"Ento-what?" some folks will ask. "What's that?"
Five-year-old Rebecca Jean "RJ" Millena could have told you.
She still can.
When she was a kindergarten student in Concord, Calif., RJ wrote exactly this on her "About Me" poster: "When I grow up, I want to be an entomologist."
Fast forward to today. She's now 22, a senior majoring in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and an outstanding student researcher in the laboratory of UC Davis Distinguished Professor Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. And she's just accepted a four-year, full-ride fellowship offer to a PhD program at the American Museum of Natural History to join the systematics laboratory of Dr. Jessica Ware.
RJ, who studies those bizarre Strepsiptera endoparasites that attack their hosts, the Ammophila (thread-waisted) wasps, spent two years at the Bohart Museum of Entomology studying the specimens. As larvae, members of the order Strepsiptera, known as “twisted wings,” enter their hosts, including wasps and bees, through joints or sutures.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million specimens, houses “about 30,000 specimens of Ammophila from multiple continents,” says director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. Global wasp authority and UC Davis alumnus Arnold Menke (he studied for his 1965 doctorate with Professor Richard Bohart) identified most of them. Menke's publication, "The Ammophila of North and Central America (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae)” is the bible of Ammophila research.
But back to what children want to be when they grow up. Usually they say cowboy, truck driver, cook, teacher, dancer, actor, musician, artist, athlete, firefighter, detective, writer, police officer, astronaut, pilot, veterinarian, lawyer, doctor and the like.
But rarely "entomologist," the scientific study of insects.
RJ's enthusiasm toward insects is highly contagious. (Read more about her in this news feature.)
'I Wanna Be an Entomologist'
Back in 2011 we were delighted to see UC Davis Regents Scholar Heather Wilson, a researcher/lab technician in the Frank Zalom laboratory, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, create a fun-filled, innovative video, "I Wanna Be an Entomologist," a take-off of "I Wanna Be a Billionaire" from Travie McCoy's Lazarus album.
Heather entered her project in an Entomological Society of America (ESA) contest and won recognition.
In her video, she runs with an insect net, counts bugs in the Zalom lab, watches bees in a hive, and visits the Bohart Museum. At the Bohart, she hugs a display of butterflies and cradles a rose-haired tarantula and Madagascar hissing cockroach from its live "petting zoo."
"I wanna be an entomologist, so freakin' bad," Wilson sings.
"I wanna be on the cover
Of Economic Entomology
Smiling next to Frank and Jim Carey..."
"Frank and Jim" are Frank Zalom and James R. Carey, UC Davis distinguished professors in the Department of Entomology and Nematology. Zalom is a past president of the 7000-member ESA. Both are elected fellows.
Watch Heather Wilson's video at https://youtu.be/rwNbbJgXNXA and you'll probably decide being an entomologist sounds much more fun than being a billionaire. Who wants to be a billionaire, anyway? Let's go check out the insects!
The entomology line forms over there...don't crowd and don't cut in.
For the contest, Wilson performed a parody of "Billionaire" ("I Wanna Be a Billionaire") by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars. She humorously titled it "I Wanna Be an Entomologist."
Watch and listen on YouTube.
Now it appears that the work of entomologists collecting insects in California may be in jeopardy...not to mention teachers in grades K-12 and in college.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, this week proclaimed California's proposed permit rules for insect-collecting as not only “onerous and obtrusive” but will “obstruct the scientific work of researchers and teachers.“
"They amount to a mind-boggling, data-clogging nightmare,” she said.
“This is a major deal for scientific teaching and research,” Kimsey emphasized. “Teachers who assign their students to make insect collections will now have to apply for a permit, and only eight persons are allowed on any one permit. Plus, they have to notify California Fish and Wildlife 48 hours in advance before they collect, and inform them what exactly they will be collecting. It doesn't matter what they're studying—cockroaches, wasps or corn earworms.”
“This will make it even more difficult to study or teach about insects in California,” she said, adding that “Today, California is the only state in the U.S. that requires collecting permits to collect any terrestrial invertebrates, insects, slugs, millipedes, spiders, etc. anywhere in the state, private property, parks, federal lands, cities even, if it's being done for scientific research or teaching in K-12 and college. Ironically, there are no permit requirements for amateur collectors who can collect as much as they want.”
