Congrats to Professors Diane Ullman and Joanna Chiu of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and UC Davis Distinguished Professor Walter Leal, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Ullman and Chiu, both incredible teachers (as well as researchers and mentors) are recipients of the UC Davis Academic Senate's 2022 Distinguished Teaching Awards. Leal, widely known for his research, teaching, mentoring and public service, won the Academic Senate's Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award for his outstanding series of webinars educating the public about COVID-19. His four online or virtual symposiums drew more than 6000 viewers from 35 countries.
Joanna Chiu. "Professor Joanna Chiu is known for her ability to help students visualize and internalize abstract interactions that are invisible to the naked eye. Students and colleagues praise her desire to demystify pathways to success in science. She's admired for her compassion and dedication to students at all levels, whether they are visiting high school students, undergraduates, or graduate students. Her graduate students have landed jobs in academia, industry, and medicine, and they seek her counsel well into their professional lives. Professor Chiu has also created training programs and financial awards to increase diversity and inclusivity in her field."--UC Davis Academic Senate.
Professor Chiu, vice chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the co-administrator of the campuswide Research Scholars in Insect Biology, which aims to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. A 2019-23 Chancellor's Fellow, she received the 2019 Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. She holds a bachelor's degree in biology and music from Mount Holyoke College, Mass., and a doctorate in molecular genetics from New York University. She served as a postdoctoral fellow in chronobiology--molecular genetics and biochemistry, at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. (See news story for comments on her teaching)
Professor Ullman, both an entomologist and an artist, received her bachelor of science degree in horticulture from the University of Arizona and her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1985. She joined the UC Davis faculty in 1991 after serving as an associate professor of entomology at the University of Hawaii. Her credentials include: chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, 2004-2005; associate dean for undergraduate academic programs for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 2005 to 2014; and co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, launched in September 2006.
A Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2014) and the Entomological Society of America (2011), Ullman was named the 2014 recipient of the ESA National Excellence in Teaching Award. (See news story for comments on her teaching)
A native of Brazil and fluent in three languages, Leal was educated in Brazil, Japan and the United States, pursuing the scientific fields of chemical engineering, agricultural chemistry, applied biochemistry, entomology and chemical ecology. After serving in a leadership capacity in Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries for five years, he joined the Department of Entomology faculty in 2000. Leal chaired the department from 2002 to 2013 before accepting an appointment as a professor of biochemistry with the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Leal is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, American Association for the Advancement of Science, California Academy of Sciences, Royal Entomological Society and the Entomological Society of America (ESA). The UC Davis Academic Senate named him the recipient of its 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching, and the Pacific Branch of ESA presented him with its 2020 Award of Excellent in Teaching. (See news story for comments on his work)
Challenges met, challenges won.
They say good news comes in threes.
Sometimes it comes in fives!
Congrats to the five UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty members for their outstanding academic achievements.
- Molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, was recently promoted from associate professor to full professor
- Community ecologist Louie Yang, promoted from associate professor to full professor
- Community ecologist Rachel Vannette, promoted from assistant professor to associate professor (with tenure)
- UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, honey bee scientist and educator, promoted from assistant to associate specialist
- Ecologist Richard "Rick" Karban, professor, selected to the high campus honor of UC Davis distinguished professor.
Professor Chiu, who serves as the vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, joined the faculty in 2010. She centers her research on molecular genetics of biological timing and posttranslational regulation of proteins. She uses animal models including Drosophila melanogaster and mice to study the mechanisms that regulate circadian and seasonal physiology and behavior. Major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation fund her biological rhythms research. In addition to her research in biological rhythms, Chiu also aims to leverage her expertise in genomics to address key issues in global food security.
In 2019, Chiu was named one of 10 UC Davis Chancellor's Fellows, an honor awarded to associate professors who excel in research and teaching.
