Next week promises to be memorable week for entomologists at the University of California, Davis.
Oh, how they wish they could clone themselves so they could be in two places at the same time: in San Diego and on the UC Davis campus.
First off is the 103rd annual meeting of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) meeting in San Diego, which begins Sunday, March 31 and ends Wednesday, April 3. It will take place in the Hyatt Regency Mission bay Spa and Marina. (See schedule.)
Then there's the Entomology Alumni Reunion, with the participants arriving Sunday, March 31 and conferring all-day Monday and Tuesday, April 1-2 for camaraderie and tours. (See schedule.)
At the PBESA meeting, four UC Davis entomologists will be honored at the awards ceremony on Tuesday from 1 to 1:30 in the Regatta Pavillion:
- Molecular geneticist/physiologist Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who will receive the Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award
- Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, professor, the Plant-Insect Ecosystems AwardD
- Doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, the John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award; and
- Postdoctoral researcher Jessica Gillung (she received her doctorate from UC Davis in Decemberr, studying with major professor Lynn Kimsey), the Early Career Award. Gillung joined the Bryan Danforth Lab, Cornell University in January. (See news story.)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology will be honored at a special PBESA symposium, set from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2 in Bayview 1. Neal Williams is organizing the event. (See news story.)
The national championship UC Linnaean Games Team, comprised of UC Berkeley and UC Davis graduate students, is scheduled to compete, with the winner and second-place finisher qualified to compete in the nationals, to be held during the Entomological Society of America meeting in November in St. Louis. The UC team includes captain Ralph Washington Jr., who holds an entomology degree from UC Davis and is now a graduate student at UC Berkeley; and doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot and graduate student Zachary Griebenow, both of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis. The Linnaean Games are lively college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. (See news story)
Entomology Alumni Reunion
The third UC Davis Entomology Alumni Reunion is co-chaired by Will Crites and Arnold Menke. Forensic entomologist and adjunct professor Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will keynote the banquet on Tuesday, April 2 in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. He is known as "The Fly Man of Alcatraz" for his entomological research on the island. (See news story.) Kimsey serves as the advisor of the UC Davis Entomology Club.
The alumni will tour several campus facilities, including the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and the Shrem Museum of Art. (See updated agenda)
Department One of Best in the World
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is one of the best in the world. The most recent rankings by the Times Higher Education's Center for World University Rankings shows UC Davis as No. 7 globally.
Number of entomology faculty: 19
Number of nematology faculty: 3
Number of students enrolled in the doctorate program: 33
Number of students in the master's program: 4
Students enrolled in the entomology major: 38
Number of staff: 73
New to the department, as of March, is nematologist and assistant professor Shahid Siddique, from Iowa State University's Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. His areas of expertise include molecular plant-nematode interactions, plant parasitic nematodes.
Professor Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, joined the faculty in mid-2018. He is known for his expertise on spiders./span>
And that's just a small portion of what they do.
And what a difference they're making!
Four UC Davis entomologists won awards from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA). They will be honored at the PBESA conference set for March 31-April 2 in San Diego.
Molecular geneticist/physiologist Joanna Chiu won the Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award; pollination ecologist Neal Williams, the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award; doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot, the John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award, the highest PBESA graduate student award; and UC Davis doctoral graduate Jessica Gillung, the Early Career Award.
Joanna Chiu is a newly selected Chancellor's Fellow, a five-year prestigious honor given to what Chancellor Gary May calls “prolific scholars, strong teachers, effective mentors and dedicated contributors to campus whose work is novel, unique and cutting-edge, groundbreaking and pathbreaking.”
Chiu investigates the regulation of animal circadian rhythms in her laboratory by using a combination of molecular genetics, biochemical, genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic approaches. Her overall research goal: to dissect the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control the circadian clock in animals, and to investigate how this endogenous timer interacts with the environment and cellular metabolism to drive rhythms of physiology and behavior.
Among the insects she studies: the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii.
"She has published a considerable amount on the spotted-wing drosophila, including its annotated genome, resistance studies, molecular basis of the so-called ‘winter morphs that are found in colder areas, and a molecular diagnostic for quickly providing species identification for all stages of this pest to distinguish it from other common Drosophila species," said emeritus Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology and a past president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America.