“These requirements,” she said, “will make research and teaching on invertebrates, particularly insects so difficult that it might very well stop our training in entomology and drive researchers to work out of state.”
Kimsey, who received her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, has directed the Bohart Museum of Entomology, since 1990. The seventh largest insect collection in North America, it houses nearly eight million insect specimens (terrestrial and fresh water arthropods) collected globally. The museum is also home of the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity of California's deserts, mountains, coast, and the Great Central Valley. Founded in 1946 by its namesake and noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) of UC Davis, the museum is dedicated to teaching, research and service.
In examining the proposed new rules for collecting insects, Kimsey cited seven crucial issues:
1. New Species. There may be as many as 100,000 species of terrestrial invertebrates in California and perhaps 6 percent are new to science. “This is far more species than we have the expertise in-state to identify,” she pointed out. “Sometimes it takes decades for someone to study a particular group. So it's impossible to give CDFW identifications much more detailed than Insecta for the permit paperwork.”
2. All Insects. These permit requirements apply whether “you're surveying the insects of a vernal pool or the distribution of dangerous invasive species, such as the yellow fever mosquito,” Kimsey said. “They also apply to the study of pest species, such as cockroaches and bedbugs.”
3. Bureaucracy. The required fees and detailed reports are onerous, obtrusive and seem to punish researchers and students studying and learning about insects, Kimsey declared. Permits take 6-8 weeks to be awarded and every time a change is needed, an emendation fee applies. “At UC Davis we are on the quarter system, which is 10 weeks. This means that a permit would be awarded by the time a class requiring students to make a collection is nearly over.”
4. Identification. “When we collect insects,” Kimsey explained, “we generally do not know what we've found until the material has been sorted, curated and identified to major group under the microscope--the vast majority of insects cannot be sight-identified and most are less than 1/4 inch long. This could take weeks and months. Specimens then need to be examined by experts who could be anywhere in the world.”
5. Chain of Custody. Every time the Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, ships specimens collected in California to an expert, “we would have to do CDFW chain-of-custody paperwork,” Kimsey said. “We take in an average of 30,000 specimens a year from university researchers and students. We loan up to 1,000 specimens a year to experts around the world. The paperwork would be crushing.”
6. Non-Target Insects. CDFW also requires permitees to account for by-catch, that is, non-target insects. “It's not clear if this includes insects collected on the radiator while driving in the study site,” she said.
7. Crime Scenes. Permits would also be required for the study of insects at crime scenes and any training that pertains to forensic entomology.
Kimsey said the simplest solution to this issue is “to simply remove terrestrial invertebrates from the permit requirements. But after the recent public meeting, that seems unlikely to happen.”
“We cannot see any benefit to the state in requiring permits for invertebrates when the information gained would be close to useless,” Kimsey declared. “California Wildlife and Wildlife informed us that the permit fees were necessary to cover the costs of dealing with the specimen data, but the data will not be useful and it would make much more sense to simply not cover terrestrial invertebrates.”
The entire data collection/permit process would result in a mind-boggling, data-clogging nightmare, she said. “If everyone in the state working on insects and teaching about them sent the specimen data to CDFW, they might be dealing with hundreds of thousands of data entries and thousands of reports annually, most of which would provide very little data. This amounts to an unfunded mandate, which will cost museums, scientists and teachers time and money. Museums would literally have to hire additional personnel to do the paperwork.”
Unfortunately, not many people were aware of the May 8 public hearing, but comments are continuing, although the department requested comments by 5 p.m., May 8, 2017, as outlined in the notice.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Regulations Unit - Scientific Collecting Permits
Attn: Ona Alminas, Environmental Scientist
1416 Ninth Street, Room 1342-A
Sacramento, CA 95814
Meanwhile, entomologists and other insect enthusiasts are weighing in this troubling issue on social media.
The comments include:
- "If California's bizarre new insect collecting regulations go through, it will effectively end entomology in that state."
- "This is absolutely horrific and pointless, I also wonder what the motivation is, who came up with this??"
- "Ironically, there are no permit requirements for amateur collectors who can collect as much as they want."
