They share a name, for one thing.
When evolutonary biologist-taxonomist Chris Hamilton, a former doctoral student at Auburn University, Alabama, and now on the University of Idaho faculty, led a research team near the site of California's Folsom State Prison to look for tarantulas, he discovered a new species, solid black in color.
He named it Aphonopelma johnnycashi after Johnny Cash, the legendary country singer known as "The Man in Black."
Fast forward to this week:
Hamilton, now assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, will speak on tarantula diversity when he presents a virtual seminar at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, April 21 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His title: "Understanding Aphonopelma Diversity across the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot by Integrating Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)." Click on this link to access the seminar.
Hosting the seminar is Jason Bond, the Evert and MarionSchlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Hamilton's major professor at Auburn University. Hamilton received his doctorate in evolutionary biology from Auburn University in 2015, after earning his master's degree in biology in 2009 from the University of Texas at Arlington.
"Dr. Hamilton does great work on terrestrial arthropods with an emphasis on mygalomorph spiders (trapdoor spiders, tarantulas and their kin)," Bond commented.
Hamilton's abstract: "Within the world of theraphosid systematics, the genus Aphonopelma has received considerable attention in recent years. But despite these efforts, the group's diversity remains poorly understood in the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot located in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico--an ecoregion known for its exceptional biodiversity and endemicity. It has long been thought that Aphonopelma was a 'taxonomic and nomenclatural nightmare' because across their distributions, similarly sized species are often frustratingly similar morphologically. This is all too obvious when examining populations in the Madrean Sky Islands and Sierra Madre Occidental, as their shared evolutionary history and divergence in similar isolated habitats has produced very similar phenotypes. This work looks to employ an integrative approach for delimiting species that incorporates information from morphology (traditional and advanced techniques) and molecules (phylogenomics), as well as data on ecology (niche, distribution, and behavior) and how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of the Apache and Tohono O'odham peoples may help piece the puzzle together. As we continue to investigate some of the more remote and hard-to-access mountain ranges, we have discovered that most independent ranges harbor their own divergent and distinct lineages that may represent new species."
Hamilton received his doctorate in entomology from Auburn University; his master's degree from the University of Texas at Arlington; and his bachelor's degree from Western Kentucky University.
Hamilton's naming of the new tarantula species drew widespread interest. Lindsay Miles of Auburn University's Office of Communications and Marketing wrote a 2016 news release: "The species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, was found in California near the site of Folsom State Prison, which Cash made famous in his song Folsom Prison Blues. The mature male Aphonopelma johnnycashi measures up to 6 inches across and is generally solid black in color, much like Cash's distinctive style of dress from which his nickname, 'The Man in Black,' was coined."
"Along with the Aphonopelma johnnycashi, Hamilton's study determined there are only 29 species of tarantula in the United States, 14 of which are new to science. Researchers had previously identified 55 species. The new descriptions nearly double the number of species known from the American Southwest, a region described as a biodiversity hotspot featuring frigid mountains and scorching deserts."
The team, Miles wrote, "spent more than a decade searching for tarantulas throughout the American Southwest and studied almost 3,000 specimens, undertaking the most comprehensive taxonomic study ever preformed on a group of tarantulas." The study was part of Hamilton's dissertation, which was funded by two National Science Foundation grants made to Auburn University.
In the news story, Bond, then chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, praised Hamilton as "an accomplished field biologist and taxonomist (who) is also doing cutting-edge genomics research."
Miles pointed out that "Although this is the first time Johnny Cash has been honored by an Auburn researcher, Auburn University professors have garnered national attention in the past for naming celebrities, characters and even President Obama, with a species name. Bond has named species of trapdoor spiders after U2's Bono, actress Angelina Jolie and talk show host Stephen Colbert, to name a few. Jonathan Armbruster, also of the Department of Biological Sciences, made headlines last year when he named a newly discovered catfish species after the Star Wars fan favorite, Greedo."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger is coordinating the spring seminars and may be reached at email@example.com for any technical questions.
Ah, Saturday, April 17. It's the 107th Annual UC Davis Picnic Day! What's a picnic without bugs?
This year's event, all virtual, is themed "Discovering Silver Linings," and you can do just that by watching the pre-recorded videos and by participating in the Zoom sessions. Check out the Picnic Day schedule of events which include entomological exhibits and talks from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association.
