A first-generation college student, Rajarapu holds two biochemistry degrees from Osmania University, India: her bachelor's degree (2006) and her master's degree (2008). She obtained her doctorate in entomology in 2013 from The Ohio State University, working with Professors Daniel Herms and Larry Phelan. Her dissertation: "Integrated Omics on the Physiology of Emerald Ash Borer."
Spring Seminar Schedule
Here's the seminar line-up for the spring quarter. All are scheduled from 4:10 to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays.
University of Idaho, Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology
Title: "Understanding Aphonopelma Diversity Across the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot by Integrating Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)"
Host: Jason Bond
University of Wyoming, Department of Geology and Geophysics
Title: "Ancient Bug-Bitten Leaves Reveal the Impacts of Climate and Plant Nutrients on Insect Herbivores"
Host: Emily Meineke
Pennsylvania State University, Department of Entomology
Title: "Ecoevolutionary Consequences of Crop Domestication on Plant-Pollinator Interactions"
Host: Rachel Vannette
For any questions, email Ian Grettenberger (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And when the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day goes virtual on Saturday, April 17, the insects will go virtual, too.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the Bohart Museum of Entomology will be participating with virtual cockroach races and a series of talks. Among them: Bohart Museum associate and natural historian Greg Kareofelas will present a pre-recorded video on Gulf Fritillary butterflies and entomologist Jeff Smith, the Bohart's volunteer curator of the Lepidoptera collection, will deliver a live Zoom talk on butterfly and moth mimicry.
"For my presentation on mimicry within Lepidoptera, it will briefly mention camouflage and spend most of the time on mimicry for defense--mimics of toxic or distasteful species, mimicry using odors or sounds, mimics of snakes or spiders, and mimics of non-food materials such as bird feces," Smith said.
More events are pending.
The Bohart Museum, temporarily closed, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building. Directed by Professor Lynn Kimsey, the Bohart Museum includes nearly eight million insect specimens, a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an online gift shop stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, jewlery, hoodies, books and posters.
The UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association is selling t-shirts on its website (including shirts featuring Roach Races), and soon will be offering face masks and stickers.
Discovering Silver Linings
This year's theme is “Discovering Silver Linings.” Despite all that has happened this year, the UC Davis community has continued to find silver linings everywhere, the Picnic Day officials reported on their website. "Our campus always strives to inspire hope and works towards a better and brighter tomorrow."
It all began, according to the UC Davis Picnic Day website, "when the University Farm invited the surrounding community to view their new dairy barn. Two thousand visitors attended, bringing picnics to complement the coffee, cream, and sugar provided by the University. Following the success of the 1909 picnic, the faculty of the University Farm continued to plan and sponsor the event until a student committee took over the task in 1912. Through the years of Picnic Day history, the event has only been canceled five times. In 1924, an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease among the cowherds caused the first cancellation. In 1938, delayed construction of the gymnasium, which was needed to accommodate the ever-increasing number of participants, led to a second cancellation. During World War II, the Army Signal Corps controlled the campus, and Picnic Day disappeared from 1943 to 1945. Since 1946, Picnic Day has been growing strong and now boasts an annual attendance of more than 70,000 people. This year, there will be more than 200 events on campus and an estimated 75,000 visitors attending this special event. Since 1959, the parade was extended to include downtown Davis to celebrate the fact that Davis became a separate UC campus and not just the Farm School for UC Berkeley."
This year's Picnic Day won't look like the traditional Picnic Day, but it will include insects!
If you missed entomologist Robert Peterson's outstanding virtual seminar on "Tigers in Yellowstone National Park: Adaptations of Insects to Extreme Environments," presented March 31 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, not to worry.
It's on YouTube at https://youtu.be/z85B0NlmizU.
The "tigers" in Yellowstone National Park are tiger beetles, Cicindela haemorrhagica, that live, feed and breed in the thermal pools.
UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey introduced him as "a star in entomology"; a professor of entomology at Montana State University; and a past president (2019) of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) .
"We have seen these beetles for 20 minutes or more walking around on the surface (of thermal pools) at 50 degrees centigrade," said Peterson, who researches and photographs the insects.
He pointed out that 50 degrees centigrade is 122 degree Fahrenheit. "That's not normal for any insect," he said.
"How are they alive?" he asked. "How do they live in these extreme conditions in Yellowstone National Park?" Be sure to watch the video at https://youtu.be/z85B0NlmizU and see his spectacular images.
A native of Perry, Iowa, Peterson received his bachelor's degree in entomology from Iowa State University, Ames, and his master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He joined the MSU faculty in 2002 after serving as a research biologist for Dow AgroSciences, Omaha from 1995 to 2001. He has published 123 peer-reviewed journal articles, 15 book chapters, and two books.
Peterson manages the website, Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, an online photographic celebration of the ecosystem's biodiversity. He has categorized the site into butterflies and moths; beetles; flies; true bugs; stoneflies; mayflies; net-winged insects; bees, wasps ants and sawflies; grasshoppers, crickets and katydids; and insect relatives. Peterson also hosts a comparable Facebook page, Insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger coordinates the weekly seminars, held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. For more information, contact him at email@example.com.
