Chemical ecologist Andre Kessler, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, will discuss "Chemical Information Driving Plant Interactions and Community Dynamics" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's virtual seminar, set from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 9.
"Andre is one of the most exciting and innovative researchers working on plant defenses against herbivores," said ecologist and seminar host Richard 'Rick' Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "There are a limited number of people whose work is so exciting that I make certain to read anything they write, as soon as it comes out. Andre is one of those people who has truly pushed our field forward."
To attend, access this form for the direct link.
"As sessile organisms, plants have to adjust their metabolism to ever-changing environmental conditions in order to stay in place and successfully reproduce," Kessler says in his abstract. "Thereby plants orchestrate interactions with other organisms (e.g. other plants, herbivores, pathogens, predators etc.) by providing cues or signals to whoever can read them. The seemingly universal language used to manipulate those interactions is chemical. This presentation reviews some of the Kessler Lab research on the ecological functionality and environmental context-dependency of chemical information transfer in the charismatic Northeastern goldenrod plants, Solidago altissima."
As a chemical ecologist, his research focuses on the mechanisms, ecological consequences and the evolution of plant induced responses to herbivore damage.
"Conceptually, I study plant secondary metabolism as a vehicle of information transfer," he writes on his website. "Chemical information can mediate complex interactions from the molecular and cell to the whole plant and community level. As a consequence, my research includes studying chemical elicitation of plant responses, plant chemistry-mediated alterations in insect population and community dynamics, plant-plant communication, plant-pollinator interactions and plant defense mechanisms against herbivores. In my lab we use chemical and molecular tools in manipulative field and laboratory experiments to understand the mechanism of elicitation, signal transduction and information-mediating secondary metabolite production in plants responding to biotic and abiotic environmental stresses."
"Moreover, we put a particular emphasis on studying the ecological functions and evolution of plant metabolic responses and chemical information transfer in the plants' native habitats. With more recent projects my group tries to apply some of the chemical ecology principles found in native systems to control insect pests in agricultural systems. My research includes a number of different study systems in New York, Utah, Peru, Costa Rica, Colombia and Kenya."
Professor Kessler received his master's degree from the University of Würzbug, Germany, where he studied ecology, genetics and geobotany. He earned his doctorate from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology and University of Jena, Germany.
Professor Karban, who will introduce his colleague and monitor the questions-and-answer session, is the author of the landmark book, Plant Sensing and Communication (University of Chicago Press), described as “the first comprehensive overview of what is known about how plants perceive their environments, communicate those perceptions, and learn" (Graeme Ruxton of the University of St. Andrews, UK, co-author of Experimental Design for the Life Sciences and Plant-Animal Communication.)
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberg, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is coordinating the seminars. For any technical issues, contact Grettenberger at email@example.com.
- Generations of Insect Attacks Drive Plants to 'Talk' Publicly (The Scientist, March 1, 2020)
- Plants Use a Common 'Language' for Emergency Alerts (Cornell Chronicle, Oct. 2, 2019)
We plant three species of milkweed (the host plant for the monarchs), but both the monarchs and the honey bees gravitate toward A. curassavica, a non-native. So do syrphid flies, carpenter bees, bumble bees, leafcutter bees and assorted other insects.
If you haven't heard, planting tropical milkweed is controversial. Scientific research shows that it disrupts the monarch migration patterns when it's planted outside its tropical range, and can lead to the spreading of OE, orophryocystiselektroscirrha, a protozoan parasite that infects monarch and queen butterflies. (See Exposure to Non-Native Tropical Milkweed Promotes Reproductive Development in Migratory Monarch Butterflies, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Md. Also see the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation website on the issue.)
UC Davis alumnus and monarch expert Anurag Agrawal of Cornell University, the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies at Cornell University and the author of the celebrated book, Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and their Remarkable Story of Coevolution (2017 Princeton University), knows the controversy well.
"Tropical milkweed is an interesting and complex issue," he recently told us. "I love the plant for various reasons, but there is growing evidence that as it has become weedy (and self-seeding) in the southeastern United States and California. It is affecting monarchs, mostly by disrupting their migration. The key issue here is that when it is flowering 'out of season' this can be 'confusing' to monarchs. Having said this, we don't live in a pristine world, so my position is that we need moderation in the approach to tropical milkweed. It is certainly an easy plant to grow and monarchs can make good use of it during the caterpillar season. If you love the plant, go for it, but I would recommend cutting in back before the migratory season starts."
