It's "Friday Fly Day," but no flies today.
They're in a "no-fly zone."
That's because of the freezing temperatures. Jack Frost is nipping at assorted noses, leaves are dropping like flies, and cups are overflowing with hot chocolate.
Meanwhile, here's an image BEFORE the freeze. A honey bee is nectaring on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotunidfola, while a fly seeks a share.
Happy No-Fly Day!
Bita Rostami, who received her bachelor's degree in animal biology (ABI) from the University of California, Davis, in June 2022, saw her practicum thesis published as a review article several months later in the journal, Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
"A key element in the ABI major, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the practicum project--an opportunity for students to engage with research labs,” said her mentor, agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen, professor in the department.
The journal published her practicum report, “Application of Active Acoustic Transducers in Monitoring and Assessment of Terrestrial Ecosystem Health—A Review” in its Oct. 14th edition. “She pitched the basic and highly innovative idea of using active acoustic transducers in monitoring and assessments of terrestrial ecosystem health,” Nansen said.
“ABI practicum projects represent a unique opportunity for us instructors and lab team leaders to open our doors to students and allow them to challenge themselves and be inspired,” Nansen said. “And in some cases, it us that receive more from the student than what we offer--Bita is an example of such a student with an enormous academic potential.”
“Setting aside Bita's terrific academic background and qualifications, I have found her to be the ideal collaborator, very cooperative, consistently cheerful, perfectly dependable, stable and delightful to work with," Kimsey said. "Competition may or may not select for exceptional humans, but often selects for difficult characters. Bita almost uniquely combines high productivity and intense curiosity with a delightful personality, an ideal combination to have in a research program.”
In the journal article, Rostami reviewed and discussed possible applications—and also constraints—of active acoustic transducers in monitoring and assessment of terrestrial ecosystem health.
How did Bita Rostami conceive the idea of using acoustic transducers in monitoring and assessing terrestrial ecosystem health?
“I learned in one of my classes that playing recordings of healthy oceans could aid in restoring marine communities,” Rostami said. “From there, I wanted to find out if sound could be used similarly to help restore terrestrial ecosystems. Through my initial research, I found that although sound and sound recordings have been used to monitor and rehabilitate wildlife in terrestrial ecosystems, more research needs to be done on applying sound in assessing terrestrial plant health. I was familiar with multiple types of acoustic transducers commonly used in precision agriculture and urban forestry, so I wanted to see if we could apply pre-existing technology to perform monitoring and assessments on a broader scale in rough terrestrial terrains.”
One thing I really like about the ABI program at Davis is the wide range of research opportunities it offers students,” Rostami said. “You gain access to over 100 labs across campus and can choose to research anything from veterinary medicine to wildlife conservation. I wasn't interested in taking the pre-vet route when I applied to the program, but I could still choose classes that fit my interests and helped me design and execute my practicum.”
“That convinced me that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. She then gained experience as an undergraduate research assistant with the UC Irvine School of Biological Sciences. Her work, with principal investigator Peter Bryant from January to May of 2020, involved researching and analyzing the diversity and life cycle of Pacific Ocean zooplanktons.
Next project: for several months in early 2021, she served as a researcher, advised by paleoecologist Renske Kirchholtes of UC Santa Cruz, in the California Ecology and Conservation (CEC), part of the University of California's Natural Reserve System (CNRS). “CEC is an undergrad field program that takes students from different UCs across multiple UC nature reserves to learn about Californian ecology and do research,” she explained.
Experience as a research assistant in the UC Davis laboratory of conservation ecologist Susan Harrison in the Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin Natural Reserve, a 7,050-acre CNRS reserve in Napa and Lake counties followed. Working with primary investigator Rebecca Nelson from March 2021 to February 2022, she conducted daily visual encounter surveys of field sites or pollinator species, maintained daily data entry (time/date, weather, GPS coordinates, pollinator species, number of visitations and lower species visited), and collected soil samples from study sites to measure chemical makeup. She also collected seeds from specific flower species to analyze genetic diversity and test for seed viability.
Rostami, now 23 and a resident of Newport Beach, is taking an academic break before applying for graduate school. She is working full-time teaching math and biology as a private academic tutor in grades K-12. “I plan to eventually apply for an environmental science master's program and get certified through the Society of American Foresters.”
Rostami, who speaks Farsi (Persian), English and Spanish, already has accomplished two “firsts” in her family: She is the first to attend college in the United States “since we immigrated here from Iran around ten years ago. Most of my family are engineers, so I'm also the first one going into environmental studies.”
That would be the UC Davis Entomology Games Team, comprised of four doctoral candidates from the Department of Entomology and Nematology: Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, captain; Jill Oberski of the Ward laboratory; Erin “Taylor” Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab; and Madison “Madi” Hendrick of the Ian Grettenberger lab.
You will probably never see the quartet on the box of your favorite cereal but they are champions just the same. Really good champions. In fact, this is the fourth national championship that UC Davis has won since 2015.
They edged out Alabama's Auburn University's team of Dan Aurell, Chelsia Smith and Dylan Brown, 75 to 70, to win the national championship, waged Nov. 15 at the ESA meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was a joint meeting with the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of British Columbia.
