Ask away at the Science Café.
This is an informative scientific presentation held the second Wednesday of each month in the G St. Wunderbar, 228 G St., Davis. The scientist delivers a brief talk and then engages the public.
Next Wednesday, Oct. 10, biodemography expert James R. Carey, a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology and an expert on human aging (as well as insects!) will speak at 5:30 p.m. on "Are There Upper Limits to Human Lifespan?"
How long can humans live? Well, supercentarian Jeanne Calment of France (1875-1997), lived to be 122. Born Feb. 21, 1875, she died Aug. 4, 1997. She enjoyed a healthy lifestyle, prayed and exercised daily, and lived a basically stress-free life. But yes, she drank a little wine and smoked a little. She outlived her husband, daughter and grandson.
“Why do we live as long as we do (evolutionary question), why do we age (mechanisms question) and why do we die (closure question)?” Carey asks.
Some of the topics to be discussed at the event, billed as “a conversation and dialogue with a scientist,” include:
- The trends in aging research on extending human lifespan.
- Theoretical arguments for upper limits and empirical evidence in humans
- The impact of disease elimination and organ replacement on longevity
- With the changes in human life expectancy, humans are now being given a second chance-- somewhat like the proverbial cat with nine lives--after an otherwise life-ending disease or incident
- Look to nature for perspectives on the limits of “life duration,” for example 40,000-year-old frozen nematodes; hibernation and dormancy) and limits to “active lifespan.”
An internationally recognized leader and distinguished scholar in insect demography and invasion biology, spanning three decades, Carey also researches health demography, biology of aging, and lifespan theory. He is the author of a landmark study published in the journal Science in 1992 that showed mortality of Mediterranean fruit flies (medflies) slows at older ages. Earlier this year scientists confirmed that this also occurs in humans, citing the study of 105-year-old Italian women.
Carey, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980, directed an 11-university, $10 million, 10-year study on biodemography of aging from 2003-2013. He is also known for discovering Carey's Equality or the death distribution in a life table population equals its age structure. He teaches a popular longevity course that draws 250 to 300 students year, and recently authored a book on biodemography, to be published by Princeton University next year.
And, if you want to ask Professor Carey about medflies, he can answer those, too. He was a recent recipient of a UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award for his “outstanding research, outreach and advocacy program involving invasion biology, specifically his significant contributions on two California insect pest invaders, the Mediterranean Fruit Fly (medfly) and the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM).”
Professor Jared Shaw, interim chair of the UC Davis Department of Chemistry and founder of the Science Café series, will host the Oct. 10th presentation. Launched in 2012 and initially supported by the National Science Foundation, the popular series now draws support from the Department of Chemistry and Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences and is promoted by Capital Science Communicators.
See schedule on the UC Davis Department of Chemistry website.
It was the early 1980s. The invasive insect, better known as the medfly (Ceratitis capitata), threatened the state's multi-billion-dollar fruit and vegetable industry, leading to widespread detection, eradication and quarantine attempts. Aerial spraying of Malathion drew widespread protests.
Entomologist James R. Carey of the University of California, Davis, stepped forward to launch an informed, concerted and widespread effort to reveal the science about the invaders. His well-documented research in basic and applied aspects of invasion biology shows that these pests are established and cannot be eradicated.
Fast forward to today.
Carey, a distinguished professor of entomology with UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and an internationally recognized leader and distinguished scholar in invasion biology, will appear in a 32-minute interview on the nationally televised Through the Decades program on Monday, July 3.
Through the Decades, based in Chicago, is known for covering high-profile or important historical events. It is hosted by Bill Kurtis of National Public Radio's "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me."
The interviewer "asked about the medfly program back in 80s, my involvement, and I talked a lot about how medfly really has never gone away," Carey related.
Tune in on Monday to hear the interview. Link to http://decades.com/wheretowatch/ to find the local program. In California, the show will be broadcast on KFAZ Fresno, KCBS Los Angeles, KOVR Sacramento and KPIX San Francisco. Through the Decades airs daily at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., 7 p.m. and 1 a.m., Eastern Time, or 4 a.m., 10 a.m., 4 p.m., and 10 p.m., Pacific Time.
As one of the five members of the state's Medfly Science Advisory Panel, Carey testified in 1989 before the California State Assembly, which later convened as a “committee of the whole” (a high profile public hearing examining the handling of the eradication program) that the pest is established in California and eradication efforts are futile. Carey subsequently wrote two news and review pieces in Science, plus an article on its establishment. The New York Times' Retro Reports profiled him and his involvement in the medfly issue.
