John Henry Comstock would be proud.
At each annual meeting, the Entomological Society of America (ESA) presents the prestigious John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award to six outstanding graduate students, one from each branch of the ESA.
Eminent entomologist Comstock (1849-1931) is widely acclaimed for his research on scale insects and butterflies and moths, providing the basis for systematic classifications. For most of his career, he was a member of the faculty of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. He also saw service as a chief entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
So it was great to see "entomologist extraordinaire," doctoral candidate and ant specialist Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, University of California, Davis, receive the Pacific Branch's Comstock Award at ESA's recent meeting in St. Louis, Mo. The Pacific Branch encompasses 11 Western states, U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
ESA president Robert Peterson, a professor at Montana State University, presented the award to Boudinot.
Boudinot excels in academics, leadership, public service activities, professional activities, and publications. “A highly respected scientist, teacher and leader with a keen intellect, unbridled enthusiasm, and an incredible penchant for public service, Brendon maintains a 4.00 grade point average; has published 12 outstanding publications on insect systematics (some are landmarks or ground-breaking publications); and engages in exceptional academic, student and professional activities,” wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Despite being at an early stage of his academic career, Boudinot has already published several landmark papers on insect systematics, wrote major professor Phil Ward. "This includes a remarkable article, just published in Arthropod Structure & Development, in which Brendon presents a comprehensive theory of genital homologies across all Hexapoda (Boudinot 2018). Based on careful comparative morphological study and conducted within a phylogenetic framework, this paper is a major contribution to the field and is destined to become a “classic." This could have been a decade-long study by any investigator, and yet it is just one chapter of Brendon's thesis!"
Active in ESA, Boudinot received multiple “President's Prize” awards for his research presentations at the national meetings. He organized the ESA symposium, “Evolutionary and Phylogenetic Morphology,” at the 2018 meeting in Vancouver, B.C. , and delivered a presentation on “Male Ants: Past, Present and Prospects” at the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Boudinot served on—and anchored—three of the UC Davis Linnaean Games teams that won national or international ESA championships. The Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. He also participated on the UC Linnaean Games Team this year in St. Louis.
An exemplary leader, Boudinot has served as president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association since 2006, and is active in the UC Davis Picnic Day, which draws thousands of visitors to campus. He co-chaired the department's Picnic Day Committee for three years and also staffed the "Bug Doctor" booth, answering questions about arthropods.
More recently, Boudnot edited a special collection of articles (published Nov. 12) on “Current Techniques in Morphology” for the Entomological Society of America journal, Insect Systematics and Diversity (ISD). The work is publicized on EurekAlert! and the entire project can be accessed free online. Boudinot co-led the development of the collection with István Mikó, collections manager at the University of New Hampshire Department of Biological Sciences. For the year-long project. Boudinot and Mikó gathered articles illustrating cutting-edge research techniques in insect morphology and phylogenetics, including videos, interactive 3D images, and augmented reality. (See news story)
Five other UC Davis entomologists have received the Pacific Branch Comstock Award:
- 2015: Mohammad-Amir Aghaee (major professor, the late Larry Godfrey). He is now a research entomologist with Bayer Crop Science, Union City, Tenn.
- 2014: Kelly Hamby (major professor, Frank Zalom). She is now on the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park.
- 2013: Matan Shelomi (major professor, Lynn Kimsey). He is now on the faculty of the National Taiwan University, Tapei.
- 2008: Christopher Barker (major professor, William Reisen). He is now on the faculty of the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
- 1983: Elaine Backus (major professor, the late Donald McLean). She is research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Parlier
Congrats, Brendon! Well done and well deserved!
Ask them a question about insects and entomologists, and odds are, they'll come up with the correct answer.
They've already won three national championships and are gearing up for a fourth.
"They" are members of the UC Linnaean Games Team (UC Berkeley and UC Davis graduate students) and they're looking forward to competing in the annual Linnaean Games at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting, set Nov. 17-20 in St. Louis.
The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts and played by winners of the ESA branch competitions. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions.
This year's UC team, captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a UC Berkeley public policy graduate student who received his bachelor's degree in entomology at UC Davis, includes five UC Davis doctoral students in entomology: Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and alternates Miles Dakin of the Christian Nansen lab and Hanna Kahl of the Jay Rosenheim lab.
Washington has captained all three winning teams, and Boudinot has helped anchor all of them.
