That was just the beginning of what would unfold into an outstanding entomological career.
So we were delighted to see that UC Davis doctoral alumnus Kelli Hoover, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, is one of the 10 recipients of the Entomological Society of America's 2021 Fellow awards.
Hoover, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in June, 1997, studied with major professors Sean Duffey (1943-1997) and Bruce Hammock. Hoover joined the PSU faculty as an assistant professor in 1998, achieving full professor in 2010.
Hoover's areas of expertise include biology and ecology of invasive species, insect-microbial symbiosis, tritrophic interactions, insect virology, and pollination of forest trees. She is active in PSU's Center for Chemical Ecology, Center for Pollinator Research, and the Insect Biodiversity Center.
Nominator Gary Felton,professor and head of the PSU Department of Entomology, said it well in his nomination letter: “Hoover is internationally recognized for uncovering detailed mechanisms of how phytochemicals reduce mortality by baculoviruses through physiological impacts on the larva's midgut (epithelial cells and peritrophic matrix." Hoover and her co-advisors “patented baculovirus formulation additives that counteract these physiological effects, and thus increase the sensitivity of larvae to infections.”
“Kelli's interest in tritrophic interactions and her outgoing and engaging personality were just what was needed to pull the team together,” said Hammock, a 2010 Fellow. “As one would expect, Kelli's talents in science and leadership have served her well at Penn State. There her baculovirus work transitioned into a broader program in gypsy moth control and the invasion of the Asian longhorned beetle provided an opportunity to look at gut symbionts. Every project that Kelli touches seems to yield exciting results with practical implications. I am thrilled that the ESA has recognized what a star she is in our field.”
“I worked with Kelli for two, delightful years at UC Davis, and was particularly impressed by the number of undergraduate students that she managed to mentor at the bench!” Bonning said. “Since then, she has established a stellar research program that has recently focused on both the fundamental biology and management solutions for invasive pests including Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) and spotted lantern fly. Analysis of ALB semiochemicals resulted in a blend now sold by two companies and used in North America and Europe for ALB management."
“In collaboration with engineers, she has also spearheaded development of a method to prevent introduction of invasive species in the wood packing associated with international shipments,” Bonning noted. “This dielectric heating technology, used to treat and kill insects hidden in the wood packing, is at the stage of commercial equipment prototype. These examples reflect both the interdisciplinary breadth of Kelli's research program and the seamless melding of science to address fundamental questions that lead to practical solutions. This breadth of scope and ability to identify commercially useful components of the system is a relatively rare phenotype among entomologists! Further, Kelli is driven to engage the necessary parties (scientists, stakeholders, policy makers) toward implementation of strategies to prevent or manage the impact of invasive species on U.S. agriculture."
Active in ESA since 1996, Hoover has judged student competitions; organized numerous national or branch meeting symposia, and served as a subject editor for Environmental Entomology. She chaired or co-chaired organizing committees for three annual meetings of the International Society for Invertebrate Pathology and held the office of treasurer for four years.
Kelli received her bachelor of science degree in 1979 from UC Berkeley, with honors, majoring in the biology of natural resources. She obtained her master's degree in biology, with an emphasis on entomology, from San Jose State University in 1992 before joining the doctoral program at UC Davis and completing her PhD in 1997. In 1998, after a year as a President's Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley, she joined the faculty in the PSU Department of Entomology.
Fellows of ESA are individuals who have made outstanding contributions to entomology— via research, teaching, extension, administration, military service, and public engagement and science policy —and whose career accomplishments serve to inspire all entomologists, according to the ESA.
A tip of the insect net to Kelli Hoover.
Sometimes you can't see the trees for the forest.
And sometimes you can't see the spider at all in a purple forest.
Such was the case this week when a tiny white crab spider cunningly figured out the best place to prey was in a flowering artichoke.
At first the spider crawled on top of the thistle, as honey bees dived in and out, threading through the petals, foraging for nectar and pollen. Did the bees spot the predator? If they did, they paid no attention. They were acting like kids jumping into a pool on a triple-digit temperature day on the first day of summer.
Then the spider slipped over to the edge of the purple forest and hid in the shadows. There it reigned supreme, Purple Reign. Unseen, and out of the heat.
Crab Spider: 3
Honey Bees: 0
Three sisters became breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hunger in a purple forest.
They say good news comes in threes.
Sometimes it comes in fives!
Congrats to the five UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty members for their outstanding academic achievements.
- Molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, was recently promoted from associate professor to full professor
- Community ecologist Louie Yang, promoted from associate professor to full professor
- Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, promoted from assistant professor to associate professor (with tenure)
- UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, honey bee scientist and educator, promoted from assistant to associate specialist
- Ecologist Richard "Rick" Karban, professor, selected to the high campus honor of UC Davis distinguished professor.