The American Entomologist journal, in its "Issues in Entomology," has just published a piece by Carey and colleagues Nikolas Papadopoulos and Richard Plant on "The 30-Year Debate on a Multi-Billion-Dollar Threat: Tephritid Fruit Fly Establishment in California." It begins with: "It is virtually impossible to overstate the seriousness of the tephritid fruit fly threat to the $25 billion California fruit and vegetable industry constituting over half of the overall $47 billion agriculture economy of the state. Consider these facts: a total of 17 different species of fruit flies have been detected in California, several of which are detected every few years and one of which is detected every year (Papadopoulos et al. 2013). More than 350 California cities have experienced fruit fly outbreaks, seven cities (e.g., Fresno, Bakersfield) of which are located in one of the world's most productive agricultural regions—the Central Valley."
But they did when UC Davis student Hannah Trumbull, a human development major and political science minor from Albany, Calif., delivered her address at the recent UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences commencement.
What's a nematode, you ask?
Short answer: worms. Longer answer? “Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms—they exist in almost every known environment on the plant, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue,” says UC Davis nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp, received her doctorate from UC Davis last December.
Enter Hannah Trumbull. Last winter she enrolled in a human development course on longevity taught by James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, and a recipient of national and international teaching recognitions.
What Trumbull had to say about worms, aka flatworms, at her commencement address stirred the crowd.
“Out of all the lessons I learned at Davis, the one I am thinking about today, that I come back to again and again, is that the best I can hope for in my life is to uphold the standard of a healthy flatworm,” Trumbull told her audience.
“I took a human development course on longevity with Professor Carey last winter and one day he lectured about how to characterize nematode health as an example of lifespan measures.”
"Here are the four stages of nematode health, in order from most to least healthy, and I hope you'll see why this struck me as profound.
- A Class A nematode is in constant motion.
- A Class B nematode only moves when prodded.
- A Class C nematode does not move even when prodded.
- A Class D nematode is a dead nematode.
"To reiterate: Constant motion, moving when prodded, not moving when prodded, death. In essence, all possible human responses to life can be boiled down to categorize us as degrees of healthy nematodes.
"Walking out of Haring Hall after Professor Carey's lecture, I stopped and bought a square of baklava from the Afghan Student Association bake sale and got handed about seventeen half-sheet flyers encouraging me to rush a service sorority, come to a disco dance-a-thon, volunteer at a honey bee festival and learn how to make my own shoes. I smiled at the man in all white who preaches on the quad with his dog and the guy who wears a kilt and plays celtic flute music. Young people threw frisbees, climbed trees, and played guitar, and I knew that if I went up to any of them I would be welcome to join in. This university is a massive petri dish with as many opportunities for motion as you have hours in your day. The difference between a Class B and a Class C nematode is whether we choose to respond.
"When a swastika was spray-painted near campus that year, those same community members were at my door with flowers and hugs checking in on me and asking how they could help. When the Davis mosque was attacked in a hate crime this year, I was immediately at their doors with all the support I could give. Communities set us into motion by propelling us outside of our own petri dishes and respond to the ways that other people are prodded. As a textbook Class A nematode once told me: 'the name of the game is do your best every single time and never stop.' The hard part, and the empowering part, is that from here on out the rules of the game are open to interpretation.
"Nematodes do not undergo somatic cell division, so they only ever have 159 cells. In contrast, millions of the cells in your body have divided, died, and been replaced since we entered this room today. How lucky are we to have the chance to recreate ourselves, in these constantly moving bodies? Entering this new stage of our lives, we must be cognizant of the threat of stillness. It is easy to become jaded and apathetic Class C nematodes who do not even move when prodded. Say yes to constant motion, take the hand of the opportunities for creation around you and in your future. College has taught me that hard work pays off, as does intelligence, but most of all it pays off to keep moving. To do your best every time. As we move into the next stage of our lives, I encourage each of you to take what you have learned in the course of your journey, and find how it can motivate necessary motion, widely, constantly and to the best of your ability. Thank you."
At UC Davis, Trumbull served as a board member of Challah for Hunger, program leader at the Multifaith Living Community, program staff at YMCA Youth and Government, and a recreation leader for the City of Davis. She lived at the Turtle House, a cooperative living house where she published magazines of student art and operated a “Taco Trike” that raised money for Planned Parenthood.
Career plans? Trumbull draws inspiration from her mother, a kindergarten teacher, to go into public education policy, and her father, a general contractor and small business owner, "to try to one day build an intentional living community." Next step: working at the Bay Area nonprofit Rising Sun.
If you're nurturing a passionflower vine (Passiflora), you've probably seen "The Butterfly Ballet."'
The Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), orangish-reddish butterflies with silver-spangled wings, stay close to Passiflora, their host plant. It's the circle of life. The males patrol for females, find them, and mate. The females lay eggs, eggs become caterpillars, caterpillars become chrysalids. The adults emerge, and the Butterfly Ballet begins anew.