Three Milkweed Species
We offer monarchs a choice of milkweed species in our Vacaville pollinator garden. In addition to the non-native A. curassavica, we plant two native species: narrowleaf milkweed, A. fascicularis, and showy milkweed, A. speciosa. In July, we collected 11 caterpillars from the narrowleaf milkweed; we rear them to adulthood and release them into the neighborhood. But in the numbers game, the tropical milkweed won. From July through today, we have collected a whopping 43 eggs or caterpillars from A. curassavica. How many from A. speciosa? Sadly, none.
As recommended, we cut back or remove the tropical milkweed before the migratory season. In the meantime, we grow it for three reasons: (1) for the monarchs (2) as a food source for other insects and (3) as an ornamental garden plant. We like the brilliant colors and the diversity of insects it attracts.
On one afternoon in late July, we photographed foraging honey bees on the spectacular blossoms. They just couldn't get enough of it.
Hoffmann, who is known for his advocacy of climate change literacy, leadership activities and biological control projects, received his doctorate in entomology from our department in 1990, studying with Professor Ted Wilson and later Professor Frank Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist and a past president of the Entomological Society of America.
Hoffmann will present the Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar on “Our Changing Menu--What Climate Change Means to the Foods We Love and Need,” the title of his upcoming book. The date is pending.
Prior to his retirement, Hoffmann served as executive director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions for several years. He continues to provides visionary leadership, communicates to a wide range of audiences the challenges and opportunities that come with a changing climate, and builds partnerships among public and private organizations.
Hoffmann co-chairs the President's Sustainable Campus Committee and helps lead a climate change literacy initiative for students, staff, and faculty. He dedicates his time toward what he calls “the grand challenge of climate change and (to) help people understand and appreciate what is happening through food.” Effectively communicating about climate change, Hoffmann presented a TEDX talk in 2014 on “Climate Change: It's Time to Raise Our Voices” that drew widespread attention.
Wrote one supporter on YouTube: "The most important thing we can do is "raise our voices"! Thanks for an informative and inspiring talk about the consequences of climate change and why this is the time for action."
A native of Wisconsin, Hoffmann holds a bachelor of science degree (1975) from the University of Wisconsin, and his master's degree from the University of Arizona (1978). He served with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam from 1967 to 1971, attaining the rank of sergeant.
Hoffmann remembers well his experiences at UC Davis. “I was privileged to work with many dedicated faculty in entomology and several other departments.”
After receiving his doctorate at UC Davis, Hoffmann joined the faculty of Cornell in 1990 as an assistant professor, with 60 percent Extension and 40 percent research duties, and advanced to associate professor in 1996, and professor in 2003. His academic career focused on administrative endeavors (80 percent) beginning in 1999.
Hoffmann's career at Cornell included serving as associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, associate director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, and director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. He helped initiate a leadership and professional development week-long program that benefited more than 400 faculty at Cornell and beyond.
Prior to his administrative duties, he worked to develop and implement cost-effective and environmentally sensitive tactics for management of insect pests. He emphasized biological control, development and application of insect behavior modifying chemicals, and novel control tactics, all in an integrated pest management (IPM) context. Much of his research and Extension programming was multi-state and multidisciplinary in nature.
Among his entomological achievements, he
- Developed unique, cost-effective and environmentally benign biological control tactics for insect pests of sweet corn, peppers and potatoes, and presented wide scale demonstrations on conventional and organic farms in New York, Virginia, Massachusetts and Canada.
- Published the first popular guide to beneficial insects (64 pages, with more than 5,000 copies distributed)
- Developed patented unique fiber barrier technology for pest control
Highly honored for his expertise, Hoffmann was selected the recipient of the Experiment Station Section Award for Excellence in Leadership in 2015. He won an Entomological Foundational Professional award for Excellence in Integrated Pest management, Entomological Society of America, Eastern Branch, in 2006. He created a one-of-a-kind culture of sustainability at the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station focused on reducing the carbon footprints and costs, and ensuring staff well-being. He helped initiate a leadership and professional development week-long program that has benefited more than 400 faculty at Cornell and beyond.