- 2018: UC won the national championship (link to news story) in Vancouver, B.C., defeating Texas A&M Graduates, with Washington captaining the team and joined by Boudinot, Oberski and Griebenow, and Emily Bick (who received her doctorate this year) of the Christian Nansen lab. (No video of the championship round)
- 2017: The UC team did not compete. (Texas A&M won the national championship; see championship round on YouTube)
- 2016: UC won the national and international championships at the University of Florida, at the joint and international meeting of ESA and the International Congress of Entomology (ICE), defeating the University of Georgia. (See championship round on YouTube)
- 2015: UC won the national championship at the games held in Minneapolis, Minn., defeating the University of Florida. (See championship round on YouTube)
All branches of ESA conduct a Linnaean Games competition, with each branch sending the winner and the second-place winner to the nationals. The UC team has won the Pacific Branch (PBESA) competition multiple times. PBESA encompasses 11 Western U.S. states, plus several U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Some of the previous questions asked of the UC team during the championship rounds:
Toss-Up Question: What is the smallest insect that is not a parasite or parasitoid?
Answer: Beetles in the family Ptiliidae.
Bonus Question:Some species of mosquitoes lay eggs that can undergo diapause or aestivation. Give at least three cues that trigger the aquatic eggs to hatch.
Answer: Temperature, immersion in water, concentration of ions or dissolved solutes.
Toss-Up Question: Chikungunya is an emerging vector-borne disease in the Americas. Chikungunya is derived from the African Language Makonde. What means Chikungunya in Makonde?
Answer: Bending up.
Toss-Up Question: Certain Chrysomelid larvae carry their feces as a defensive shield. To what subfamily do these beetles belong?
Bonus Question: The first lepidopteran sex pheromone identified was bombykol. What was the first dipteran sex pheromone identified? Give the trade or chemical name.
Answer: Muscalure, Z-9-Tricosene. It is also one of the chemicals released by bees during the waggle dance.
Toss-Up Question: What famous recessive gene was the first sex-linked mutation demonstrated in Drosophila by T.H. Morgan?
Bonus Question: Cecidomyiidae are known as the gall flies. What is unique about the species Mayetiola destructor, and what is its common name?
Answer: Mayetiola destructor is the Hessian Fly, a tremendous pest of wheat. It does not form galls.
Toss-Up Question: In what insect order would you find hemelytra?
Answer: The order Hemiptera.
Toss-Up Question: The subimago stage is characteristic of what insect order?
Answer: The order Ephemeroptera
Bonus Question: A 2006 Science article by Glenner et al. on the origin of insects summarized evidence that Hexapods are nothing more than land-dwelling crustaceans, which is to say that the former group Crustacea is paraphyletic with respect to the Hexapoda. What hierarchical name has been used to refer to this clade?
Toss-Up Question: What are the three primary conditions that define eusociality?
Answer: Cooperative brood care, overlapping generations, and reproductive division of labor
In addition to serving on the Linnaean Games Team, Boudinot will be honored as the PBESA recipient of the John Henry Comstock Award, the top graduate student award. PBESA is one of six branches of ESA.
Founded in 1889, ESA is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. It is comprised of more than 7000 members, who 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.
A year-long project on "Current Techniques in Morphology" was posted online today (Nov. 12).
Doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, edited the special collection of articles for the Entomological Society of America journal, Insect Systematics and Diversity (ISD). The work is publicized on EurekAlert! and the entire project can be accessed free online.
Boudinot co-led the development of the collection with István Mikó, collections manager at the University of New Hampshire Department of Biological Sciences.
For the year-long project. Boudinot and Mikó gathered articles illustrating cutting-edge research techniques in insect morphology and phylogenetics, including videos, interactive 3D images, and augmented reality.
"The increasing availability of advanced technologies, such as micro-computed tomography and confocal laser scanning microscopy, are allowing researchers to generate models of morphology in three and four dimensions based on physical data,” Boudinot wrote in the foreword. “These models not only allow for detailed and quantitative study of anatomical systems and their biomechanical properties, but they also allow end-users to experience the richness of morphology in virtual reality, which is incredible."
Boudinot marvels at the 3D models “which open new pathways of research and which you can manipulate on your computer, and another which can project your model in virtual reality on your phone or tablet.”
Boudinot also wrote an editorial on the future of morphology titled Toward Phylomics in Entomology: Current Systematic and Evolutionary Morphology.
