That sign greets visitors to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and that's exactly what Noah Crockette, 18, an intern there since age 11 and the winner of an international beetle research award as a teenager, plans to do.
This week he's already gone far--a distance of more than 2700 miles--from Davis to Ithaca, N.Y., where he is majoring in entomology at Cornell University.
Fondly known as “The Beetle Boy,” Noah won the 2015 Coleopterists' Society Award (senior division) for his project, “Survey of the Dung Beetles of Stann Creek, Belize.”
He volunteers at the Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, and a live petting zoo of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. He has helped out with open houses, outreach programs and collecting trips.
“Yes, Noah has been volunteering here for quite a few years,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. “We've seen him go from a middle school kid to a very mature 18-year-old. He's a great kid, always ready with a big smile, great attitude and really hard working. Smart, too. He should do very well at Cornell. We already miss him.”
Two Cornell University alumni--Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator, and UC Davis doctoral candidate student Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab, serenaded him with the Cornell fight song. Yang's degree is in general biology, and Bick's degree in entomology. After they sang the fight song, they told him how cold the winters are!
His major advisor is drosophila (fruit flies) expert Patrick O'Grady, who taught at UC Berkeley for 12 years before joining the Cornell faculty last year. His ecology professor is UC Davis alumnus Anurag Agrawal, an ecologist who received his doctorate in 1999, studying with Richard Karban.
His acceptance into Cornell, one of the top-ranked entomology programs in the country, came in 2017. Noah graduated in 2017 from The Met Sacramento High School, and Cornell offered him a one-year student transfer contract for the fall of 2018.
“I have always been interested in bugs but my interest in entomology started in sixth grade,” Noah said. “I mostly became interested in insects through my internship at the Bohart and participating in the undergraduate UC Davis Entomology Club (open to all interested persons). Before then I had only known that I was interested in zoology and started going to the Ent Club after learning about it from talking to (UC Davis forensic entomologist and club advisor) Robert “Bob” Kimsey at UC Davis Picnic Day. After attending the club for awhile, Danielle Wishon (club president and entomology major) and Bob got me connected with the Bohart to start the internship from which my interest grew.”
Career plans? Noah is keeping his options open as to specialty, but he wants to work in research. Beetles fascinate him, especially scarab beetles. “I have a tendency towards scarab beetles,” he said. “I particularly like the tribe Cyclocephalini, the masked chafer beetles. I really like that they are a Dynastines like the Hercules beetles but lack any sort of horns or other glitzy features. Even though they are small and brown, I love the subtle beauty of the markings which remind me of the Rorschach ink tests.
”I also really love venom so I have also thought about going into venom research but would like to grow more familiar with it before considering it more.”
As a Bohart Museum intern and associate, Noah collected insects twice in Belize on Bohart-affiliated collecting trips “where I was able to get field work experience in entomology as well as herpetology and ornithology.” Fran Keller, assistant professor, Folsom Lake College, and David Wyatt, an entomology professor at Sacramento City College, led the collecting trips. Keller, who served as his mentor, received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Lynn Kimsey.
“My last trip to Belize," Noah said, "was when I completed my Coleopterists' Society project in which I designed and constructed 12 baited pitfall traps which I used to survey the dung beetle species on the property as well as determine their preferred bait, between human feces, pig feces, chicken manure, rotten chicken, and rotten fruit."
In his freshman year, Noah taught an entomology class to elementary students, and as a senior project, organized a museum day at Shriners Hospital for Children.
Outside of entomological pursuits, he enjoys hiking, kayaking and birdwatching. “I really love the outdoors,” he said. “Last year after my trip to Belize I was also given the opportunity through my school to go on a month-long backpacking and kayaking trip through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Alaska. I also played rugby for C.K. McClatchy High School during my senior year which was a fun experience and I now plan on continuing with the sport. At home I like to keep reptiles and invertebrates--mostly tarantulas--as pets and enjoy collecting zoology related books and objects.”
During the going-away party, a photo of Noah Crockette flashed on the wall-mounted computer screen. It pictured him at about age 14, enthusiastically working with insects.
Doing what he loves.
Not overlooked was the quote from noted scientist E. O. Wilson “Go as far as you can [young scientists]. The world needs you badly."
If you've ever watched a mating pair of mantids and seen the male lose his head, or seen other insect mating rituals, then you ought to read entomologist Emily Bick's review of the play, An Entomologist's Love Story, which showing at the San Francisco Playhouse through June 23.