Professor Chiu, who serves as the vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, joined the faculty in 2010. She centers her research on molecular genetics of biological timing and posttranslational regulation of proteins. She uses animal models including Drosophila melanogaster and mice to study the mechanisms that regulate circadian and seasonal physiology and behavior. Major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation fund her biological rhythms research. In addition to her research in biological rhythms, Chiu also aims to leverage her expertise in genomics to address key issues in global food security.
In 2019, Chiu was named one of 10 UC Davis Chancellor's Fellows, an honor awarded to associate professors who excel in research and teaching.
Chiu and Yang co-founded and co-direct (with Professor Jay Rosenheim) the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, launched in 2011 to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. The program crosses numerous biological fields, including population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; entomology; and cell biology. The goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research. (See more on UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
Professor Yang, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 2009, was named a UC Davis Hellman Fellow in 2012. The Hellman Family Foundation contributes funds to support and encourage the research of promising assistant professors who exhibit potential for great distinction in their research. In 2013, he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award of $600,000.
Yang won the 2018 Outstanding Faculty Academic Advising Award from NACADA, also known as the Global Community for Academic Advising; and the 2017 Faculty Advisor Award of Excellence in NACADA's Pacific Region 9, comprised of California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Yang says of the research underway in his lab: “We study how species interactions change over time. We apply a diversity of approaches and perspectives to a diversity of systems and questions. We do experimental community ecology. We also use observational methods,meta-analysis, conceptual synthesis, ecosystem perspectives, and theoretical models. We like data, and we like learning new things.” (See more on UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
Associate professor Vannette, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty since 2015, received a Hellman Fellowship grant in 2018 and a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2019 to study microbial communities in flowers and a National Science Foundation grant to support work on solitary bee microbiomes.
Of her research, Vannette says: “All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution.”
“The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects (sometimes other organisms, too),” she says. “We often study microbial communities in flowers, on insects or in soil. We rely on natural history observations, and use techniques from chemical ecology, microbial ecology and community ecology. In some cases, we study applied problems with an immediate application including pathogen control or how to support pollinators. Other questions may not have an immediate application but are nonetheless grounded in theory and will contribute to basic knowledge and conservation (e.g. how can dispersal differences among organisms affect patterns of abundance or biodiversity?)” (See more on UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
Extension Apiculturist Niño, who joined the faculty in 2014, is known internationally for her expertise on honey bee queen biology, chemical ecology, and genomics. She maintains laboratories and offices in Briggs Hall and at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Niño serves as the UCCE Extension specialist for honey bees for all of California. She is the director of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), which she launched in 2016. The California Master Beekeeper Program is a continuous train-the-trainer effort. CAMBP's vision is to train beekeepers to effectively communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within their communities, serve as mentors for other beekeepers, and become the informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and UCCE staff.
Niño is also the faculty director of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the department's half-acre educational bee garden located next to the Laidlaw facility, which serves as the outdoor classroom for the Pollinator Education Program, lovingly known as PEP. (See more on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Professor Karban, an international authority on plant communication and a 39-year member of the UC Davis entomology faculty, is now a distinguished professor, the highest campus-level faculty title.
The honor is awarded to those scholars “whose work has been internationally recognized and acclaimed and whose teaching performance is excellent.”
Karban, whose research interests include the population regulation of animal species and the interactions between herbivores and their host plants, currently focuses his research on two main projects: volatile communication between sagebrush plants that affects resistance to herbivory and factors that control the abundance and spatial distribution of wooly bear caterpillars.
Karban is the author of landmark book, Plant Sensing and Communication. He is a fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of the 1990 George Mercer Award from ESA for outstanding research.
The UC Davis ecologist is featured in the Dec. 23-30, 2013 edition of The New Yorker in Michael Pollan's piece, The Intelligent Plant: Scientists Debate a New Way of Understanding Plants. Zoe Schlanger featured him in a Nov. 21, 2020 Bloomberg Quint article titled The Botanist Daring to Ask: Do Plants Have Personalities? (See more on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Nine UC Davis Distinguished Professors
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology now has a total of nine distinguished professors: six current faculty--Bruce Hammock, Frank Zalom, Lynn Kimsey, James R. Carey, Jay Rosenheim, and Richard Karban--and three emeriti faculty--Harry Kaya, Howard Ferris and Thomas Scott.
In addition, emeritus professor/chair Robert E. Page Jr. is a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor, as was the late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019). The campus presents one distinguished emeritus professor award annually.