Articles in the collection include:
- A Systematist's Guide to Estimating Bayesian Phylogenies From Morphological Data
- PARAMO: A Pipeline for Reconstructing Ancestral Anatomies Using Ontologies and Stochastic Mapping
- From Spinning Silk to Spreading Saliva: Mouthpart Remodeling in Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae)
- Jumping and Grasping: Universal Locking Mechanisms in Insect Legs
- Revision of the Highly Specialized Ant Genus Discothyrea (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Afrotropics with X-Ray Microtomography and 3D Cybertaxonomy
- Ready Species One: Exploring the Use of Augmented Reality to Enhance Systematic Biology with a Revision of Fijian Strumigenys (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)
“Morphology, encompassing the study of phenotypic form and function, is one of the ancient branches of human knowledge and is foundational for organismal classification,” Boudinot wrote in his editorial. “Two decades into the current century, the specialized biological knowledge of the history and pattern of evolution has been revolutionized by genome-scale sequencing technologies, and cryptic variation within and among species is quantifiable even with a few genetic markers. The application of statistical phylogenetic models of nucleotide and amino acid substitution to sequence data has enabled revised interpretations of morphological identities—be they population-level generalizations, such as species diagnoses, or the definition and homology of specific anatomical entities—and evolutionary transformation across the tree of life (e.g., insect genitalia, ancestral morphology of Polyneoptera). These models are also being adapted for phylogenetic analysis of morphological data, allowing explicit incorporation of fossil terminals and their stratigraphic information.”
Boudinot coined the word, “Phylomics,” which he said “can be defined as the inference of organismal evolution at the molecular and morphological scale, through the use of genomic and phenomic data (the ‘phenome' being a physical model of the phenotype of an organism, such as seen in the ISD special collection). The idea ultimately is to model the morphology of organisms across the phylogeny, through time, literally depicting ancestors and seeing the transformation from ancestor to descendant across the tree of life.”
UC Davis undergraduate student Ziv Lieberman of the Phil Ward lab (he's a senior majoring in evolution and ecology), and Francisco Hita-Garcia of Okinawa (of the Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Unit and Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University), served as the lead authors of “Revision of the Highly Specialized Ant Genus Discothyrea (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Afrotropics with X-Ray Microtomography and 3D Cybertaxonomy.”
Lieberman and Hita-Garcia and three other co-authors described 15 new species in the genus, which is poorly represented in museum collections. Due to its “cryptic lifestyle, Discothyrea are poorly represented in museum collections and their taxonomy has been severely neglected,” they wrote. “We perform the first comprehensive revision of Discothyrea in the Afrotropical region through a combination of traditional and three-dimensional (3D) cybertaxonomy based on microtomography (micro-CT). Species diagnostics and morphological character evaluations are based on examinations of all physical specimens and virtual analyses of 3D surface models generated from micro-CT data.” These models can be seen for free in their article and online at https://sketchfab.com/arilab/collections/discothyrea.
Additionally, they applied “virtual dissections for detailed examinations of cephalic structures to establish terminology based on homology for the first time in Discothyrea. The complete datasets comprising micro-CT data, 3D surface models and videos, still images of volume renderings, and colored stacked images are available online as cybertype datasets (Hita Garcia et al. 2019, http://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.3qm4183).”
The journal, Insect Systematics and Diversity, launched by ESA in 2017, publishes research on systematics, evolution, and biodiversity of insects and related arthropods, including comparative and developmental morphology, conservation, behavior, taxonomy, molecular phylogenetics, paleobiology, natural history, and phylogeography.
The journal set out to host articles that utilize novel technologies or data types or describe emerging methods of research, ESA spokesperson Lisa Junker said. The new special collection on current techniques in morphology, she said, highlights how Insect Systematics and Diversity has become a premier outlet for integrative research combining multiple subdisciplines within the field.
The Bug Doctor, that is.
If you attended the 105th annual UC Davis Picnic Day and headed for Briggs Hall, home of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, you encountered a booth lettered with "Bug Doctor" and a sign that read: “Ask Me About Insects.”
The annual Picnic Day booth is traditionally staffed by graduate students in the department.
Have you ever wondered what folks are asking them? Here's a sampling.
Bug Doctor Miles Dakin
Miles Dakin, a doctoral student in the lab of agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen lab, said:
“I got a few about what my favorite bug was, which I, of course, responded Phaneausvindex, and continued to talk about how cool dung beetles are.”