New additions to the line-up (featured on the Bohart Museum of Entomology website), involve what you could call "The good, the bad and the bugly." Blue orchard bees, tsetse flies and mosquitoes are spotlighted in UC Davis research-based videos created by KQED's Deep Look series and presented by PBS Digital Studios. Each runs about four minutes.
Here are the KQED productions:
- Watch this Bee Build Her Bee-Jeweled Nest, featuring blue orchard bees, the project of UC Davis doctoral student Clara Stuligross.
- A Tsetse Fly Births One Enormous Milk-Fed Baby, showcasing the work of medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
- This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs--in Your House, involving the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that the Attardo lab studies.
Clara Stuligross, Doctoral Student
They exposed the bees to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid, widely used in agriculture, and found that the combined threats—imidacloprid exposure and the loss of flowering plants—reduced the bee's reproduction by 57 percent, resulting in fewer female offspring.
Other scientists have conducted similar research on honey bees, but this is the first comparable research on wild bees in field or semi-field conditions. The blue orchard bee, nicknamed BOB, is a dark metallic mason bee, smaller than a honey bee. It is prized for pollinating almond, apple, plum, pear, and peach trees. California almond growers often set up bee boxes or "bee condos" for blue orchard bees to aid in honey bee pollination. In the wild, the bees nest in reeds or natural holes.
Update? "We are currently working on a follow-up study to investigate potential carryover effects of past insecticide exposure on the same bee population, as well as how repeated pesticide exposure over multiple years impacts bee population growth," Stuligross said today.
Geoffrey Attardo, Medical Entomologist-Geneticist
What many people do not know: "Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," Attardo says.
Attardo led landmark research published Sept. 2, 2019 in the journal Genome Biology that provides new insight into the genomics of the tsetse fly. The researchers compared and analyzed the genomes of six species of tsetse flies. Their research could lead to better insights into disease prevention and control.
The Deep Look episode on mosquitoes, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs-- in Your House," deals with the ability of Aedes aegypti eggs to survive out of water. Wrote the producers: "The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can transmit dengue fever and Zika, makes a meal of us around our homes. And her eggs are hardy. They can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae."
The popular cockroach races, hosted by the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), will take place during the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 17, but you'll see them only on your computer screen--not in person.
That's because the 2021 Picnic Day is going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions.
EGSA Picnic Day coordinator Erin "Taylor" Kelly, a graduate student in the laboratory of medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, says the American cockroaches are housed in the basement of Briggs Hall and ready to go.
No personal trainers for them. "They will be pushed down the track by small pumps of air," she says.
Enthusiasts can cheer for their favorite racers and order stickers and roach race t-shirts from the EGSA website, which helps fund EGSA activities.
Where can you access the EGSA events on Saturday? On the UC Davis Picnic Day website at https://picnicday.ucdavis.edu
Here are the EGSA's 14 stations on tap. The links will all appear on the UC Davis Picnic Day website on or before April 17.
This is a live Zoom session from 12 noon to 3 p.m., with questions and answers. Folks can ask questions about insects and spiders.
EGSA T-Shirt Sales
Livestream on Zoom, 11 a.m. to 12 noon
Viewers can join a Zoom room and watch the American cockroaches race to victory.
Live Zoom session with questions and answers, from 10 to 11 a.m. with Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. A downloadable worksheet will be available.
Apre-recorded video by Professor Richard Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, an expert on plant communication. The video is at https://youtu.be/xOXSqy05EO0
A pre-recorded video on "The Wonderful World of Nematodes" by nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Apre-recorded video by ant lab of Professor Phil Ward, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Graduate students in the Ward lab will talk about their ant research. A downloadable coloring sheet will be available.
This will include links to all of the department-based KQED videos and a downloadable cooring sheet.
Professor Sharon Lawler, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will offer a pre-recorded video, adapted from her live lil' swimmers exhibit. She will display water striders, dragonflies and damselflies and discuss their biology.
A downloadable PDF from the lab of Professor Neal Williams, pollination ecologist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. This involves whether bumble bees can take the heat: "Will the increase in extreme heat in California affect these cool-weather loving pollinators and their ability to persist?" This UC Davis research group is trying to figure this out. Folks can help them conduct this work by submitting observations of bumble bee nests in the Davis/Sacramento area so that monitoring efforts can begin gathering critical data.
A pre-recorded video. Learn about the Davis Fly Fishers Club.