Chiu and Yang co-founded and co-direct (with Professor Jay Rosenheim) the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, launched in 2011 to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. The program crosses numerous biological fields, including population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; entomology; and cell biology. The goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research. (See more on UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
Professor Yang, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 2009, was named a UC Davis Hellman Fellow in 2012. The Hellman Family Foundation contributes funds to support and encourage the research of promising assistant professors who exhibit potential for great distinction in their research. In 2013, he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award of $600,000.
Yang won the 2018 Outstanding Faculty Academic Advising Award from NACADA, also known as the Global Community for Academic Advising; and the 2017 Faculty Advisor Award of Excellence in NACADA's Pacific Region 9, comprised of California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Yang says of the research underway in his lab: “We study how species interactions change over time. We apply a diversity of approaches and perspectives to a diversity of systems and questions. We do experimental community ecology. We also use observational methods,meta-analysis, conceptual synthesis, ecosystem perspectives, and theoretical models. We like data, and we like learning new things.” (See more on UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
Associate professor Vannette, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty since 2015, received a Hellman Fellowship grant in 2018 and a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2019 to study microbial communities in flowers and a National Science Foundation grant to support work on solitary bee microbiomes.
Of her research, Vannette says: “All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution.”
“The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects (sometimes other organisms, too),” she says. “We often study microbial communities in flowers, on insects or in soil. We rely on natural history observations, and use techniques from chemical ecology, microbial ecology and community ecology. In some cases, we study applied problems with an immediate application including pathogen control or how to support pollinators. Other questions may not have an immediate application but are nonetheless grounded in theory and will contribute to basic knowledge and conservation (e.g. how can dispersal differences among organisms affect patterns of abundance or biodiversity?)” (See more on UC Davis Department of Entomology website.)
Extension Apiculturist Niño, who joined the faculty in 2014, is known internationally for her expertise on honey bee queen biology, chemical ecology, and genomics. She maintains laboratories and offices in Briggs Hall and at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Niño serves as the UCCE Extension specialist for honey bees for all of California. She is the director of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), which she launched in 2016. The California Master Beekeeper Program is a continuous train-the-trainer effort. CAMBP's vision is to train beekeepers to effectively communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within their communities, serve as mentors for other beekeepers, and become the informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and UCCE staff.
Niño is also the faculty director of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the department's half-acre educational bee garden located next to the Laidlaw facility, which serves as the outdoor classroom for the Pollinator Education Program, lovingly known as PEP. (See more on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Professor Karban, an international authority on plant communication and a 39-year member of the UC Davis entomology faculty, is now a distinguished professor, the highest campus-level faculty title.
The honor is awarded to those scholars “whose work has been internationally recognized and acclaimed and whose teaching performance is excellent.”
Karban, whose research interests include the population regulation of animal species and the interactions between herbivores and their host plants, currently focuses his research on two main projects: volatile communication between sagebrush plants that affects resistance to herbivory and factors that control the abundance and spatial distribution of wooly bear caterpillars.
Karban is the author of landmark book, Plant Sensing and Communication. He is a fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of the 1990 George Mercer Award from ESA for outstanding research.
The UC Davis ecologist is featured in the Dec. 23-30, 2013 edition of The New Yorker in Michael Pollan's piece, The Intelligent Plant: Scientists Debate a New Way of Understanding Plants. Zoe Schlanger featured him in a Nov. 21, 2020 Bloomberg Quint article titled The Botanist Daring to Ask: Do Plants Have Personalities? (See more on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Nine UC Davis Distinguished Professors
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology now has a total of nine distinguished professors: six current faculty--Bruce Hammock, Frank Zalom, Lynn Kimsey, James R. Carey, Jay Rosenheim, and Richard Karban--and three emeriti faculty--Harry Kaya, Howard Ferris and Thomas Scott.
In addition, emeritus professor/chair Robert E. Page Jr. is a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor, as was the late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019). The campus presents one distinguished emeritus professor award annually.
The department, chaired by nematologist and professor Steve Nadler, is ranked as one of the top entomology/nematology departments in the nation. Part of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, it is headquartered in Briggs Hall.