“A few questions were about pest insects. One person brought in what she thought was a fruit fly but was, in fact, a thrip, although I am unsure of the species.”
“I think the best sequence of questions were from two siblings who were very interested in mosquitos. Gives me hope that we may have a few more entomologists in the future.”
Bug Doctor Zachary Griebenow
Doctoral student Zachary Griebenow, who studies with major professor Phil Ward of the ant lab, said:
“Four different people asked me what my favorite bug was. I told them that this was a difficult question to answer, if not impossible. Questions of more real substance included whether we should be concerned about bees (I took care to draw a distinction between Apismellifera and our native bee fauna).
“Two people came with specimens of insects that they wanted identified: one person brought an early-instar cockroach nymph; the other, a leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) that I could not identify to species.
“Another person brought photographs of what I immediately recognized as Tropidischia xanthostoma, an exceedingly large cave cricket (Rhaphidophoridae) restricted to the Pacific Northwest.
Bug Doctor Brendon Boudinot
Brendon Boudinot, doctoral candidate in the Phil Ward lab and president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), kept busy during Picnic Day. He co-chaired the UC Davis Picnic Day activities at Briggs Hall (with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the faculty), coordinating all the activities in the building. He also found time to serve as Bug Doctor.
How was it?
"Bug Doctor was awesome!" Boudinot said. "For the majority of the time, I was just talking with people without getting too many direct questions. When I was the Bug Doctor, I was talking for about four hours straight with only a few moments of break! I talked with people about how insects work, how they sense and interact with the environment, about their evolution, the history of life on Earth, particularly the major extinction events (Cryogenian, before the Cambrian explosion; the Permian-Triassic extinction event, the origin of stinging wasps in the Cretaceous, and the faunal turnover of the end-Cretaceous extinction, and finally, the current major extinction event which geologists are calling the Anthropocene). Because I had so few moments to pause and reflect, I can't honestly think of any particular question! I just enjoyed the enrapturment of the folks I was speaking to. One person, however, did ask me how she could get involved in professional entomology. She already has her higher education degree, and I gave her the best answer I could think of."
Boudinot and Griebenow are accustomed to answering questions about insects. They are members of the national championship UC Linnaean Games Team that will defend its title at the Entomological Society of America competition in November in St. Louis, Mo. The Linnaean Games are lively question-and-answer, college-bowl style competitions on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. The UC Linnaean Games Team is captained by Ralph Washington Jr. , a graduate student at UC Berkeley who received his bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis.
Boudinot will be honored at the ESA meeting as a winner of the John Henry Comstock Award, the organization's highest graduate student honor. Each ESA branch selects a recipient. Boudinot won the award from the Pacific Branch, which is comprised of 11 western states, U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico. (See Bug Squad blog)
Meanwhile, save the date! The 2020 UC Davis Picnic Day is April 18.
Yes, the doctor (Bug Doctor) will be in!
The UC team, which swept the national championship last year, just won the regional competition Monday night at the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) meeting in San Diego. The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively, college-bowl style competitions on entomological facts, including questions on insects and entomologists.
The UC team is comprised of UC Davis and UC Berkeley graduate students: captain Ralph Washington Jr., who received his bachelor of science degree at UC Davis and is now a graduate student at UC Berkeley; doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis; and graduate student Zach Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab.
At the PBESA meeting, UC Riverside took second, and Washington State University, third.
The UC Team will now defend its championship at the ESA meeting , set Nov. 17-20 in St. Louis, Mo. Both the first and second-place teams from each of the ESA's six branches are eligible to compete.
Question: The Passandridae are a family of beetles. What is unusual about their larvae?
Answer: The larvae are ectoparasitoids of wood-boring insects
Both Boudinot and Washington have received major accolades at the ESA and PBESA meetings. Boudinot, who researches ants, won the 2019 John Henry Comstock Award, the highest graduate student award presented by PBESA. He delivered a presentation on his research at the San Diego meeting. He next will be honored as one of the six Comstock award winners (one from each ESA branch) at the national meeting.
Washington, who at UC Davis studied with major professors Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and assistant professor Brian Johnson, won PBESA's 2017 Student Leadership Award.
PBESA encompasses 11 Western states, plus U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico. ESA, the world's largest entomological society, is comprised of 7000 members.