A downloadable worksheet will be offered.
This will be pre-recorded/reposted video from the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Control District. Folks can learn about local vector control.
"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.
The Bohart Museum, temporarily closed, is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology.
That's 127 years of working with the bees.
Master Beekeeper Jason Miller of Miller Honey Farms, Inc. of Newcastle, Calif., one of America's pioneering and foremost beekeeping operations, will speak on "Beekeeping through the Generations" when the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center hosts its online symposium on Honey Adulteration on Thursday, April 22.
Said Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, located in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road: "Jason is following in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather over 100 years ago. Through this lens, he will discuss the most important issues historically and in beekeeping today." A question-and-answer session will follow.
Jason Miller traces his beekeeping roots back to Nephi Ephraim Miller of Providence, Utah, who started his honey business in 1894. "With the help of his pioneer father, Nephi exchanged five bags of oats for seven colonies of bees. This was the beginning of Miller's Honey," according to the website. Miller's Honey Farms established its Idaho office 1917, when "Nephi Miller sent his son Earl into Southeast Idaho to seek additional bee pasture. In 1954, Earl's son, Neil took over the Idaho branch. Neil operated the Blackfoot, ID outfit until 1996. In 1996, he sold the outfit to his son John Miller."'
Miller Honey Farms opened a new branch in Gackle, N.D. in 1970 and it is now considered "one of the largest beekeeping outfits in North America. John Miller has managed or owned this operation since 1980. The Gackle operation annually harvests over a million pounds of high quality honey for markets throughout the United States."
In conjunction with California's growing almond industry, Miller Honey Farms opened the Newcastle branch in 1974. John Miller has managed or owned this operation since 1980. (See John Miller interview on bees)
Jason Miller is just one of the speakers for the symposium, titled Honey Adulteration: Understanding the Issues of Honey, Beekeeping and the Safety of our Food Supply, and set from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Keynote speaker is Professor Michael Roberts of the UCLA Resnick Center for Law and Food Policy. Registration, $30 per person, is under way here.
"With a focus on keeping our food system healthy, presenters will address issues of pollination, economic adulteration, and how beekeeping, a mainstay for this system, is being threatened," Harris says. A panel of specialty food retailers will discuss how they source and select products and educate and inspire their customers. Professionals in the field will address steps being taken to mitigate the adulteration of honey in the United States.
9 a.m.: Welcome and Introductions
Amina Harris, director, UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science
9:10 a.m.: Keynote Address
Michael Roberts, Professor, UCLA Resnick Center for Law and Food Policy
9:30 a.m.: Retailer Roundtable
Retailers will discuss how they educate their clientele, earning respect and allegiance while guiding their food choices. A question and answer session will follow.
- Moderator: Jessica Zischke, Good Food Foundation, San Francisco
- John Antonelli, Antonelli's Cheese, Austin, Texas
- Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman's, Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Danielle Vogel, Glen's Garden Market, Washington, D.C.
- Raph Mogannam, BiRite Family of Businesses, San Francisco
- Amelia Rappaport, Woodstock Farmers' Market, Woodstock, VT
10 a.m. Beekeeping through the Generations
Jason Miller works in one of America's older beekeeping operations, Miller Honey Farms, following in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather more than 100 years ago. Through this lens, he will discuss the most important issues historically and in beekeeping today. A question-and-answer session will follow.
10:30 a.m.: Testing Development at the USDA
Roger Simonds, USDA researcher, will explain some of the new techniques being developed to help deter adulteration in the United States, today. A question-and-answer session will follow.
10:50 a.m.: What IS the Government Doing?
In response to repeated demands from the industry, U.S .Customs has now implemented a program of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to scan every honey entering the U.S. from abroad. What does this mean for our national honey supply? Chris Hiatt, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association and owner of Hiatt Honey, Madera, Calif., a third-generation beekeeping operation, will discuss the situation.
11:15 a.m.: What Can we Do?
Attendees will be assigned to chatrooms to discuss action items and idea that could be promoted and pursued by the American Honey Producers, the Honey and Pollination Center and other honey and beekeeping related groups. Ideas will be presented in the wrap up session.
11:30 a.m: Wrap Up and Closing
Follow-up on selected action items to be conducted by the Honey and Pollination Center
An online global symposium celebrating “The Life and Legacy of Wittko Francke,” a renowned organic chemist based at the University of Hamburg, Germany--and a frequent collaborator with several UC Davis scientists--brought out his humanity.
