You'll win the distinction of being selected the winner, and you'll be acknowledged in a scientific paper.
What could be better?
One of the activities at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, "Eight-Legged Encounters," set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25, will be a "Name-That-Spider-Species" contest, open to students 18 and under. The focus: a male trapdoor spider, a new species from the genus Promyrmekiaphila.
The event will be co-hosted by the Bohart Museum and the American Arachnological Society (AAS).
The open house will kick off the annual meeting of AAS, which meets June 26-30 on the UC Davis campus, said arachnologist Jason Bond, associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Professor Bond is chairing the AAS conference with Lisa Chamberland, postdoctoral research associate of the Bond lab, and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
"The species was originally found in the early 2000s, but the first male was collected last October," said Jochim, a second-year doctoral student interested in the evolution and systematics of trapdoor spiders, particularly species that live in California's coastal dunes.
"The genus Promyrmekiaphilais a group of trapdoor spiders that construct silk-lined burrows with wafer-like trapdoor lids, usually decorated with plant material or substrate," Jochim explained. "It's found generally in the Southern Bay Area. As of now there are only two species in the genus, so this new species will be the third!"
AAS member Eileen Hebets, professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is co-hosting the open house as part of a U.S. National Science Foundation grant, “Eight-Legged Encounters” that she developed as an outreach project to connect arachnologists with communities, especially youth.
Bohart Museum and AAS officials are encouraging the public to attend the open house to learn more about spiders and other arachnids. The Bohart Museum, directed by UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, houses a worldwide collection of eight million insect specimens; a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.
In addition to the open house, AAS has scheduled a series of arachnid lectures, free and open to the public, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, in the newly constructed 600-seat lecture hall, California Hall.
By the way, did you know that Professor Bond has named several trapdoor spiders for prominent people?
- President Barack Obama, Aptostichus barackobamai
- Actress Angelina Jolie, Aptostichus angelinajolieae
- Television host Stephen Colbert, Aptostichus stephencolberti
And a rousing double cheer to the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Professor Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Here's what happened:
NSF recently implemented its Research Experience for Post-Baccalaureate Students (REPS) to recognize “the importance of early-career research experiences, especially for individuals contemplating a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research, and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused on the career trajectories of undergraduate students who were denied such a research experience."
NSF officials went to point out: "Many undergraduates, who had been planning to participate in research experiences this past year-- whether through Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites, REU supplements, or individual arrangements with faculty mentors– found that their host labs or research settings were not able to accommodate them due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Students from underrepresented groups and those from schools with no access to research are particularly impacted...”
So it is great news that Iris Bright and Megan Ma, two outstanding young scientists are now part of the REPS program. They're gaining research experience in the Bond laboratory.
Bond obtained supplemental funding from both his NSF grants to support the two young scientists through the REPS program. “It's great to have Iris and Megan in the lab and potentially add a couple of really exceptional women to our entomology graduate programs, and future professoriate,” Bond said. “The REPS program provides full time employment for Iris and Megan to work in the lab for one year.”
Both Bright and Ma hope to enroll in graduate school, obtain their doctorates, and become professors.
Iris Bright, a fine arts graduate who switched to science, is attending classes at night at Sacramento City College, where she is working toward her associate of science degree in biology and her field ecology certificate to obtain the necessary prerequisites for graduate school in entomology. She received her bachelor of fine arts degree (creative writing and literature) in the honors program from Emerson College, Boston, Mass., in 2015.
Bright, who volunteers at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, participated in the 2019 Bohart Belize BioBlitz collection trip, led by two Bohart Museum scientists, Professor Fran Keller of Folsom Lake College, a UC Davis doctoral alumnus, and David Wyatt, professor at . Sacramento City College.
“This trip was an incredible invertebrate learning experience and it's where I met Dr. Jason Bond,” Bright recalled. “I afterwards was able to become a volunteer at the Bohart working on the Belize Bugs project with the help of Dr. Fran Keller which further enriched the experiences and knowledge I gained in the field.”
Joining the Bond lab has “really opened doors for me to get hands-on research experience that I was lacking and did not know how to obtain due to being a full-time worker,” she said. She had previously worked full-time at a Sacramento florist business to fund her education.
