First, the grant:
Jason Bond, professor and the Schlinger Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has received a 4-year, $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to study trapdoor spiders in the California Floristic Province.
“The idea is to look at the genomic diversity of trapdoor spider populations across the California landscape and identify new species and hotspots of diversity,” said Bond, principal investigator of the collaborative award, shared with Marshal Hedin, professor of biology at San Diego State University (SDSU).
“From a research perspective, this is pretty exciting but it also includes a really nice educational component working with Fran Keller at Folsom Lake College (a UC Davis alumnus),” Bond said. “We have REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) funding for students who will be transferring to UC Davis.”
Also working on the grant is co-PI James Starrett, project scientist in the Bond lab.
Trapdoor spiders construct their burrows with a corklike or wafer trap door made of soil, vegetation and silk. They belong to a number of related families placed in the order Araneae, including Euctenizidae and Halonoproctidae.
The researchers also will be using “crowdsourced” data from iNaturalist, involving public sightings of spiders.
The California Floristic Province is a floristic province with a Mediterranean-type climate on the Pacific Coast. In addition to its remarkable spider diversity, this biodiversity hotspot is known for its giant sequoias and coastal redwoods.
“One of the first products from the project will be the description of a new trapdoor spider genus and species from Moss Landing State Beach,” Bond said. Plans call for the public to suggest candidate names for the new species, with the Bohart Museum of Entomology selecting the winner.
The abstract: “Using a combination of original fieldwork, newly developed analytical methods for genetically identifying species and their evolutionary and geographic relationships, this research project will focus on trapdoor spiders and their relatives as an exemplary group for biodiversity knowledge and conservation in the California Floristic Province (CA-FP). Long-term surveys will be conducted at multiple geographic locations that include most major CA-FP habitat types. At these sites, the presence of spider species and the numbers of individuals in each will be measured to provide a statistical baseline for future monitoring efforts. New large DNA datasets, based on analysis of thousands of genes, will be generated by analysis of the genomes of these species.”
“New methods will be applied to this data to identify species boundaries, and formal taxonomic descriptions will be made for all new species,” according to the abstract. “The new information about these new species and their genetic relationships will be used to assess patterns of biodiversity in this spider group across the complex geography of the CA-FP. Statistical comparisons of the geographic patterns of spider species distribution will be made to CA-FP plants and vertebrates, and these results will be used to determine whether biodiversity hotspots coincide with federal, state, and locally protected areas.”
“This project will train students and other researchers in several techniques of field biology research, producing and analyzing new data from genomes, using cutting edge methods. This research will encourage participation and train a select group of community college students from underrepresented groups who plan to transfer to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs in four-year colleges.”
Bond and colleagues recently published research in the journal Systematic Biology that recognizes eight new spider families—five elevations in rank and three brand new family level rank names, along with one new subfamily. This is in addition to other new families that Bond and Hedin proposed last year. Postdoctoral researcher Vera Opatova of the Bond lab (she recently left for a position in Prague), is the first author on the Systematic Biology paper, "Phylogenetic Systematics and Evolution of the Spider Infraorder Mygalomorphae Using Genomic Scale Data," and Bond is the senior author.
Hedin is the principal investigator of a continuing grant, “Collaborative Research: Phylogenomics, Spatial Phylogenetics and Conservation Prioritization in Trapdoor Spiders (and Kin) of the California Floristic Province,” with co-principal investigator and Jeet Sukemaran, SDSU assistant professor who specializes in computational evolutionary biology./span>
It's always a good day when you encounter a dragonfly on Main Street USA.
Such was the case on Wednesday, July 17 when seemingly out of nowhere, a shiny Tramea lacerata "black saddlebags" appeared in front of me on the sidewalk fronting the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce.
Its habitat is near ponds, lakes, ditches, slow streams, or other bodies of water, but there it was.
"It is a freshly emerged female, probably on its maiden flight," said naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, an associate with the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis. "This is its most vulnerable time. If it gets through the next day or so, off to fast flying it will go and you will never get close to it again."
I gingerly picked it up and photographed it on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). Half an hour later, I witnessed it fly over our fish pond, never to be seen again. At least by me!
This species, found throughout North America, is included in a Bohart Museum's poster, "Dragonflies of California." Designed by Fran Keller (then a doctoral student in entomology at UC Davis and now an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College), with images by Kareofelas, the poster is available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus.
The black saddlebags dragonfly belongs to the Order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), suborder Anisoptera (dragonflies) family Libellulidae (skimmers), genus Tramea (saddlebags) and species lacerata (black saddlebags). "It flies constantly, often gliding, perches infrequently," according to BugGuide.net. The University of Michigan biokids website yields more information.