The department, chaired by nematologist and professor Steve Nadler, is ranked as one of the top entomology/nematology departments in the nation. Part of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, it is headquartered in Briggs Hall.
"Our scientists investigate a very broad range of fundamental questions involving insects, nematodes, and spiders -- and the plants, microbes, and various animals they interact with," Nadler writes on the home page. "Our department also disseminates practical knowledge resulting from these investigations, such as methods of integrated pest management, with the goal of improving agriculture and the environment for California and beyond. As you explore our website, you will be introduced to this exciting and comprehensive research-- and the teaching and outreach programs of our department."
Early in his career, the late heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) drew international headlines when he uttered that remark before his 1964 fight with then champion Sonny Liston.
It was all over by the seventh round when "The Greatest" emerged victorious. But his comment regarding butterfly and bee behavior lives on.
That begs the question--were any bug people ever champion boxers?
Yes, the late James H. Oliver Jr. (1931-2018) was a Golden Gloves champion.
Two years before Oliver died, entomologist Marlin Rice, a past president of the Entomological Society of America, interviewed him for American Entomologist (Volume 62, Issue 4, Winter 2016), pointing out: "James H. Oliver, Jr. is Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Biology Emeritus at Georgia Southern University and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Oliver is widely recognized as an international expert in medical entomology and acarology, especially the biology and cytogenetics of pathogen-transmitting ticks and parasitic mites."
And Oliver was a Golden Gloves state champion.
Rice asked him a series of questions, including:
"Were you a good student?"
Oliver: "No, not very. I was a good school athlete and party guy. [Laughs.]
You went into boxing at the University of Georgia? Were you a good boxer?
Oliver: "Yeah. I won the state championship in my weight—the Golden Gloves."
Did you ever get knocked out boxing?
Did you ever knock out an opponent?
Oliver: Yeah. [Laughs.]
What's the quickest round you ever won?
Oliver: "Probably second or third round. I was so good at it because I was in good physical condition—great physical condition. I had a coach that said the one's that's in the best physical condition and can keep his left jab going all the time and don't try for a knockout—just hammer him [would win]. It was very good advice, because after the second round my opponent would usually get arm weary and I'd block him by keeping my hands up. That's how I won most of my fights, out of pure physical condition, and I was coordinated and fast. So then I found what I wanted to do; I'm not going to be a veterinarian, I'm going to be a boxer—a professional boxer! Well, that wasn't well thought out. [Laughs.] My brother, and he was always a scholar, said, “My god, you can't do that. You're going to have a brain concussion!” “Yeah, but I'm quick.” I was finally talked into not doing that and leaving the University of Georgia. I went to Georgia Southern 'cause it was only 50 miles away from home and I liked teaching as well. So I'll become a high school biology teacher and coach. That was my goal for several years until I decided I don't want to do that." (Read the entire interview here.)
So, yes, at least one entomologist was a boxing champion. Another professional boxer went into pest control following his retirement. Mike "Irish Mike" Jameson fought the likes of Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield and Randall “Tex” Cobbs before fighting bugs, landing a job as a pest control inspector with Clark Pest Control, Lodi, Calif., according to a feature story on pctonline.com.)
Did they ever say "Float like Lepidoptera, sting like Hymenoptera?"
Well, maybe they said "flutter" instead of "float?"
This is not something you see every day.
When Lynn Kimsey, director of the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, Department of Entomology and Nematology, recently traveled to San Luis Obispo, she saw a honey bee "licking a baby acorn" on an oak tree.
Why was the bee licking a baby acorn?
In her investigation, Kimsey discovered why.
"Apparently the acorn weevil larvae developing in the acorns secrete some kind of sugars--sweet pee if you must. I didn't realize this but apparently acorn honey is a big deal in Eurasia and beekeepers will intentionally move their colonies under oaks for this reason. Weevil pee honey… weird."
"Humans definitely collect the honey from the bees," Kimsey related. "The amount of sweetness from the acorns is way too little for us to do anything with directly."
If you look on YouTube for oak honey, you'll find a product from northern Greece described as "rich, thick, chocolatey, and packed with minerals, enzymes, propolis and goodness; lower glycemic index than most honeys therefore suitable for people wishing to consume a low sugar honey." (See https://youtu.be/vFpH8YBcQlw.)
Indeed. And there's a Raw Honey Shop based in Brighton, UK, that explains what it's all about: "What makes the acorns weep the fluid? There is a species of weevil, which is known as the acorn weevil (Curculio glandium). This weevil burrows into the acorns which causes them to release a sweet fluid, which the bees collect directly from the acorn and then convert it into honey." (Check out their video.)