And see the play.
Emily Bick, a doctoral candidate in the Christian Nansen lab, University of California, Davis, recently attended a world premiere showing and penned a review published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in its Entomology Today.
Her review is drawing high praise. San Francisco Playhouse tweeted: “Quite possibly the coolest review we've ever received.”
Bick, who holds a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University and a master's degree from UC Davis, is a board-certified entomologist and a member of the 2016 UC Davis Linnaean Games Team that won the ESA national championship for expertise in answering questions about insects and entomologists. Bick also will compete in the 2018 national championships, scheduled in November in Vancouver, B.C., as a member of the UC Berkeley-UC Davis Linnaean Games Team.
In her review, Bick wrote that the play “shows that life imitates art and art imitates life, with insect mating rituals serving as a proxy for human dating behavior.”
“The well-known antagonistic insect mating behavior of bed bugs' traumatic insemination, praying mantids' sexual cannibalism, and honey bees' mating plugs are all accurately described and then used to represent adversarial (human) dating behavior. Fireflies' bioluminescence, meanwhile, is cast in a romantic light.”
“The play brims with entomological humor, from anthropomorphizing bed bugs to a running joke that sometimes volunteers actually make life harder for researchers,” Bick noted. “While the public will be entertained by the gross descriptions of entomological behavior (pun intended), only we insect scientists will know that the “Lou” the protagonists keep referring to is actually Dr. Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (and that, yes, he does keep a bed bug colony there). Or, for those of us who have been lucky enough to take a tour, you know the Museum's offices really are that difficult to get to.”
The production team consulted with entomologists at the American Museum of Natural History and the California Academy of Sciences.
“Overall, An Entomologist's Love Story,” Bick wrote, “juxtaposes a range of complex human dating behaviors with a humorous yet biologically accurate description of example insect species' mating behavior. From an entomologist's perspective, I highly recommend seeing An Entomologist's Love Story if you are or will be in the San Francisco area before June 23.”
Bick, who is delighted that Entomology Today published her piece, says she can now list “published theater critic” to her resume.
(Editor's Note: Bick will compete in the Linnaean Games National Championships with the UC Berkeley-UC Team team at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14 in Vancouver, B.C. The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team is captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a graduate student at UC Berkeley and a former graduate student at UC Davis. Other members are Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab. The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team won the Linnaean Games hosted in mid-June by the Pacific Branch, ESA. For a look at the kinds of questions asked, watch the 2016 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube.)
Which team--the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team or the Washington State University team--would win?
That was the white-knuckle scene at the Linnaean Games competition hosted by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) at its meeting June 10-13 in Reno. The Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
The teams score points by correctly answering random questions. Per the rules, they often try to answer the question before it is completed.
Was the answer Dutch scientist Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek? Or not?
After hearing a portion of the question, WSU rapidly--and incorrectly--buzzed in the answer, Leeuwenhoek.
It was actually Jan Swammerdam.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis Team emerged victorious. The team, captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a graduate student in public policy at UC Berkeley, (formerly a graduate student at UC Davis), included UC Davis doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab, and Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab.
“Davis vs WSU was the final game of the night,” related Boudinot. “This went into Sudden Death as the teams were tied 90-90 after several UC Davis interrupts reduced their point total. We came back from DOWN to tie at about 15th question, and the sudden death question was specifically selected to be challenging. The key details were ‘Dutch ... microscopist from the 17th century.' WSU buzzed in on the interrupt and stated 'Leeuwenhoek,' which was incorrect, leading to their elimination. The correct answer was Swammerdam."
The complete question: What Dutch scientist, a microscopist, was the first to observe and describe red blood cells? As part of his anatomical research, Swammerdam (1637-1680) "carried out experiments on muscle contraction," according to Wikipedia. "In 1658, he was the first to observe and describe red blood cells. He was one of the first people to use the microscope in dissections, and his techniques remained useful for hundreds of years."
What a close competition! Congratulations to both teams!
PBESA will sponsor the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team at the National Linnaean Games at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14, in Vancouver, Canada. Runner-up WSU (my alma mater!) also will compete.
Some of the questions asked at this year's PBESA Linnaean Games, as related by Ralph Washington Jr.:
Question: Name the fungal agent that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes white muscardine disease and is commercially packaged as a biological insecticide for the control of termites, whiteflies, and other insect pests?
