Borowiec, who received his doctorate in entomology in June from the University of California, Davis, studying with major professor Phil Ward, will speak on "Genomic Data and the Tree of Life: Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns of Army Ant Evolution" at his exit seminar.
Set from 4:10 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive, the seminar will be hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Plans call for video-recording the seminar for later posting on UCTV.
"I got interested in ants after reading E. O. Wilson's autobiography 'Naturalist' as a freshman in college," Borowiec related. "I'm fascinated by the diversity of form and function in ants, that is, by the various ways they make a living and the incredible variation of their morphologies."
Harvard University professor Wilson, one of the world's most distinguished scientists, is two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. (See his Ted talks.)
"Ants are the world's most successful eusocial organisms," said Borowiec, whose research interests include phylogeny, taxonomy, biogeography, and natural history of ants. "Long history, high species diversity, and extreme variety of life histories make them an excellent group in which many evolutionary questions can be addressed."
"My dissertation research at UC Davis focused on building a taxonomic and phylogenetic framework for the research on army ant evolution," said Borowiec, who received his master's degree in 2009 from the Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Taxonomy, University of Wroclaw, Poland. "Although army ants include very charismatic species, they belong to a larger group, the subfamily Dorylinae. In addition to the army ants, dorylines comprise many cryptic ants whose biology and even taxonomy have been neglected. Partly as a result of this, even phylogenetic relationships of the army ants are not well-understood. The first step to advancing evolutionary research in the group was thus to examine the morphological diversity within this lineage. This resulted in a generic revision of the subfamily, published open-access in ZooKeys. Expertise gained during this work allowed me to design robust taxon sampling for a phylogeny of the dorylines based on next-generation sequencing data (ultraconserved elements or UCEs), currently in preparation."
Borowiec is now a postdoc in the lab of evolutionary biologist Christian Rabeling of Rochester, N.Y. who works on ants. In January the lab will be moving to Tempe, Ariz.
Myrmecologist Marek Borowiec would certainly agree with E.O. Wilson's noted quotes about ants:
- "Ants have the most complicated social organization on earth next to humans."
- "Ants are the dominant insects of the world, and they've had a great impact on habitats almost all over the land surface of the world for more than 50 million years."
- "When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all."
John "Jack" Longino knows his ants.
Longino, known by his students as "The Astonishing Ant Man," will present a seminar to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 27 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.
His topic: "Project ADMAC or Ant Diversity of the Mesoamerican Corridor."
Longino, who received his bachelor's degree in zoology, with distinction, in 1978 from Duke University, and his doctorate in zoology in 1984 from the University of Texas, Austin, traces his fascination with insects back to his childhood. He developed an interest in ecology and the desire to explain patterns of diversity, so "I settled on ants as an ecologically dominant group of insects worthy of study."
"As it became clear that I was living during a time of enormous biotic change caused by human activities, I developed a strong conviction that it was important not only to understand patterns of diversity but to document it in detail for this time in history. I divide my time between two research fields: taxonomy and ecology. On the taxonomy side, I have coordinated large-scale inventories of Neotropical insect biodiversity, I discover and describe new species of ants, and I further refine our understanding of species ranges and morphological variability. I make use of advanced imaging technology, specimen-level databases, and Web-dissemination to make biodiversity data available to the widest audiences."
"On the ecology side, I use quantitative inventory techniques that allow analysis of diversity patterns. I am interested in how species are distributed on tropical mountainsides, what ecological factors explain the elevational range limits of species, and how species might respond to climate change."
Ant specialist Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology (and also known as "the ultimate ant man") will introduce and host Longino.
What is the MesoAmerican corridor? It's a zone of complex tectonic history, episodic biotic interchange between large continents, and frequent mountain-building," Longino says. "Ants blanket this landscape, forming a tapestry of fine-scale habitat specialization and geographic replacement. Many taxonomists have contributed to the description of species in the region and this fundamental 'biodiversity mapping' continues apace. Project ADMAC (Ant Diversity of the MesoAmerican Corridor) combines morphological analysis with large-scale DNA sequencing (targeted enrichment of Ultra-Conserved Elements) to reveal the evolutionary history and geographic structure of ant species in MesoAmerica."
"Ants show very strong patterns of elevational specialization and geographic turnover, and Project ADMAC will address questions of (1) how and when montane species evolve, (2) the effects of differing mountain ages on communities, (3) the impact of lowland barriers on montane ant dispersal, and (4) whether ants experienced a major biotic interchange on the closure of the Panamanian isthmus."