- "Will there be a special hot line? Hello? I would like to collect a cockroach this weekend. Ok you will need Form Pa111: permission to pick up and hold a cockroach; and Form Pa222: permission to detain a cockroach against its will!"
- "I love the fact that the permits are required only for scientific, educational, and non-commercial propagation purposes. So, if I wanted to collect butterflies to mount and sell, I could take as many as I wanted, no permit, notice, or paperwork required. But if I wanted to tag migratory butterflies and release them, I have to get a permit, give 48 hours notice, and maintain onerous amounts of paperwork."
- "I'm not a scientist and am only collecting these beautiful rare butterflies to feed to my frogs. No permit necessary." (said in jest)
- "We had to fill out more paperwork to collect and photograph common insects in Washington State National Forests than we did to study endangered invertebrates or endangered vertebrates!"
- "PA (Pennsylvania) was this way- for aquatic ecology we took a class field trip to get fishing permits to collect 'bait.'
Some 200 freshmen at the University of California, Davis will present their research posters on career explorations from 3:10 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13 in Freeborn Hall.
The students will stand by their posters and answer questions from interested persons. At the end of the event, the audience will vote for the best poster, along with the second- and third-place winners.
“The students enjoy presenting their posters to interested viewers,” said entomologist Diane Ullman, associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Ullman, known for innovative teaching strategies, has played a fundamental role in developing CDG. In addition to her many other roles, she advises graduate students in both entomology and plant pathology.
Ulllman said the CDG students will present their research on a variety of topics, including animal/wildlife, food science/nutrition, biotechnology, and ecology/environment. The posters are part of the Career Discovery Seminar course led by the Internship and Career Center and Career Discovery fellows (graduate student mentors in the CDG Program).
David Rizzo, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, directs the Science and Society Program.
The CDG program is geared for:
--Undeclared/exploratory students who want to explore an array of career pathways and gain decision-making skills.
--Students with a declared major in CA&ES who want a head start on career development skills in their area of interest.
In the past, students have expressed a wide range of interests from becoming a forensic entomologist to becoming a super model (textiles and clothing program), Ullman said.
What better way to explore those careers with a poster and tell others what they've learned?
Speaking of careers, we remember when UC Davis student Heather Wilson entered her original video, "I Wanna Be an Entomologist," in the 2011 Entomological Society of America's You Tube Contest. Wilson, a UC Regents scholar and a technician/researcher in Frank Zalom's integrated pest management lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology, meant it to be a parody of Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars' (I Wanna Be a) "Billionaire" video.
It didn't win, but it drew lots of attention! And so will the posters displayed tomorrow in Freeborn Hall.
Bugs do rule, and they'll rule at the 59th annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America (ESA), to take place Nov. 13-16 in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Reno.
At the event, the UC Davis Department of Entomology will be one of the most honored departments in its history.
Professor Frank Zalom, in line for the presidency of the 6000-member association, will be installed as vice president-elect and will begin his term Nov. 16. Professor James R. Carey and Diane Ullman, professor and associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will be inducted as ESA fellows, an honor limited to 10 persons per year.
Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award in Horticultural Entomology, and professor Walter Leal, the Nan-Yao Su Award for Innovation and Creativity in Entomology.
Harry Kaya, emeritus professor of entomology and nematology, will be honored at a special seminar titled “Entomopathogenic Nematodes: Their Biology, Ecology, and Application. A Tribute to the Dynamic Career of Harry K. Kaya.” Ed Lewis, acting chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, is among the coordinators.
Three other faculty members are moderating/organizing or co-conducting symposiums. They are James R. Carey, “Insect Demography: Emerging concepts and Applications”; Neal Williams, “Biodiversity, Global Change and Insect-Mediated Ecosystem Services,” and Walter Leal, “Insect Olfaction and Taste: Identifying, Clarifying and Speaking about the Key Issues.” Each will also deliver a lecture.
Leal and Parrella are among the most active UC Davis members of ESA. Leal is serving on the Presidential Committee on the International Congress of Entomology (ICE), to be held Aug. 19-25 in Daegu, South Korea. Parrella holds a seat on the ESA Governing Board, representing the Pacific Branch of the ESA.