What are the Entomology Games? They're a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. The question categories are biological control, behavior and ecology, economic and applied entomology, medical, urban and veterinary entomology, morphology and physiology, biochemistry and toxicology, systematics and evolution integrated pest management and insect/plant interactions.
Example? Question: The principal blood sugar of insects is a disaccharide called what? Answer: Trehalose.
The celebrated student-quiz event, launched in 1982, was formerly known as the Linnaean Games. Students compete first at an ESA branch level, with each branch sponsoring the winning team and the runner-up at the nationals. UC Davis won the championship at the Pacific Branch meeting in April.
The Entomology Games championship match video will be posted soon on ESA's YouTube channel. The full bank of questions will be loaded on this site. The previous UC Davis championships:
- 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. (Listen to the audio--no video available--on YouTube)
- 2016: UC Davis defeated the University of Georgia. Members of the UC Davis team: captain Ralph Washington Jr., Brendon Boudinot and Emily Bick. (Watch the video on YouTube)
- 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. (Watch the video on YouTube)
Now ESA is sponsoring the 2022 Virtual Entomology Games. Those games began Nov. 28 through the WikiQuiz system.
What's the name of the principal blood sugar of insects again?
With the Entomological Society of America (ESA), however, being framed is a good thing. No, a great thing!
ESA honors its President's Prize winners (aka first-place winners) in the student research competitions by asking them to step behind a cardboard cut-out and smile for the camera. Voila! Suitable for framing!
Joe Rominiecki, ESA manager of communications, just announced that the images are now available and we have permission to share them.
We earlier wrote that doctoral candidates Danielle Rutkowski and Zachary Griebenow of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology each won the President's Prize for their individual research presentations at the 2022 Joint Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, held Nov. 13-16 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
And now, we have the images.
Background: At the annual ESA meetings, students are offered the opportunity to present their research and win prizes. They can compete in 10-minute papers (oral), posters, or infographics. The President's Prize winners receive a one-year paid membership in ESA, a $75 cash prize, and a certificate. Second-winners score a one-year free membership in ESA and a certificate.
Rutkowski, who studies with community ecologists Rachel Vannette, associate professor, and distinguished professor Richard “Rick” Karban, spoke on “The Mechanism Behind Beneficial Effects of Bee-Associated Fungi on Bumble Bee Health,” at her presentation in the category, Graduate School Plant-Insect Ecosytems: Pollinators.
Her abstract: "Bees often interact with fungi, including at flowers and within bee nests. We have previously found that supplementing bumble bee colonies with these bee-associated fungi improves bee survival and increases reproductive output, but the mechanisms behind these effects are unclear. This research aimed to determine the mechanisms underlying positive impacts of fungal supplementation in the bumble bee, Bombus impatiens. We tested two hypotheses regarding possible nutritional benefits provided by bee-associated fungi. These included the role of fungi as a direct food source to bees, and the production of nutritionally important metabolites by fungi. To test these mechanisms, we created microcolonies bumble bees and exposed each microcolony to one of four treatment groups. These four treatments were created based on the presence of fungal cells and the presence of fungal metabolites. We found that bee survival and reproduction were unaffected by treatment, with trends of decreased survival and reproduction when fungi were present. This contradicts previous results we've found using this bumble bee species, where fungi had a positive impact. It is possible that this disparity in results is due to differences in pathogen pressure between the two experiments, as bees in the first experiment were exposed to large amounts of pathogen through provided pollen, including Ascosphaera and Aspergillus. This pollen was sterilized for subsequent experiments, reducing pathogen load. Therefore, it is possible that bee-associated fungi benefit bees through pathogen inhibition, and future work exploring this hypothesis is necessary to fully understand the role of these fungi in bumble bee health."
Zachary Griebenow. Griebenow, who studies with major professor and ant specialist Phil Ward, (Griebenow also captained the UC Davis Entomology Games Team in its national championship win at the Entomology Games or Bug Bowl) explained “Systematic Revision of the Obscure Ant Subfamily Leptanillinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Reciprocally Informed by Phylogenomic Inference and Morphological Data.” His category: Graduate School Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity: Evolution 1.
His abstract: "Ants belonging to the subfamily Leptanillinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are sister to nearly all other extant ants. Miniscule and subterranean, little is known of their behavior. Contrary to the collecting bias observed in most ants, male leptanilline specimens are acquired more easily than workers or queens. The sexes are almost never collected in association, and many subclades within the Leptanillinae are known from male specimens only. Our comprehension of evolutionary relationships among the Leptanillinae is further obstructed by oft-bizarre derivation in male phenotypes that are too disparate for phylogeny to be intuited from morphology alone. These restrictions plague our understanding of the Leptanillinae with probable taxonomic redundancy. My thesis aims at leptanilline taxonomy that reflects phylogeny, inferred from both genotype and phenotype, and integrates morphological data from both sexes. Here I present the results of (1) phylogenomic inference from ultra-conserved elements (UCEs), compensating for potential systematic biases in these data, representing 63 terminals; and (2) Bayesian total-evidence inferences from a handful of loci, jointly with discrete male morphological characters coded in binary non-additive or multistate fashion. Notably, these analyses identify worker specimens belonging to the genera Noonilla and Yavnella, which were heretofore known only from males. Given such discoveries across the Leptanillinae, the number of valid leptanilline genera is reduced from seven to three in order to create a genus-level classification that upholds monophyly along with diagnostic utility."
