Congratulations to Melody Keena, UC Davis alumna and entomologist extraordinaire.
Keena, a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Hamden, Conn., is a newly selected Honorary Member of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), the organization's highest honor.
She joins two other Honorary Member recipients this year: Walter Soares Leal, UC Davis distinguished professor with the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a former chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology), and research entomologist Alvin Simmons of the USDA Agricultural Research Service. (See UC Davis news story)
Keena, an international expert on the biology and behavior of the spongy moth (formerly known as the gypsy moth) and the Asian longhorned beetle, focuses her research on “developing the knowledge and tools needed for exclusion, eradication or control of non-native invasive forest pests and investigating basic biology, behavior, and population genetics,” according to the ESA officials who announced her Honorary Membership. "Honorary Membership recognizes extraordinary service by ESA members who have had significant involvement in the affairs of the Society for at least 20 years."
Keena may be the first Honorary Member to receive all three degrees in entomology from UC Davis: a bachelor's degree obtained in 1983, a master's, 1985, and a doctorate in 1988. Professor Jeff Granett served as her major professor for both her graduate degrees.
Keena initially chose to attend UC Davis because of its renowned School of Veterinary Medicine. An entomology course changed her plans. "I had taken a non-majors entomology class and liked it, so I took the first majors course and told myself that if I got an A in it that would be my major. Then I did work study, helping in entomology labs so I was exposed to research. That led me to do the masters to see if research was for me. Obviously, I got hooked on entomology."
At UC Davis, Keena worked on spider mite pesticide resistance management in the almond cropping system. After receiving her doctorate, she headed to Connecticut as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Connecticut. She's served as a research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Hamden since 1992 and is now the lead scientist in the lab.
So, what sparked Melody Keena's initial interest in entomology? Fence lizards!
“They eat live insects so I had to find them,” said Keena, who was born in the Los Angeles area but moved at age 4 to Chico and then to Paradise as a teenager. “We fed them any insects we could find, since store-bought were too expensive. We fed them mostly crickets and grasshoppers. I also reared some mealworms at home for the winter.”
In a letter of support for her Honorary Member nomination, Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor, president of ESA in 2014, and an Honorary Member of ESA since 2021, said he has known Keena since 1983 when she "became a graduate student at UC Davis." He also served with her on a number of ESA committees.
"Melody is an internationally known researcher on biology and control of non-native forest insect pests with the US Forest Service, and has gained a number of significant accolades for her research and leadership," Zalom wrote. "Her CV illustrates the breadth and quality of her journal articles that present important biological studies of many of the most notorious invasive forest insects in North America this century. What sets Melody apart from other outstanding entomology researchers in my experience is the quantity, quality and impact of her service to our Society over her almost 40 years as an ESA member." (Read her accomplishments on Department of Entomology and Nematology website).
ESA has now singled out six UC Davis faculty members as recipients of its highest award:
- 2022: UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal
- 2021: UC Davis distinguished professor Frank Zalom
- 2001: Professor John Edman
- 1996: Professor Bruce Eldridge
- 1993: Professor and 1984 ESA President Donald MacLean (1928-2014)
- 1990: Professor Harry Lange (1912-2004)
Melody Keena may be in a class by herself. And that could be music to the Aggie Nation! Nobody else on the Honorary Member list appears to have received three entomology degrees from UC Davis.
Leal and Simmons, the "twin brothers," co-chaired the 2016 International Congress of Entomology conference, “Entomology Without Borders,” held in Orlando, Florida, that drew nearly 7000 attendees from 101 countries. It was the largest gathering of entomologists in the history of insect science.
"Honorary Member" is the highest award offered by the 7000-member ESA. The recipients must have "served ESA for at least 20 years through significant involvement in the affairs of the society that has reached an extraordinary level,” ESA officials said in announcing the three recipients today (Aug. 24). “Candidates for this honor are selected by the ESA Governing Board and then voted on by the ESA membership.”
Keena's UC Davis connections: she received three UC Davis degrees in entomology: her bachelor's degree in 1983; her master's in 1985, and her doctorate in 1988. (See her website.)
The trio will be recognized during the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, Nov. 13-16, in Vancouver.
Leal is the sixth UC Davis faculty member to be named an Honorary Member of ESA. UC Davis distinguished professor Frank Zalom of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the 2014 president of ESA, achieved the honor in 2021. Professor W. Harry Lange (1912-2004) received the award in 1990; Professor Donald MacLean (1928-2014), the 1984 ESA president, won the award in 1993; Professor Bruce Eldridge in 1996, and Professor John Edman in 2001.