National Public Radio interviewed Longino in August of 2013 on his research. He told NPR he started out collecting stamps in his childhood, but that bored him. He decided to "get small."
"If you're shopping for a home entertainment system," he says, "you can't do better than a good dissecting microscope," he said. At the time of the NPR interview, Longino had just published two papers describing 33 new species of ants, bringing his personal "new species" total to 131, NPR reported. In the article, Longino described himself as "average" among entomologists, pointing out that some entomologists have described thousands of new species.
So, if you're like Longino, if you had a choice between a home entertainment system and a good dissecting microscope, the winner--hands down--would be the dissecting microscope.
And if you want to know about ants, you can download Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants for free at http://ants.yourwildlife.org/dr-eleanors-book-of-common-ants/. It's the work of science writer Eleanor Spicer Rice, noted insect photographer Alex Wild, and designer Neil McCoy.
Be sure to check out Alex Wild's Myrmecos blog at http://www.myrmecos.net/ for amazing ant photos and educational information. He holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis (major professor Phil Ward) and is now curator of Entomology in the College of Natural Sciences, University of Austin--the university where Longino received his doctorate.
All in the family...the ant family...Formicidae.
The two don't go together, but how can we protect both crops and pollinators?
"Pesticides may be necessary in today's cropping systems but large monocultures have resulted in the need for significant use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides," says honey bee expert Maryann Frazier, senior extension associate, Penn State University.
"New chemistries, such as neonicitinoids, have their advantages but the persistent use of synthetic pesticides, especially in bee-pollinated crops and/or crops visited by bees to collect nectar or pollen, such as corn, has resulted in significant pesticide exposure to bees."
Frazier, fresh from a trip to Kenya to help beekeepers with varroa mite problems, will be on the University of California, Davis, campus on Wednesday, April 2 to discuss "The Pesticide Conundrum: Protecting Crops and Pollinators." Her seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be from 12:10 to 1 p.m., in 122 Briggs Hall.
"Over the past seven years our lab has analyzed over 1,200 samples of mainly pollen, wax, bees and flowers for 171 pesticides and metabolites," she said. "We have found 129 different compounds in nearly all chemical classes, including organophosphates, pyrethroids, carbamates, neonicotinoids, chlorinated cyclodienes, organochlorines, insect growth regulators, fungicides, herbicides, synergists, and formamidines. Further, we have identified up to 31 different pesticides in a single pollen sample, and 39 in a single wax sample. An average of 6.7 chemicals are found in pollen samples. However, the pesticides found most often and at the highest levels are miticides used by beekeepers for the control of varroa mites."
In her talk, Frazier will discuss these results, additional studies and concerns about "the synergistic effects of pesticides, systemic pesticides and sub-lethal impacts, including those on immune function, memory and learning and longevity, as well as the question of toxicity associated with adjuvants/inert ingredients."
Helping to coordinate the seminar with assistant professor Brian Johnson is Mea McNeil of San Anselmo, master beekeeper and writer.
Frazier, senior extension associate at Penn State for the past 25 years, is responsible for honey bee extension throughout Pennsylvania and cooperatively across the Mid-Atlantic region. Frazier works with other members of the PSU Department of Entomology to understand how pesticides are impacting honey bees and other pollinators. She's taught courses in beekeeping, general entomology and teacher education and is involved with the department's innovative public outreach program. In addition, she works with a team of U.S. and Kenyan researchers to understand the impacts of newly introduced varroa mites on East African honey bee subspecies and to help Kenyan beekeepers become more productive.
Frazier holds two degrees from Penn State: a bachelor of science degree in agriculture education (1980) and a masters of agriculture in entomology (1983), specializing in apiculture. She is a former assistant state apiary inspector in Maryland and also has worked as a beekeeping specialist in Sudan and later in Central America.
Frazier appears in a YouTube video, posted July 23, 2012 on the declining bee population. The brief clip was excerpted from Frazier's Spring 2012 Research Unplugged talk titled "Disappearing Bees: An Update on the Search for Prime Suspects." The abstract: She discusses the decline of pollinators and the prime suspects behind it. Some of these suspects include the use of pesticides, on both small and large scales, that destroy food sources for bees; agribusiness practices such as monocropping, in which the same single crop is planted year after year, eliminating the plant diversity pollinators need; stress caused by transporting the bees across country for commercial pollination needs; and threats such as nosema disease, viruses and mites.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology plans to video-record her seminar for later posting on UCTV.