"Our scientists investigate a very broad range of fundamental questions involving insects, nematodes, and spiders -- and the plants, microbes, and various animals they interact with," Nadler writes on the home page. "Our department also disseminates practical knowledge resulting from these investigations, such as methods of integrated pest management, with the goal of improving agriculture and the environment for California and beyond. As you explore our website, you will be introduced to this exciting and comprehensive research-- and the teaching and outreach programs of our department."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 26 will feature six “Faculty Flash Talks” on topics ranging from honey bees to tsetse flies to digger bees to trapdoor spiders to fruit flies.
The seminar, set from 4:10 to 5 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, will include Joanna Chiu, Jason Bond, Geoffrey Attardo, Rachel Vannette, Julia Fine, and Arathi Seshadri.
Associate professor Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, will present “results from a project in which we study the mechanisms by which insects sense environmental changes (temperature and photoperiod) to regulate their seasonal physiology. Our lab has identified a protein that can track seasonal changes in temperature and photoperiod to promote winter physiology. Without this protein, insects don't know winter is coming!”
Her laboratory research interests include molecular genetics of animal behavior, Circadian rhythm biology, and posttranslational regulation of proteins.
Jason Bond, Schlinger Chair in Insect Systematics, is a global expert on spiders. His research interests include systematics, taxonomy, and evolution of terrestrial arthropods with an emphasis on arachnids and myriapods. "We employ molecular, morphological, and ecological approaches to study questions related to evolutionary diversification at multiple hierarchical levels (populations – higher taxa)," he says. (See recent grant.)
Geoffrey Attardo, a medical entomologist/geneticist, focuses his research on insect disease vectors, insect reproduction, vector/parasite interactions, reproductive physiology, male seminal secretions, symbiosis, lactation, nutrition, lipid metabolism, transcriptional regulation, comparative genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. His research on tsetse flies was recently featured on KQED's Deep Look (see news story on Deep Look). (See news story on landmark research.)
Rachel Vannette, community ecologist and assistant professor who coordinates the department's seminars, says: "All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution." (See recent research)
Arathi Seshadri and Julia Fine, who recently joined the USDA-ARS lab on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, aim to improve honey bee survival and beekeeping sustainability in California and nationwide. They collaborate with federal, university, non-governmental and industry partners. (See news story on opening of the facility.)
Seshadri, a pollination biologist with expertise in honey bee behavior and plant reproductive strategies, is working with beekeepers and farmer stakeholders to develop projects aimed at finding solutions to the ongoing pollination challenges. Also trained as an evolutionary biologist, she has applied principles of plant-pollinator mutualism, specifically the impact of phytochemicals in pollen and nectar on honey bee health and colony performance. Her contributions to pollinator conservation include enhancing the sustainability of all pollinators, including native bees on farms and urban areas. She also has expertise in agroecosystem-based approaches and citizen science programs to promote pollinator diversity and abundance.
Fine, an entomologist with expertise in insect toxicology, honey bee physiology, reproduction and development, focuses her research on identifying how stressors impact honey bee behavior, health and fecundity. She uses both established and novel laboratory techniques. Her previous projects involved investigating how agrochemical and viral stressors interact to affect the development and survival of honey bee brood and how nutritional stress affects honey bee queen fecundity. In engaging with beekeepers and growers, Fine is researching how realistic biotic and abiotic stressors affect honey bee reproduction, longevity and pollination services, and she is identifying techniques and strategies to overcome these effects.
The seminar is open to all interested persons. For more information, contact Vannette at email@example.com.
Abrieux, an international scholar from France in the Joanna Chiu lab, is one of two recipients of an Innovator Fellow Award from the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH).
“Each year, entrepreneurially minded PhD or postdoctoral students are invited to join venture capital partners onsite to gain first-hand experience on what it takes to have a successful startup, then apply that knowledge to develop and de-risk their own potential technology, product or process at UC Davis,” according to an IIFH news release.
Abrieux, whose project is titled “Improving Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Practices with Biotechnology,” is working with The Production Board (TPB), a San Francisco-based technology incubator and investment holding company that aims to improve the efficiency and economics of global food and agriculture markets.