The Gulf Frits have no borders or boundaries, nor should they, as they shoot and soar over fences and gates. Theirs is not a gated community.
The "no-borders, no-boundaries" scenario reminds us of the upcoming conference of the International Congress of Entomology (ICE), to take place Sept. 25-30, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. The theme: "Entomology Without Borders."
The conference, expected to be the world's largest gathering of entomologists--some 7,000 are expected to attend--is chaired by chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and vegetable research entomologist Alvin Simmons of USDA/ARS. They have lined up prestigious speakers, including two Nobel Prize winners: Peter Agre (Nobel Laureate, 2003 and Jules Hoffmann (Nobel Laureate, 2011). Among the other speakers is one of Cuba's leading entomologists, Juan Andrés Bisset, head of the Vector Control Department at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine and an advisor to the Cuban Public Health Ministry.
Other UC Davis connections? Two of the plenary speakers are James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, and Arizona State University Provost Robert E. Page Jr., former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
ICE is held once every four years in different countries around the world. Next year it will be held simultaneously with the annual meetings of the Entomological Society of America, the Entomological Society of Canada, and other organizations. For more information, access the ICE website at http://ice2016orlando.org.
Meanwhile, think of "Gulf Frits Without Gulfs" or "Bugs Without Borders" closely linked to "Entomology Without Borders."
Chemical ecologist Yuko Ishida of Toyama, Japan, a former UC Davis post-doctoral researcher who shared the same lab--and the same bench--in Briggs Hall that Duffey did, is the lead co-author of a cover story recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) about an invasive species of millipede that secrets hydrogen cyanide as a defensive mechanism. (See research paper)
Ishida and Duffey never met but they shared a love of science and chemical ecology, in addition to the same lab.
At the time of his death, Duffey was a professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. When chemical ecologist/professor Walter Leal joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 2000, he occupied the former labs of professors Duffey and Susumu Maeda (1950-1998) and memoralized their lives and work by naming his lab the “Honorary Maeda-Duffey lab.”
Ishida worked in the Honorary Maeda-Duffey lab from May 2001 to November 2007 at UC Davis.
“Yuko loves to tackle challenging problems and he is well prepared to solve them,” said Leal, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and now with the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Ishida also photographed the millipede, found in southern Japan, for the PNAS cover.
The four scientists all work at the Biotechnology Research Center and Department of Biotechnology, Toyama Prefectural University, and are affiliated with the Asano Active Enzyme Molecule Project, Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Toyama.
“To discover more efficient and stable HNLs, we focused on the invasive cyanogenic millipede as a bioresource,” the scientists wrote. “The HNL identified from the millipede showed not only the highest specific activity toward benzaldehyde among known HNLs, including the almond HNL in industrial use, along with wide temperature and pH stabilities, but also high enantioselectivity in the synthesis of various cyanohydrins. These properties make it suitable as an industrial biocatalyst. Arthropods are likely to be valuable sources of potential biocatalysts for the next generation of industrial biotechnology.”
“There followed several papers on the biochemistry of HCN production and the production of other defensive compounds in these interesting animals,” they wrote. “After arriving at UC Davis, Sean began a long series of brilliant studies on the chemical mechanisms used by plants to fend off attack by insects and various pathogens. This work centered on resistance in tomatoes, and over the years he collaborated with numerous students and colleagues. Studies analyzed the role of numerous chemicals produced by plants including tomatine, proteinase inhibitors, and various plant oxidative enzymes. Recent studies had included analyses of induced defenses and the interactions of chemicals with the biological agents such as parasitoids and baculoviruses used in various IPM and biological control programs.”
“A constant theme and frequently emphasized message in Sean's work was the fact that chemical-biological interactions were rarely simple and straightforward,” they wrote. “He stressed that in order to understand plant-insect interactions, for example, it was necessary to understand the interactions among plant chemicals, the overall characteristics of the insect's diet, the physiological state of the insect, and the modifiable characteristics of plant and insect. Chemical and biological context and chemical mixture were seen as critical determinants of biological activity; a simple view that natural products functioned merely as "toxins" or isolated defensive factors was often misleading.”
Carey, Dingle and Ullman praised Duffey's "truly interdisciplinary research that included several joint projects with members of the Entomology Department and also with colleagues in the departments of Nematology Ecology and Plant Pathology. We all experienced Sean insisting over and over that interactions are not simple and that one must understand the chemistry, the physiology, and the ecology to really understand interactions between plants, insects, and their pathogens. Sean's legacy is an outstanding record of how to go about studying plant-insect interactions, not just the gathering of data on interactions that occur.”
The legacy continues...