Professor James R. Carey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology will tell you why.
He will discuss the invasion of tropical fruit flies in California at his seminar from 12:05 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 3 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
Carey's seminar, titled "From Trickle to Flood: The Large-Scale, Cryptic Invasion of California by Tropical Fruit Flies," is the first in the department's spring-quarter seminar series. It's open to all interested persons, and it will be recorded and available for later viewing on UCTV.
"Despite aggressive and costly efforts by government agencies to prevent their introduction, establishment and spread, California has experienced an inexorable march of tropical fruit flies (Tephritidae) into the state with three-fold more species detected and thousands more flies captured than in all other mainland U.S. states combined," Carey says.
"Since 1954 when the first fly was detected a total of 17 species in 4 genera and 11,386 individuals (adults/larvae) have been detected at over 3,348 locations in 330 cities. My colleagues and I conclude from spatial mapping analyses of historical capture patterns and modeling that, despite the approximately 250 emergency eradication projects that have been directed against these pests by state and federal agencies, a minimum of 5 and as many as 9 or more tephritids are established and widespread. This list includes three of the most economically-important species in the world—the Mediterranean, Mexican and oriental fruit flies."
In his seminar, Carey will "outline and discuss the evidence for our conclusions with particular attention to the incremental, chronic, and insidious nature of the invasion involving ultra-small, barely-detectable populations. I will consider the more general implications of our results in scientific, economic, and operational contexts of invasion biology, as well as ethical issues concerned with the purposeful obfuscation of historical fruit fly detection data at individual, administrative and institutional levels."
Carey, former vice chair of the Department of Entomology, focuses his research on insect demography, mortality dynamics, and insect invasion biology. He received his bachelor and master of science degrees from Iowa State University (1973; 1975) and his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley (1980).
Highly recognized, he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Gerontological Society of America, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Entomological Society of America.
Carey is a noted authority on the invasion of the tropical fruit flies. He served on the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Medfly Scientific Advisory Panel from 1987-1994, testified to the California Legislature "Committee of the Whole" in 1990 on the Medfly Crisis in California, and authored the paper "Establishment of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly in California" (1992, Science 258, 457).
"Ants are the most successful group of social insects on the Earth," says Branstetter, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. and a UC DAvis alumnus. "They occur in almost all terrestrial habitats and are often numerically dominant and ecologically important. Furthermore, ants are diverse. There are likely to be more than 20,000 species worldwide and among these species there is a staggering amount of morphological and behavioral variation."
"It's not just the red ant and black ant. Some species are predatory and have large trap-jaw mandibles. Some are farmers, growing fungus gardens inside their nests. Some are parasites of other ant species, living in host nests and taking advantage of a tricked worker force. And some have huge migrating colonies that go on massive raids to collect food. The list goes on..."
Branstetter is also intrigued by the diversity and is devoted to discovering and describing species and behaviors. "Most of my work focuses on using morphology and genetic data to determine what species are, but I also spend lots of time in the field making direct observations about behavior and ecology."
Branstetter, who received his doctorate in entomology in June 2012 from UC Davis (major professor Phil Ward), will speak on ”Uncovering the Origins of a Middle American Ant Radiation: Insights from Natural History, Biogeography and Molecular Data” from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drive. His seminar will double as his exit seminar.
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Branstetter grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich. "It was not until I entered college at The Evergreen State College in Washington state that I became interested in science and eventually entomology," he says. His passion for entomology ignited in a class on "Insects and Plants of Washington" taught by Jack Longino.
That prompted Branstetter to specialize in myrmecology, the scientific study of ants.
He was hooked. Next: Graduate school at UC Davis.
The ants (genus Stenamma) that Branstetter studies are "special because they are an example of a group that originated in the temperate zone and later dispersed into the tropics. Within the tropics they have radiated in mid- to high-elevation wet forests, sometimes becoming the most dominant ant. This is in contrast to most other ants, which usually peak in diversity and abundance in the lowlands."
"It is my hope that studying Stenamma diversity and ecology will yield insights into the factors that have helped ants become so successful," Branstetter says. "Also, the genus has many undescribed species in Middle America. Describing these species and making identification keys will allow others, such as ecologists or conservation biologists, to identify them in their work. Of particular importance are the montane species, which may be in danger of extinction due to climate change."
If you miss Branstetter's seminar, not to worry. It will be recorded for later viewing on UCTV.