Graduate students will also be quite involved at the ESA meeting. The UC Davis Linnaean Team will participate in the annual competition. The team includes Matan Shelomi, who studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology; Meredith Cenzer, who studies with Louie Yang; Andrew Merwin, who studies with Michael Parrella; Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, who studies with Larry Godfrey; and Hanayo Arimoto, with studies with Ed Lewis. The team earlier won first place in the Pacific Branch competition.
Another highlight is a student debate: “Identify...Clarify...Speak Out! Land Grant Mission, Organic Agriculture & Host Plant Resistance Programs.” UC Davis entomology graduate students will team to argue the pro side: Matan Shelomi, Mohammad-Amir Aghaee; Andrew Merwin; Meredith Cenzer, and Kelly Hamby (she studies with major professor Frank Zalom).
There's also the fun side. A video created by UC Davis undergraduate student Heather Wilson, who works in the Frank Zalom lab, is entered in the open division category of the ESA YouTube Contest. Her entry, “I Wanna Be an Entomologist,” is a a parody of the hit song, “I Wanna Be a Billionaire.” Wilson filmed the video in the Zalom lab and the Bohart Museum of Entomology. On the serious side, she'll present her research on the Spotted Wing Drosophila: “Seasonal Movements of Drosophila suzukii (Diptera: Drosophilidae) in a Multi-Crop Setting.” Watch Heather Wilson's video
In addition, scores of other UC Davis representatives--faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars--will present their work.
Yes, bugs do rule!
Or an entomologist?
UC Davis Regents Scholar Heather Wilson, a researcher/lab technician in the Frank Zalom lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology, was listening to (I Wanna Be a) "Billionaire," the lead single from Travie McCoy's Lazarus album when she came up with an idea for the Entomological Society of America’s YouTube video contest.
In the hit tune, "Billionaire," McCoy zeroes in on what it might be like to become a billionaire, or rather, what he will do WHEN he becomes a billionaire. He'll be on the cover of Forbes magazine, "smiling next to Oprah and The Queen."
"I wanna be a billionaire, so freakin' (insert alternative adjective here) bad," McCoy sings.
Enter Heather Wilson, a senior majoring in biological sciences. She answered the (I Wanna Be a) "Billionaire" video, created by McCoy and guest vocalist Bruno Mars, with a video of her own.
"I wanna be an entomologist, so freakin' bad," Wilson sings.
"I wanna be on the cover
Of Economic Entomology
Smiling next to Frank and Jim Carey..."
That would be Frank Zalom and James "Jim" Carey, longtime professors in the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Zalom, former vice chair of the department, is in line for the presidency of the 6000-member ESA.
Wilson's video begins rather quietly. A spider prowls its web for unsuspecting insects. Honey bees buzz in and out of a hive. A butterfly flutters into a bush.
A bucolic scene, right?
Wait! The fun is about to begin. Wilson opens a car trunk, retrieves an insect net, and holding it upright like a flag, sprints down a country road like a cartoon character.
She goes on to "count bugs" in the Zalom lab (where she's doing research on the Spotted Wing Drosophila). Then she heads over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology where she wears a resident walking stick on her T-shirt. She cradles a rose-haired tarantula and a Madagascar hissing cockroach. She hugs a display tray of butterfly specimens.
And she does all this with unabated glee.
It's easy to see why Wilson was voted "class clown" at her high school in Anaheim, Calif. But she's also a top scholar. The Regents Scholarship she received is the most prestigious scholarship on the UC Davis campus and is based solely on academic and personal achievements.
Someone asked us "What's this all about, craving so badly to become an entomologist?"
Well, you have to watch the "Billionaire" video to know what's going on. It's a parody! And Heather Wilson pulls it off perfectly.
Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology and an avid fan of all things entomological, points out that "It's unrealistic that we can ALL become billionaires. But honestly, we can all set our sights on becoming an entomologist. Now that’s a realistic dream.”
Meanwhile, Wilson is preparing a research presentation on the Spotted Wing Drosophila for the 59th Annual ESA Meeting, to be held Nov. 13-16 in Reno.
And meanwhile, her video is going viral.