Hoffmann authored more than 100 refereed publications, mostly related to entomology.
The Leigh seminar memorializes cotton entomologist Thomas Frances Leigh (1923-1993), an international authority on the biology, ecology and management of arthropod pests affecting cotton production. During his 37-year UC Davis career, Leigh was based at the Shafter Research and Extension Center, also known as the U.S. Cotton Research Station. He researched pest and beneficial arthropod management in cotton fields, and host plant resistance in cotton to insects, mites, nematodes and diseases. In his memory, his family and associates set up the Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar Entomology Fund at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. When his wife, Nina, passed in 2002, the alumni seminar became known as the Thomas and Nina Distinguished Alumni Seminar.
Leigh joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1958, retiring in 1991 as an emeritus professor, but he continued to remain active in his research and collaboration until his death on Oct. 26, 1993. The Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America awarded him the C. F. Woodworth Award for outstanding service to entomology in 1991.
They draw the attention of curious kids--some poke them with a stick, stomp on them, or race their bicycles over them. Some peer into the holes, trying to see the insects inside.
When Corrie Moreau was a young girl, she no doubt was one of the kids who peered inside.
She's now a noted evolutionary biologist and entomologist (specialty myrmecology, the study of ants).
Moreau will present a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar, "Piecing Together the Puzzle to Understand the Evolution of the Ants: Macroevolution to Microbiomes" from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 15 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive.
Moreau is the Moser Professor of Biosystematics and Biodiversity, Departments of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell, University, Ithaca, N.Y. and the curator of the Cornell University Insect Collection.
"Moreau and colleagues were the first to establish the origin of the ants at 140 million years ago using molecular sequence data (40 million years older than previous estimates), and that the diversification of the ants coincided with the rise of the flowering plants (angiosperms)," according to an entry in Wikipedia. "In addition, Moreau and Charles D. Bell showed that the tropics have been and continue to be important for the evolution of the ants. Moreau and colleagues have demonstrated the importance of gut-associated bacteria in the evolutionary and ecological success of ants through targeted bacterial and microbiome sequencing, including showing that bacterial gut symbionts are tightly linked with the evolution of herbivory in ants."
Her honors are many and widespread. In 2018 she was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Also in 2018, she was featured in National Geographic as a "Woman of Impact." In 2015, she was included in "15 Brilliant Women Bridging the Gender Gap in Science."
A native of New Orleans, Moreau holds degrees (bachelor and master's) from San Francisco State University and a doctorate in biology from Harvard University (2007). At Harvard, she studied with major professors E. O. Wilson and Naomi Pierce. Wilson featured her in his 2013 book, Letter to a Young Scientist.
"There was no bravado in Corrie, no trace of overweening pride, no pretension," Wilson wrote. "The story of Corrie Saux Moreau's ambitious undertaking is one I feel especially important to bring to you. It suggests that courage in science born of self-confidence (without arrogance!), a willingness to take a risk but with resilience, a lack of fear of authority, a set of mind that prepares you to take a new direction if thwarted, are of great value – win or lose."
Moreau will cover a lot of ground in her UC Davis talk. "To fully understand the macro evolutionary factors that have promoted the diversification and persistence of biological diversity, varied tools and disciplines must be integrated," she says in her abstract. "By combining data from several fields, including molecular phylogenetics/phylogenomics, comparative genomics, biogeographic range reconstruction, stable isotyope analyses, and microbial community sequencing to study the evolutionary history of the insects, we are beginning to understand the drivers of speciation and the interconnectedness of life. Comparative phylogenetic analysis reveals the interconnectedness of ants and plants and that ants diversified after the rise of the angiosperms. Comparative genomics has permitted the exploration of the role of symbiosis on genome evolution and behavioral gene evolution demonstrating that Red Queen dynamics are at play in obligate mutualisms..."
"Microbial contributions to ants are not limited to diet enrichment," she says, "and we find evidence for their role in cuticle formation. These multiple lines of evidence are illuminating a more complete picture of ant evolution and providing novel insights into the role that symbiosis plays to promote biological diversity."