"Ento-what?" some folks will ask. "What's that?"
Five-year-old Rebecca Jean "RJ" Millena could have told you.
She still can.
When she was a kindergarten student in Concord, Calif., RJ wrote exactly this on her "About Me" poster: "When I grow up, I want to be an entomologist."
Fast forward to today. She's now 22, a senior majoring in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and an outstanding student researcher in the laboratory of UC Davis Distinguished Professor Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. And she's just accepted a four-year, full-ride fellowship offer to a PhD program at the American Museum of Natural History to join the systematics laboratory of Dr. Jessica Ware.
RJ, who studies those bizarre Strepsiptera endoparasites that attack their hosts, the Ammophila (thread-waisted) wasps, spent two years at the Bohart Museum of Entomology studying the specimens. As larvae, members of the order Strepsiptera, known as “twisted wings,” enter their hosts, including wasps and bees, through joints or sutures.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million specimens, houses “about 30,000 specimens of Ammophila from multiple continents,” says director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. Global wasp authority and UC Davis alumnus Arnold Menke (he studied for his 1965 doctorate with Professor Richard Bohart) identified most of them. Menke's publication, "The Ammophila of North and Central America (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae)” is the bible of Ammophila research.
But back to what children want to be when they grow up. Usually they say cowboy, truck driver, cook, teacher, dancer, actor, musician, artist, athlete, firefighter, detective, writer, police officer, astronaut, pilot, veterinarian, lawyer, doctor and the like.
But rarely "entomologist," the scientific study of insects.
RJ's enthusiasm toward insects is highly contagious. (Read more about her in this news feature.)
'I Wanna Be an Entomologist'
Back in 2011 we were delighted to see UC Davis Regents Scholar Heather Wilson, a researcher/lab technician in the Frank Zalom laboratory, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, create a fun-filled, innovative video, "I Wanna Be an Entomologist," a take-off of "I Wanna Be a Billionaire" from Travie McCoy's Lazarus album.
Heather entered her project in an Entomological Society of America (ESA) contest and won recognition.
In her video, she runs with an insect net, counts bugs in the Zalom lab, watches bees in a hive, and visits the Bohart Museum. At the Bohart, she hugs a display of butterflies and cradles a rose-haired tarantula and Madagascar hissing cockroach from its live "petting zoo."
"I wanna be an entomologist, so freakin' bad," Wilson sings.
"I wanna be on the cover
Of Economic Entomology
Smiling next to Frank and Jim Carey..."
"Frank and Jim" are Frank Zalom and James R. Carey, UC Davis distinguished professors in the Department of Entomology and Nematology. Zalom is a past president of the 7000-member ESA. Both are elected fellows.
Watch Heather Wilson's video at https://youtu.be/rwNbbJgXNXA and you'll probably decide being an entomologist sounds much more fun than being a billionaire. Who wants to be a billionaire, anyway? Let's go check out the insects!
The entomology line forms over there...don't crowd and don't cut in.
There's still time to register for the online Honey Adulteration Symposium, hosted by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and featuring keynote speaker Michael T. Roberts of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law.
The 2.5-hour symposium will take place Thursday, April 22 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The last day to register at https://bit.ly/3d2paJS is April 18. Tickets are $30 per person.
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, said the symposium is an opportunity "to learn how honey adulteration affects our food system and an opportunity to take action. Honey is the world's third most adulterated food, right after milk and olive oil."
The symposium is geared toward "educating specialty food retailers who actively educate their consumers," she said. Presenters will address issues of pollination, economic adulteration and threats to beekeeping. A panel of specialty food retailers will discuss how they source and select products and educate and inspire their customers.
Roberts will focus on "understanding how honey adulteration affects beekeepers, honey production and, in the largest sense, our food system," Harris noted. Roberts, founding executive director of the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy, is described as a "thought leader in a broad range of legal and policy issues from farm to fork in local, national, and global food supply systems." He has presented papers to the United Nations, the U.S. Government, and researched extensively on food fraud, including honey adulteration. Roberts taught the first food law and policy course in the United States in 2004 and was a leading force in the development in 2005 of the Journal of Food Law and Policy, a publication devoted exclusively to the field.
The Resnick Center performs cutting-edge legal research and scholarship in food law and policy to improve health and quality of life for humans and the planet, according to its website.
Also, at the UC Davis symposium, five retailers will discuss the ways they educate their customers. The speakers are:
- Amelia Rappaport, Woodstock Farmers' Market, Woodstock, Vermont
- Danielle Vogel, Glen's Garden Market, Washington, DC
- Grace Singleton, Zingerman's Deli, Ann Harbor, Mich.
- Kendall Antonelli, Antonelli Cheese Shop, Austin, Texas
- Ralph Mogannam, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, San Francisco
Among the other speakers will be Chris Hiatt, vice president, American Honey Producers Association, and a third-generation beekeeper at Hiatt Honey, Madera, Calif., who will share his insights.
The Honey and Pollination Center, affiliated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is located in the Robert Mondavi Institute on Old Davis Road, UC Davis campus.