Leal, an expert in insect communication, investigates how insects detect odors, connect and communicate within their species; and detect host and non-host plant matter. His research, spanning three decades, targets insects that carry mosquito-borne diseases as well as agricultural pests that damage and destroy crops. He and his lab drew international attention with their discovery of the mode of action of DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.
Leal was recently elected chair of the International Congress of Entomology Council, which selects a country to host the congress every four years and which supports the continuity of the international congresses of entomology. Leal succeeds prominent entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, editor-in-chief of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a 2014 recipient of the National Medal of Science.
“I have big shoes to fill,” he said. (See news story)
As a leading global scientist and inventor in the field of insect olfaction and communication, Leal was named a 2019 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) for his impact in the fields of molecular, cellular biology, and entomology.
Highly honored by his peers, Leal is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (2015) and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2005), ESA (2009), and California Academy of Sciences (2015). He received both the Medal of Achievement (1995) and the Medal of Science (2008) from the Entomological Society of Brazil and the 1998 Gakkaisho from the Japanese Society of Applied Entomology and Zoology. In 2019, ESA selected him to deliver the Founders' Memorial Lecture on "Tom Eisner: An Incorrigible Entomophile and Innovator Par Excellence."
The International Society of Chemical Ecology honored him with its Silverstein-Simeone Award (2007) and the Silver Medal (2012). In 2012, Leal was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Science (inducted in 2013). For his creativity in entomology, Leal received ESA's Nan Yao Su Award (2011) and was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (2019). The UC Davis Academic Senate awarded him both the Distinguished Teaching Award (2020) and the Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award (2022).
That's what UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal, co-chair of the International Congress of Entomology (ICE 2016) recently held in Orlando, Fla., wrote in his newly published opinion piece, titled "Zika Mosquito Vectors: the Jury Is Still Out" in F1000 Research.
Leal, a mosquito researcher and distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, co-chaired ICE 2016 with Alvin Simmons, research entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS), U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C.
The conference, themed "Entomology Without Borders," drew 6,682 delegates from 102 countries. The last time ICE met in the United States was four decades ago. The venue then: Washington, D.C.
One of the symposia at the Orlando meeting was the Zika Symposium, "which covered multiple aspects of the Zika epidemic, including epidemiology, sexual transmission, genetic tools for reducing transmission, and particularly vector competence," Leal wrote. "While there was a consensus among participants that the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is a vector of the Zika virus, there is growing evidence indicating that the range of mosquito vectors might be wider than anticipated. In particular, three independent groups from Canada, China, and Brazil presented and discussed laboratory and field data strongly suggesting that the southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, also known as the common mosquito, is highly likely to be a vector in certain environments."
Leal based his opinion piece mainly on the current literature and the Zika Symposium at ICE 2016, which was organized by Constância Ayres, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ-PE), Recife, Brazil (he collaborates with Ayres) and Adriana Costero, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. The speakers included worldwide experts from the United States, Brazil, China and Canada.
Ironically, the Zika virus wasn't a household word or in most entomologists' vocabulary when Leal and Simmons began planning the ICE 2016 meeting several years ago.
Now scores of researchers are tackling the Zika virus (ZIKV), first isolated first from a febrile monkey and later from the mosquito Aedes africanus. "ZIKV was isolated from humans for the first time in 1954 during an outbreak of jaundice suspected of being yellow fever," Leal recounted.
"During the discussion at the end of the symposium, the forum was opened for questions and comments," Leal wrote. Scott Ritchie of James Cook University, Australia, asked “Is anyone looking for the virus in birds?”
"This question captures the sentiment that both questions were thought provoking, and we still do not have all or many answers when it comes to ZIKV. Hopefully, we will be better prepared when convening in Finland for ICE 2020. Wouldn't it be wonderful to report in Helsinki that mosquito vector populations have been reduced or eliminated, the Zika and other epidemics were contained, vaccines have been made available, and entomologists are ready to further improve the human condition by tackling other problems than the Zika epidemic?"
If you're nurturing a passionflower vine (Passiflora), you've probably seen "The Butterfly Ballet."'
The Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), orangish-reddish butterflies with silver-spangled wings, stay close to Passiflora, their host plant. It's the circle of life. The males patrol for females, find them, and mate. The females lay eggs, eggs become caterpillars, caterpillars become chrysalids. The adults emerge, and the Butterfly Ballet begins anew.
The Gulf Frits have no borders or boundaries, nor should they, as they shoot and soar over fences and gates. Theirs is not a gated community.
The "no-borders, no-boundaries" scenario reminds us of the upcoming conference of the International Congress of Entomology (ICE), to take place Sept. 25-30, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. The theme: "Entomology Without Borders."