“I started my first official bug collection around the age of 7 or 8 and it actually grew to be quite large,” she recalled. “My favorite specimen in the collection was a Banded Alder Borer (long-horned beetle) that my mom and I collected off the parking lot wall of a pet store. We were actually able to create a pretty unique display of the local insect life specific to that region. We also had a few specimens from friends in other states and comparing them to what I grew up seeing was my first foray into biodiversity.”
What fascinates her about entomology? “I am fascinated by the complex inner and outer workings of insects,” Bright said. “They are all around us and contribute so many ecological services that we are still trying to discover. Delving into those mysteries is not only fun but incredibly important especially in our current species die-off. Also. they are beautiful, colorful, and strange looking! Seeing tiny green wasps or purple beetles under a microscope is endlessly exciting.”
Grandfather Was an Amateur Entomologist. Bright is not the first in her family committed to entomology. “When I first started expressing interest in insects, my mom walked into our basement and pulled out (entomological) supplies, forceps, pins, Schmidt boxes, etc. I was too young to realize that these were not essentials in every home. and later found out that my grandfather had been an ‘amateur' entomologist. My mom would watch him as he pinned (specimens) and started developing her own love for insects which she was happy to revisit when she saw the same curiosity in me. She definitely instilled an appreciation for all nature in me from a very early age. In a way. I feel that becoming an entomologist will be putting an official title on a family tradition.”
Bright started working in the Bond lab in early August. “So far, I've been observing/assisting the graduate students with DNA extractions, and learning how to do digital imaging of specimens,” she said. “In the future, maybe Tenebrionidae (darkling beetle) work.”
She hopes to obtain her doctorate in entomology and become a professor “so I can do further research and also share my passion and interests with the next generations!”
Megan is a June 2021 graduate of UC Davis with a bachelor's degree in evolution, ecology and biodiversity and a minor in entomology. Megan is an accomplished scientific illustrator.
“I love observing and recreating the colors and textures I see in biology through art,” she said. “I want to use both imaging techniques and systematics to study the function, ecology, and evolution of morphology in terrestrial arthropods, specifically in myriapods and arachnids.”
As an undergraduate, she worked in the UC Davis laboratory of Jay Stachowicz, who specializes in marine community ecology. In the Bond lab, she is working on several projects involving wolf spiders, trap door spiders, and millipedes, as well as scientific illustrations.
First Generation College Student. A first-generation college student, Ma said that attending UC Davis as an undergraduate student and “getting a broad research and teaching experience has been extremely rewarding.”
“Getting involved in research early on (winter quarter of freshman year) really helped me hone in on what I enjoy about biology,” Ma said. “Some of the research projects I've worked on involve processing salt marsh plant matter for elemental analysis, studying the effects of warming and grazing on eelgrass, identifying marine invertebrates for biodiversity surveys, and using microCT imaging to visualize millipede genitalia development.
“I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to merge art and biology as an undergrad, as I've worked on the General Biology (BIS2C) laboratory manuals illustrations and taught scientific illustration at the Bodega Marine Laboratory to graduate students and professors. I've also begun to explore imaging techniques (like focus stacking and microCT) for studying spiders and millipedes in the Bond lab.
Her interest in terrestrial arthropods piqued when she enrolled, as a freshman, in an “Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity and the Tree of Life” course, taught by Joel Ledford of the College of Biological Sciences faculty. “This was when I held Rosie The tarantula (at the Bohart Museum of Entomology) for the first time and learned about biology in the context of phylogeny. However, I didn't start rearing terrestrial arthropods until after joining the Bond lab around the end of my third year. Dr. Ledford introduced me to Dr. Bond and I started working as a scientific illustrator and research assistant for the lab with graduate student Xavier Zahnle.”
“During my first few weeks, Xavier handed me a female flat-backed millipede with black and orange coloring (Polydesmida: Xystodesmidae: Apheloriini),” Ma recalled. “I remember holding her with my bare hands and letting her crawl on my arm. Instead of worrying about potential repugnatory fluid secreting from her ozopores, I was thinking about how harmless she was, how little I knew about her, and how great it would be for me to study her.”
Millipedes, Tarantulas, Scorpions and Mantids. Ma immediately traveled to the Sacramento Reptile Expo, held that month, “and came home with my first two Florida Ivory millipedes (Chicobolus spinigerus). I knew I was hooked: I started prioritizing entomology courses.” She ended up adding an insect biology minor over other major courses and, in her free time, delved into arthropod husbandry information. “In the past four years, I've kept a handful of millipedes, several colonies of isopods, tarantulas, scorpions, mantises, and leaf insects. I don't think I can imagine myself without them.”