It's easily distinguishable. Says Wikipedia: "It has distinctive wings with characteristic black blotches" at its proximal ends, "which make the dragonfly look as though it is wearing saddlebags. The black saddlebags is a relatively large dragonfly at about 5 centimeters in length. The body is thin and black, and the female may have lighter spotting or mottling dorsally. The head is much wider than the rest of the body and is dark brown in color...Some populations of this dragonfly undertake migrations. Both the larvae and adult forms are efficient predators of mosquitoes so they are a helpful insect to have in wet areas where mosquito infestations occur." A wonderful predator...
Of predators, sidewalks and black saddlebags...
The gift shop is offering a selection of insect-themed T-shirts, in both adult and children's sizes, for $10, and the Bohart-produced 2019 calendars for $8.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, says that "we have adult sizes in the clubtail and pondhawk dragonfly and dog-faced butterfly designs, and a variety of children's t-shirts."
It's a fun and innovative calendar, with art by UC Davis entomology student/artist Karissa Merritt, based on sentence collections from Kimsey's classrooms. Kimsey collects puzzling or humorous sentences ("What's that again?") written by her students. The calendar is a project of the non-profit Bohart Museum Society.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, also maintains a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas.
The Bohart, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. (More information is available on the website or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 753-0493.)
But have you heard of the "other" bear flag that's on a hooded sweatshirt at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis? It's lettered with "Bohart Republic."
The Bohart flag features a water bear or tardigrade, the creative work of UC Davis entomologist/artist Charlotte Herbert Alberts.
Besides living on the Bohart sweatshirts, the tardigrade is a microscopic, water-dwelling animal that lives just about everywhere: "from the mountaintops to the deep sea and mud volcanoes; from tropical rain forests to the Antarctic," according to Wikipedia. German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze, who first described them in 1773, called them "little water bears."
The name stuck. "Water bears."
"Tardigrades are among the most resilient known animals, with individual species able to survive extreme conditions that would be rapidly fatal to nearly all other known life forms, such as exposure to extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), air deprivation, radiation, dehydration, and starvation," Wikipedia says. "Tardigrades have even survived exposure to outer space. About 1,150 known species form the phylum Tardigrada, a part of the superphylum Ecdysozoa. The group includes fossils dating from 530 million years ago, in the Cambrian period."
How did she get the idea? "I came up with the tardigrade flag idea in my sleep!" she said. "The next morning I told Lynn and she loved it."
Then Alberts and Kimsey conferred with Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, and Bohart associate Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College and a UC Davis alumnus (she holds a doctorate in entomology) "to figure out the details"--like the entomologist holding a net and riding the tardigrade, and the name, "Bohart Republic."
"The entomologist is no one in particular," Alberts said, "but she's a female because I think it is important to encourage more women into the field of entomology."
"So far, the reactions have all been super positive!" she commented. "My family and friends are all asking for one!"
Located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, the Bohart Museum, home of a global collection of some eight million insect specimens, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
A bright blue stuffed animal tardigrade in the gift shop also sells well.
"I do not have a stuffed tardigrade but often gaze fondly at the ones for sale at the Bohart," Alberts commented. "I would love to adopt one... but am worried that our sweet puppy will think it is for him."
As for the real tardigrades, they have always fascinated her, especially "their ability to survive in any environment--even space!"
Tardigrade enthusiasts love them more than they can "bear."
They're featured prominently on the newly available Bohart Museum of Entomology hooded sweatshirts, the work of artist Charlotte Herbert Alberts and designer Fran Keller.
Tardigrades can survive in many extreme conditions, including space, and they're sure to survive in the Bohart--unless they're all gone soon.
Available in red, gray and black, from sizes extra small to extra extra large, they'll be offered in the Bohart Museum gift shop during the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 16. Proceeds from the sales benefit the insect museum's educational activities.
The artist? Charlotte Herbert Alberts, an entomology doctoral candidate who studies Asilidae (Assassin flies) with her major professor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology. Alberts cleverly drew a "Bohart Republic" water bear flag, a take-off of the California Bear Flag, except hers features an entomologist, insect net in hand, riding a huge tardigrade.
The front features a tardigrade face inside a Bohart logo, a design by Fran Keller, an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College. She received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Kimsey and designed many of the shirts, sweatshirts and posters in the Bohart Museum's gift shop.
UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day
The Bohart is gearing up for the eighth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Day, a science-based event that's free and family friendly. Thirteen museums or collections will be open Saturday. It all begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. Maps are available at http://biodiversitymuseumday.ucdavis.edu/.
- Arboretum and Public Garden, Good Life Garden, next to the Robert Mondavi Institute, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- California Raptor Center, 340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis Road
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1394, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- Paleontology Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
The following will be open from noon to 4 p.m.:
- Anthropology Museum, 328 Young Hall and grounds
- Botanical Conservatory, Greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive
- Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road (take West Hutchison Drive to Hopkins)
- Nematode Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Marine Invertebrate Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
All participating museums and collections have active education and outreach programs, but the collections are not always accessible to the public.