Answer: Beauveria bassiana
Question: Name the process through which spiders use silk to fly and disperse.
Question: Where are you most likely to encounter a rheophilic insect?
Answer: In moving streams.
UC Davis has done well in the Linnaean Games over the years. It won national championships in both 2015 and 2016; Washington captained both teams. Boudinot was a member of both teams, and Bick, the 2016 team.
Think you can answer some of the questions?
- Watch the 2016 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
- Watch the 2015 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
The list of national champions over the last five years:
1st Place: Texas A&M
2nd Place: The Ohio State University
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Georgia
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: North Carolina State University
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: University of California- Riverside
2nd Place: Mississippi State University
The Pacific Branch of ESA is comprised of 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming), plus U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
As for the parent organization, ESA, it was funded in 1889 and is the largest organization in the world, serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its some 7000 members are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
Insects--their beauty, their structure, their diversity--are inspiring noted fashion designers, but those fashion designers are way, way behind the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Students' Association (EGSA).
EGSA members are graduate student totally into bugs. They study them, research them and wear them. And yes, some do eat them. Can you say "chocolate chirp cookies? (made with cricket flour)?"
Every year EGSA conducts a t-shirt contest and the faculty, staff and students pick the winner. The good news is that the t-shirts--past and present--are for sale all year around, but folks take a special interest in them during the holiday season. Stocking stuffers!
The Beatles? Think The Beetles.
Instead of the English rock band John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star crossing Abbey Road in single file (that's the iconic image on the cover of their album, Abbey Road), think of The Beetles (four insects) crossing Abbey Road in single file. Beneath the images of the beetles are their family names: Phengogidae, Curculionidae, Cerambycidae and Scarabaeidae. Think glowworm, snout, long-horned, and scarab beetles.
If you're not partial to beetles, how about honey bees, wasps, and "Entomology's Most Wanted?"
You're in luck.
"This year we are discounting some of our old designs from $15 to $10!" announced the officers, headed by Ph.D student and ant specialist Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab. "Order by Dec. 15th for delivery within the United States by the 23rd. If you are on campus and would like to pick up the shirt instead, please do not pay for shipping online and email Emily Bick at email@example.com (of the Christian Nansen lab) to schedule pick up. The online store will close on Dec. 17th until early January." The prices range from $10 to $15 to $17. Access their online store: https://mkt.com/UCDavisEntGrad/
It's for a good cause: helping the graduate students. The added bonus, you get to "bug" your friends, family and colleagues when you wear these t-shirts.
Do you know the answer?
That was one of the questions that the UC Davis Linnaean Games Team answered correctly at the championship finals during the 2016 Linnaean Games, hosted recently by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in Orlando, Fla.
The UC Davis team of captain Ralph Washington and Brendon Boudinot, third-year graduate students, and Emily Bick, a second-year graduate student, successfully defended their national title, defeating the University of Georgia (the national champion in 2012), by the score of 145 to 55. The UC Davis entomologists earlier outscored Ohio State University, North Carolina State University (champions in 2014), and Texas A&M in advancing to the finals.
Congratulations, UC Davis! And well done, all other teams!
The ESA Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions. The winning team receives a trophy cup for the department, and each individual, a plaque.
So, what's the answer to the question about pets in the apartment?
“Cat flea pupae eclose in response to the presence of a host.”
Here are some of the other questions that the UC Davis team correctly answered (answers at the end of this blog):
- Insects inhabiting a very thin water film such as splash zones marginal to streams are called what?
- The insect order Notoptera unites what two former insect orders?
- What are the two obvious clinical symptoms that someone is suffering from onchocerciasis?
- What is the common name for the zygentoman pest that thrives in high humidity and high temperatures and is often found in boiler rooms?
- Projection neurons travel across what two major regions of the insect brain?
ESA will soon post a video of the championship round. Meanwhile, watch the 2015 championship round (UC Davis defeated the University of Florida). The knowledge of both teams will amaze you.
- On the Origin of the Linnaean Games: Article from American Entomologist
- Bugs, Brains and Trivia: Article from Smithsonian
- Department news story about UC Davis Team's 2015 championship (includes some of the questions asked)
And now...drum roll...the answers to those five questions above...
- Notoptera unites Mantophasmatodea and Grylloblattodea
- Blindness and hanging tissue around lymph nodes, often times the scrotum.
- The firebrat, Thermobia domestica
- The protocerebrum and the deutocerebrum
You answered them all correctly, right?