Recipient Tawny Scanlan, a UC Davis doctoral candidate in animal biology, is researching “Enhancing Production Efficiency and Sustainability in Aquaculture” and working with Food for Thought Worldwide Ventures (FTW), a San Francisco-based early-stage venture fund investing in breakthrough hardware, software and biotech solutions in the worldwide food system.
Abrieux is utilizing his expertise in insect physiology, behavioral analysis and molecular biology to tackle problems related to agriculture and enhance food security. He seeks to develop innovative approaches in biotechnology to improve IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solution and ensure crop production sustainability.
Abrieux received his doctorate in biology from Angers University, western France, where investigated the role of hormones and biogenic amines in the behavioral response to the sex pheromone in the noctuid Agrotis ipsilon. He joined the Chiu lab in the spring of 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow.
In the Chiu lab, he explores the interactions between the clock and endocrine system underlying seasonal adaptation in the pest, the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii. “I am particularly interested in developing integrative approaches to better understand how physiological state and behavior could be modulate at both transcriptional and translational levels and facilitate insect adaptability to changing environments.” (He presented a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on "Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Photoperiodic Time Measurement in Drosophila melanogaster" in February 2018.)
“Understanding insects," Abrieux says, "helps us recognize how their presence influences the greater ecosystem and agriculture." Scientists estimate the worldwide impact of agricultural pests at almost one quarter of annual losses (more than $100 billion market value), amounting to $40 billion per year in the United States alone. Thus, improving IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solutions, he points out, could result in competitive biopesticide alternatives for growers to reduce economic losses without changing crop varieties or relying on more harmful insecticides.
"I am convinced that biotechnologies can have an important and beneficial impact on society,” Abrieux says, “and the likelihood to facilitate progress is considerably increased through collaborative efforts between actors from diverse domains of expertise.”
His supervisor, associate professor Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, commented: “The Production Board Fellowship represents a perfect opportunity for Antoine to advance his understanding of the food security market and current needs, and to develop entrepreneurship ideas that he can take with him to the next stage of his career."
Abrieux, fascinated with insects since his childhood, maintains a photography website, including macro images of insects at https://antoineabrieux.wixsite.com/antoine-abrieux/portfolio.
(Note: UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health contributed to this piece.)
The exciting research of Professor Takato Imaizumi of the University of Washington.
If you read Scientific Reports, you probably remember the piece he co-authored: "Circadian Clocks of Both Plants and Pollinators Influence Flower-Seeking Behavior of the Pollinator Hawkmoth Manduca sexta," published Feb. 12, 2018.
"Most plant-pollinator interactions occur during specific periods during the day. To facilitate these interactions, many flowers are known to display their attractive qualities, such as scent emission and petal opening, in a daily rhythmic fashion. However, less is known about how the internal timing mechanisms (the circadian clocks) of plants and animals influence their daily interactions. We examine the role of the circadian clock in modulating the interaction between Petunia and one of its pollinators, the hawk moth Manduca sexta. We find that desynchronization of the Petunia circadian clock affects moth visitation preference for Petunia flowers. Similarly, moths with circadian time aligned to plants show stronger flower-foraging activities than moths that lack this alignment."
"Moth locomotor activity is circadian clock-regulated, although it is also strongly repressed by light. Moths show a time-dependent burst increase in flight activity during subjective night. In addition, moth antennal responsiveness to the floral scent compounds exhibits a 24-hour rhythm in both continuous light and dark conditions. This study highlights the importance of the circadian clocks in both plants and animals as a crucial factor in initiating specialized plant-pollinator relationships."
And now, Takato Imaizumi will head to the University of California, Davis to present a seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His seminar, titled "Circadian Timing Mechanisms in Plant-Pollinator Interaction," is scheduled for 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30 in 122 Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive.
"He will be speaking about his work on circadian clocks of plants and pollinators, and how circadian timing can shape plant-pollinator relationships," said molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Chiu, a UC Davis Chancellor Fellow, will introduce him.