What fascinates her about terrestrial arthropods? “Since there is an overwhelming amount of biodiversity yet to be explored, there's always a niche for researchers to fill,” Ma said. “I wasn't paying attention to the terrestrial arthropods around me before joining the lab and taking entomology courses--learning more about them has made me more in-tuned with my surroundings. It makes daily life a little more interesting whenever I come across an arthropod friend on the sidewalk. One of my favorite things to do is come home to see one of my arthropod pets molting. “
Her career plans? “Working in the Bond lab has made me realize I want to continue seeing science through an artistic lens. Eventually, I want to become a professor and researcher at an undergraduate institution. I'd like to use both imaging techniques and systematics to study the function, ecology, and evolution of morphology in terrestrial arthropods, with special interests in millipedes and arachnids. I'd also like to mentor students, especially future women in STEM. I'd like to give back in same way my mentors have--I would not be where I am had they not taken a chance on me.”
We looking forward to hearing more about these outstanding young scientists and their projects!
Sure you have.
Insect fragments are in just about all the foods we eat, from chocolate to coffee to wheat flour to pizza sauce to beer and more. An insect control company estimates that we eat, on the average, 140,000 "bug bits" every year. (See Business Insider.)
But now you can REALLY eat a bug. And experience the joy and adventure of eating a new and exciting kind of protein.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology is hosting an open house themed "Gobble, Gobble, Munch, Munch, Crunch: Entomophagy,” from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. Open to the public, it's free and family friendly, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
“The theme is entomophagy and we have some samples from various companies coming our way,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. Companies providing samples include Hotlix, Exo and Chirps Chips.
"Just think of insects as terrestrial shrimp or crab," said senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.
In preparation for the event, Bohart Museum volunteer Iris Bright, a second-year biology major at Sacramento City College, sampled crickets, mealworms and earthworms last week.
Bright liked them all. “They're good,” she said, as she tasted red, green and blue earthworms. She described them as having "a sweet and sour taste." The mealworms? “Somewhat cheesy.”
“The crickets are crunchy," she said, adding "I've had them before.”
Bright, who plans to obtain a degree in biology and a field ecology certificate and then her master's degree, joined the Bohart Museum of Entomology/Folsom Lake College team that recently collected insects in Belize. She's studied with Belize bioblitz team leader Fran Keller, an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College who received her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis.
Eighty percent of the world population, including those living in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, consume insects as a high protein source. Some 1700 species of insects are edible.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has registered some 1,900 edible insect species and estimates that there were, in 2005, some two billion insect consumers worldwide. FAO suggests eating insects as a possible solution to environmental degradation caused by livestock production. Insects and arachnids eaten globally include crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs (such as mealworms, the larvae of the darkling beetle, various species of caterpillars (such as bamboo worms, Mopani worms, silkworms and waxworms), scorpions and tarantulas, according to Wikipedia.
Spencer Michels in a PBS News Hour report in May 2017, commented: “But the big advantage of eating insects is that they are generally healthier than meat. A six-ounce serving of crickets has 60 percent less saturated fat and twice as much vitamin B-12 than the same amount of ground beef. ..Bugs also don't spread disease to humans the way cows — think mad cow disease– or pigs can.”
“I do realize that insects do have a bad rap,” California Academy of Sciences entomologist Brian Fisher recently said. “Most people see insects are pests or as dangerous. But it's just the opposite. Insects are less dangerous and less of a problem for humans in terms of disease."
“We do have concerns about disease jumping from animals like pigs and cows to humans,” Fisher said. “But there are no worries about a disease jumping from an insect to humans. The more evolutionary distant we are from our food source, the less danger there is. … There is almost zero chance that any disease that affects an insect could actually impact a human after it's cooked.”
Celebrity bug chef David George Gordon, author of the “Eat-a-Bug” cookbook, extolled the virtues of the “bugs as food” movement when he addressed a UC Davis audience in 2014 at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. Insects are an environmentally friendly source of protein, he said, and bug farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is exponentially more water-efficient than farming for beef, chicken, or pigs.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum. It maintains a live "petting zoo," featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects, tarantulas, and praying mantids. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., except on holidays. More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org. (See list of open houses for the 2019-2020 academic year.)