We also salute our second-place winners (see previous news story:
- Lindsey Mack, who studies with medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, covered “Three Dimensional Analysis of Vitellogenesis in Aedes aegypi Using Synchrotron X-Ray MicroCT” in the category, Graduate School Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology: Physiology
- Addie Abrams, who studies with Extension agricultural entomologist and assistant professor Ian Grettenberger, titled her research, “Hitting the Mark: Precision Pesticide Applications for the Control of Aphids in California Lettuce" in the category, Graduate School Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology: Integrated Pest Management
Congrats, all! They do our department and our university proud!
(The 7000-member ESA, founded in 1889, is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its members, affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government, are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.)
When two talented entomologists/artists from the University of California, Davis, collaborate and teach classes, you'll want to see the work that their students create.
And you can do just that from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 29 when UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty members Emily Meineke and Diane Ullman host the Entomology (ENT) 001 Art Show, "Insects in the Anthropocene."
The show features the art that their students created this quarter in the Labudio (lab+studio) space in Room 128 of the Environmental Horticulture Building, 200 Arboretum Drive, UC Davis. (See map)
"Please bring a t-shirt if you'd like to screen print one of our designs on it, too," they said. "Kids can make shirts, too. The event will be indoor/outdoor, so please dress accordingly." No reservations are necessary.
Meineke commented that the students "were each assigned an insect species in decline or moving about the planet and becoming invasive in new habitats. The insects students were assigned are among those most impacted by humans, and students were given an opportunity to re-envision how people might interact more gently and intentionally with insects, our small, yet consequential co-inhabitants. We are so proud of how the students interacted with this topic; they were charged with researching their insects and turning that research into designs that could be screen printed on watercolor paper, ceramic tiles to be installed in Briggs 122, and fabric. Their designs are nothing short of spectacular!"
UC Davis distinguished professor Diane Ullman, an artist and entomologist, "helped immensely," said Meineke, adding that she wasn't "an official co-teacher but she essentially acted as one."
Assistant Professor Emily Meineke
Meineke, an urban landscape entomologist and assistant professor, was recently named one of the 12 UC Davis recipients of the prestigious Hellman Fellowships, an annual program supporting the research of early-career faculty. Her project, “Assessing Preservation of Chemical Compounds in Pressed Plants," focuses on whether herbarium specimens collected over hundreds of years harbor chemical compounds that reveal mechanisms responsible for changing insect-plant interactions.
Meineke was among the scholars and artists who helped spearhead the newly created Harvard Museum of Natural History's “In Search of Thoreau's Flowers: An Exploration of Change and Loss," hailed as an examination of the natural world and climate change at the intersections of science, art and history. She helped launch the project in 2017 when she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University Herbaria. The 648 plant specimens that Henry David Thoreau donated to the museum form the foundation of the exhibit. It opened to the public May 14.
A native of Greenville, N.C., Meineke joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on March 1, 2020, from the Harvard University Herbaria. As a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, she studied how urbanization and climate change have affected plant-insect relationships worldwide over the past 100-plus years.
She received her bachelor of science degree in environmental science, with a minor in biology, in 2008 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She obtained her doctorate in entomology in 2016 from North Carolina State University.
Professor Ullman, a celebrated teacher, artist and researcher, is the 2014 recipient of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) National Excellence in Teaching Award and the UC Davis Academic Senate's 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award for undergraduate teaching. She is a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2014) and the ESA (2011).
When she was singled out for the UC Davis Academic Senate Award, her nominators praised her as providing "superb teaching and mentoring for many years, not only in the Department of Entomology and Nematology but as a leader in the Science and Society program. She has brought art-science fusion alive in innovative ways. Her nominees and students rave about her deep dedication, care, and knowledge in all teaching interactions, as well as her overall commitment to student success. One student nominee summed it up: "My experience in her course last spring was one that lifted my spirits, enriched my education, and strengthened my love for art and science during a time when it was difficult to feel positive about anything.”
Ullman's research encompasses insect/virus/plant interactions and development of management strategies for insect-transmitted plant pathogens. She has worked with many insect vector species (thrips, aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, mealybugs) and the plant pathogens they transmit, including viruses, phytoplasma and bacteria.
One of her latest art projects--with colleagues, UC Davis students and community members--is the Sonoran Dreams Art Project in the Garden Apartments of the University Retirement Community, Davis. Handmade ceramic tiles depicting the flora, fauna and symbols of the Sonoran Desert surround the elevator.
Ullman received her bachelor of science degree in horticulture from the University of Arizona and her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1985. She joined the UC Davis faculty in 1991 after serving as an associate professor of entomology at the University of Hawaii. Her credentials include: chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, 2004-2005; associate dean for undergraduate academic programs for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 2005 to 2014; and co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, launched in September 2006.