The conference, expected to be the world's largest gathering of entomologists--some 7,000 are expected to attend--is chaired by chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and vegetable research entomologist Alvin Simmons of USDA/ARS. They have lined up prestigious speakers, including two Nobel Prize winners: Peter Agre (Nobel Laureate, 2003 and Jules Hoffmann (Nobel Laureate, 2011). Among the other speakers is one of Cuba's leading entomologists, Juan Andrés Bisset, head of the Vector Control Department at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine and an advisor to the Cuban Public Health Ministry.
Other UC Davis connections? Two of the plenary speakers are James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, and Arizona State University Provost Robert E. Page Jr., former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
ICE is held once every four years in different countries around the world. Next year it will be held simultaneously with the annual meetings of the Entomological Society of America, the Entomological Society of Canada, and other organizations. For more information, access the ICE website at http://ice2016orlando.org.
Meanwhile, think of "Gulf Frits Without Gulfs" or "Bugs Without Borders" closely linked to "Entomology Without Borders."
Especially since the United States is busily restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Think entomology. Think ICE. Think ICE'ing on the cake. Think ICE'ing on an entomological cake.
When the 2016 International Congress of Entomology (ICE 2016), co-chaired by a UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal takes place next year in Orlando, Fla., it truly will follow the theme, “Entomology without Borders.”
One of Cuba's leading entomologists will deliver an invitational lecture on the mosquito that transmits dengue, announced Leal, professor of biochemistry and chemical ecology at the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology
Juan Andrés Bisset, head of the Vector Control Department at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine and an advisor to the Cuban Public Health Ministry, will speak on “Aedes aegypti Management Strategies for Dengue Control in Cuba.” He studied at UC Riverside with G.P. Georgiou in 1986.
“When I received my first passport as a Brazilian citizen, it was stamped ‘not valid' for Cuba,” recalled Leal. “That sparked a curiosity about that country. After I become an entomologist and a U.S. citizen, my curiosity shifted toward entomology in Cuba. Fast forward to today: The International Congress of Entomology could not justify its theme, ‘Entomology without Borders,' if we did not have at least one delegate from Cuba.”
“We are absolutely delighted to host Dr. Juan Bisset.”
Added ICE 2016 co-chair Alvin Simmons, U.S. Department of Agriculture research entomologist: “We are dedicated to providing a premier congress experience for 7,000 to 8,000 international attendees. This includes fostering an environment of scientific breadth and all-inclusiveness. So, it is quite fitting for participation from Cuba to be a part of this historical event.”
The conference, expected to be the world's largest gathering of entomologists, takes place Sept. 25-30, 2016. Bisset will speak from 4:30 to 5:30 p. m. Tuesday, Sept. 25. Many mosquito researchers, including those from the University of California, are expected to attend.
In an email to Bisset, Leal called attention to a recent editorial in Science magazine “Science in U.S. Cuba relations” (May 15, 2015).
“ICE 2016 will be a historic global event, as this conference will return to the United States after a 40-year hiatus,” Leal told him. “We are expecting the participation of 7,000-8,000 delegates, including Dr. Peter Agre (Nobel Laureate, 2003 - a strong advocate for science diplomacy, particularly Cuba-US relations) and Dr. Jules Hoffmann (Nobel Laureate, 2011), Dr. John Hildebrand, and many other distinguished scholars."
Bisset is heavily involved in the control of vectorborne diseases, including diseases transmitted by several mosquitoes, such as Culex quinquefasciatus, Anopheles albimanus, and Aedes aegypti. He focuses his main research on ecology, dynamic population of insects, insecticide resistance, and resistance mechanisms.
The recipient of some 18 international and national awards, Bisset has been published his research in 106 scientific papers. Since 1990, he has participated in more than 45 technical activities as an adviser on malaria and dengue vector control in Latin American countries, and is a frequent lecturer in Cuba and other countries.
ICE is held once every four years in different countries around the world. Next year it will be held simultaneously with the annual meetings of the Entomological Society of America, the Entomological Society of Canada, and other organizations.
“Each Congress provides a forum for scientists, researchers, academia, technicians, government, and industry representatives to discuss the latest research and innovations in the many diverse fields of entomology, to share expertise in their specific fields of interest, and to present their research and products,” said Richard Levine, ESA's communications program manager, in a news release. “The week-long meetings allow participants to meet others from around the world with similar focus areas and to form important networks to collaborate and share knowledge, with an overarching goal of supporting and protecting the world's population through better science."
For more information about ICE 2016, access http://ice2016orlando.org.