimum donation is $5, Yang said. "You can donate in honor or in memory of someone, a place, or an organism, too! There is a map (states and countries) that lights up donor locations. Those of you with a fondness in your hearts for insects, college student experiences, science education, and/or museums, please donate to light up our map!" Access the donation page and map at https://bit.ly/3v4MoaJ
Aggie Pride Week. As part of Aggie Pride Week or Spirit Week, the Bohart Museum hosted a mini-outdoor open house on Saturday, Oct. 16. "This was the Cal Aggie Alumni Association's fall parent weekend for students, parents and alumni," said Yang. See some of the images below.