UC Davis graduate student Marshall McMunn of the Phil Ward lab is the host. Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor (firstname.lastname@example.org), coordinates the weekly seminars. See seminar schedule.
Jordan, the second-highest-scoring NBA player scorer (5,987 points), "wasn't good enough" to make his high school varsity basketball team (at first). And the late Tom Eisner, the renowned Cornell University professor who went on to be known as "the father of chemical ecology," just "wasn't good enough" to be accepted at Cornell as an undergraduate student.
"Sorry, you didn't make it!" probably rang in their ears.
So when chemical ecologist and distinguished professor Walter Leal of the University of California, Davis, delivers the Founders' Memorial Award Lecture on Tom Eisner (1929-2011) at the Nov. 17-20 Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in America's Center in St. Louis, Mo., the Jordan-Eisner comparison will surface amid all of Eisner's incredible accomplishments, including his National Medal of Science award in 1994 from President Bill Clinton for his "seminal contributions in the fields of insect behavior and chemical ecology, and for his international efforts on biodiversity."
Leal will speak on "Tom Eisner--An Incorrigible Entomophile and Innovator Par Excellence" at the Founders' Breakfast meeting that begins at 7:30 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 19. His presentation, at 8:15, promises to be inspirational, educational and entertaining. (And it's free to all ESA meeting registrants.)
ESA established the Founders' Memorial Award in 1958 to honor the memory of scientists providing outstanding contributions to entomology.
Eisner is known as an exemplary scientist, teacher and leader whose research discoveries focused on how insects use their chemical substances as friends or foes: to attract mates or to defend from foes. He discovered how "a bombardier beetle creates a chemical reaction within its body and then ejects a boiling hot chemical from its abdomen." As Joe Rominiecki, ESA communications manager, said: “Notable among them was deciphering how the bombardier beetle defends itself with an internal exothermic chemical reaction, explosively sprayed at attackers. That discovery topped a lengthy list of revelations about the complex and often surprising biochemicals insects produce, from the bitter, predator-deterring taste of the cochineal scale's brilliant red pigment to the sticky foot secretions that allow the palmetto beetle to cling so tightly to leaf surfaces.“
Leal, whose career spans three decades (see Bug Squad blog) built his career on Eisner's work. So we asked Leal to name 10 interesting facts about Tom Eisner. He obliged.
- Tom Eisner was born in Nazi Germany, moved to Spain, grew up in Uruguay, moved to the United States, and lived the rest of life here.
- In 1969 Tom delivered the Founders' Memorial Lecture to honor Robert Snodgrass. This year he is being honored by the same memorial lecture.
- Tom was an excellent musician; he owned three Steinway Grands (two remain with his daughters and the other he gave to the Cornell Music Department
- Cornell University rejected his undergraduate application in 1947.
- After being rejected by Cornell, Tom attended community college and received both his bachelor's degree and doctorate from Harvard.
- Ten years after Cornell rejected his undergraduate application, Cornell hired him as an assistant professor. Tom kept a framed copy of his rejection letter from Cornell on his office wall, all during his career.
- Tom is considered one of the founding fathers of chemical ecology but he joked that this cannot be proved "without a paternity test."
- Tom humbly said he had no good ideas, but that he "got good data to support other people's ideas."
- One of Tom's many covers of Science appeared on 4th of July (1969) to highlight the “fireworks” from bombardier beetles.
- For an unknown reason, Tom never traveled by air. He loved to drive long stretches to allow time to connect thoughts and relive experiences.
Leal, whose distinguished career includes co-chair of the 2016 International Congress of Entomology (ICE), serves as a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and is a past chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology). In his research, Leal investigates the molecular basis of olfaction in insects and insect chemical communication. (See the Leal lab's work on DEET in Entomology Today.)
And another factoid: Leal is the first UC Davis scientist selected to present the Founders' Memorial Lecture. (Medical entomologist Shirley Luckhart of the University of Idaho, formerly of UC Davis, delivered the lecture in 2018.)
One other factoid: Tom Eisner, born in Berlin, was multi-lingual in German, French, Spanish and later English. Leal, born in Brazil, speaks Portuguese, Japanese and English fluently.
(Editor's Note: Listen to Walter Leal's presentation on YouTube)