Professor Francke died Dec. 27, 2020 at age 80 of complications from COVID-19.
The 29 speakers praised him as a brilliant and pioneering scientist, a dedicated teacher and researcher, a kind and loyal friend, a connoisseur of good wine and good food, and a generous—and sometimes anonymous—humanitarian. They also lauded his mentoring, congeniality, sense of humor, “keen olfactory system” and his Ping Pong skills.
“Wittko was one of the great pioneers shaping chemical ecology and the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE),” said Leal, a member of the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology faculty and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Francke served as ISCE president in 1989-90, and Leal in 2000-01.
Panelist and former ISCE president John Hildebrand of the University of Arizona said: “Every encounter with Wittko was unforgettable.”
Former student Jan Bergmann of the Pontifica Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile, a past president of the Latin American Association of Chemical Ecology, said the scientific community lost “a very productive and passionate researcher, a great colleague, mentor and friend.”
Toward the end of the symposium, Wittko's two sons, Christian and Michael offered their remembrances. Christian disclosed that Daaks-Chemicals, a key sponsor at an ISCE annual meeting, was “a fake” business meant to disguise the real donor--his father.
Leal then announced a fundraising project for the International Society of Chemical Ecology: “The Wittko Francke's Daaks-Chemical Fund."
Leal related this week that "There was enormous support. ISCE has now received more than $23,000. In honor of Wittko, ISCE will be establishing the annual Wittko Francke's Daaks-Chemicals Memorial Lecture."
It was Seybold who introduced Francke when he was a guest speaker at a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on Dec. 8, 2010. Images of them, along with Leal, postdoctoral scholar Zain Syed, and doctoral student Leslie Saul-Gershenz, opened the April 3rd symposium.
Among the speakers was UC Berkeley professor Dave Wood, now 90, who was Seybold's major professor.
The event concluded with chemical ecology icon Wendell Roelofs, emeritus professor of Cornell University, and his wife, Joanne, offering a toast to the late chemical ecology giant who cherished good science, good friends and good wine.
The symposium drew widespread praise.
“I received more than 40 emails from people I know very well and others I never had the pleasure to meet; they shared their thoughts about the celebration,” Leal related. “Perhaps, one comment captures the sentiment of all: ‘Contributions to chemical ecology like Wittko's are at the center of why our field is so rewarding.'”
One email was from a professor from Japan, Shigeru Matsuyama, who collaborated with Seybold. “He wrote me that he was surprised that Steve Seybold had passed,” Leal said. “He had visited Seybold and his family in Davis and mentioned he “had a wonderful time, seeing his laboratory, walking around Davis Farmers Market, and enjoying food at Guadalajara.”
Born Nov. 28, 1940 and raised in Reinbek, near Hamburg, Germany, Francke studied chemistry at the University of Hamburg, obtaining his doctorate there in 1973. His thesis: "The Aggregation Pheromone of the Bark Beetle, Xyloterus domesticus. He was appointed professor of the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the University of Hamburg in 1985 and had served there until after his retirement.
A colleague once called him "The Mozart of Molecules," which Jan Bergmann noted, "summarizes eloquently the admiration of many had for his work, which is documented in more than 450 scientific publications." Among Francke's many global honors: the 1995 ISCE Silver Medal.
Former Francke student Stefan Schulz, a professor at the Institute of Organic Chemistry, Germany, an ISCE past president, wrote on the symposium's registration page: "Even in his early years, he showed some characteristics many associates with him, such as energy, determination, imagination, and creativity. Despite several offers, he stayed his whole academic career at the University of Hamburg, where he finally became a Full Professor and served different functions, including Dean of Chemistry. He always liked to teach, which he did happily even in his later years."
Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology tweeted Dec. 29, 2020: "Wittko Francke's death is a severe loss for the field of Chemical Ecology. He was not only a great chemist, but he also had a large influence on the development of our institute being a key member of the advisory committee that set up our institute."
France was not only an "outstanding, hard-working scientist" but a "loving husband, father of two children and grandfather of four grandchildren," Bergmann wrote. "He was also a person with incredible kindness and generosity....He enjoyed bringing people together and deeply cared about his students, many of which stayed in touch with him long after they left his research group. His legacy will live on in those of us he has inspired and guided in so many ways."