"I can honestly say that in my 40 years on the faculty at UC Davis and earlier at the University of Minnesota, I have
never had the opportunity to work with a more collaborative and energetic early career scientist than Dr. Chiu," Zalom said.
Chiu, along with Professor Jay Rosenheim and associate professor Louie Yang of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, are co-founders and co-directors of the highly successful, campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology. She helps students conduct cutting-edge research and provides guidance and advice, even after they have embarked on their own careers. Under her tutelage, many of her students are first authors of publications in prestigious journals.
Neal Williams "is widely known and respected for his excellence in research, extension, outreach, teaching, leadership and mentoring," said nominator Steve Nadler, chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “He is a leading voice in the development of collaborative research on insect ecology. He has organized national and international conferences, leads scores of working groups, and guides reviews of impacts of land use and other global change drivers on insects and the services they provide.”
Williams focuses his research on the ecology and evolution of bees and other pollinator insects and their interactions with flowering plants. His work is particularly timely given concern over the global decline in bees and other pollinators.
Research entomologist James P. Strange of USDA's Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory at Utah State University, describes Williams as “a valuable resource and prolific scientist in pollination biology and pollinator management. His papers are the result of collaborations with leaders in pollinator ecology, behavior and management and have been cited over 13,000 times during his career. His work has unraveled several questions central to plant-pollinator interactions, especially illuminating our understanding of the impacts of landscape resources on pollinator populations.”
In July, Williams will co-chair the Fourth International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy at UC Davis. The four-day conference, themed “Multidimensional Solutions to Current and Future Threats to Pollinator Health,” will highlight recent research advances in the biology and health of pollinators, and link to policy implications.
Williams is also organizing a symposium at the PBESA's San Diego meeting in April on the lifelong contributions of native pollinator specialist, Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. Nine scientists influenced by Thorp and his research program will speak.
Brendon Boudinot, who studies with ant specialist/professor Phil Ward, was praised for his academic record, leadership, public service activities, participation in professional activities, and his publications. “A highly respected scientist, teacher and leader with a keen intellect, unbridled enthusiasm, and an incredible penchant for public service, Brendon maintains a 4.00 grade point average; has published 12 outstanding publications on insect systematics (some are landmarks or ground-breaking publications); and engages in exceptional academic, student and professional activities,” Nadler wrote.
Ward said that Boudinot, despite being at an early stage of his academic career, has already published several landmark papers on insect systematics. "This includes a remarkable article, just published in Arthropod Structure & Development, in which Brendon presents a comprehensive theory of genital homologies across all Hexapoda (Boudinot 2018). Based on careful comparative morphological study and conducted within a phylogenetic framework, this paper is a major contribution to the field and is destined to become a “classic." This could have been a decade-long study by any investigator, and yet it is just one chapter of Brendon's thesis!"
Active in PBESA and ESA, Boudinot received multiple “President's Prize” awards for his research presentations at national ESA meetings. He organized the ESA symposium, “Evolutionary and Phylogenetic Morphology,” at the 2018 meeting in Vancouver, B.C. , and delivered a presentation on “Male Ants: Past, Present and Prospects” at the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Boudinot served on—and anchored—three of the UC Davis Linnaean Games teams that won national or international ESA championships. The Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
Boudinot has served as president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association since 2006, and is active in the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day; he has co-chaired the department's Picnic Day Committee since 2017.
Jessica Gillung studied for her doctorate with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology. “Dr. Gillung has made outstanding contributions to entomology, shown commitment to extension or outreach, and excelled in entomological education,” Kimsey wrote in her letter of nomination. “In one word: she is ‘phenomenal.'"
Gillung most recently won the “Best Student Presentation Award” at the ninth annual International Congress of Dipterology, held in Windhoek, Namibia, and the 2018 PBESA Student Leadership Award. Her dissertation was titled: “Systematics and Phylogenomics of Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae).”
Kimsey praised her phenomenal leadership activities, her nearly straight-A academic record (3.91 grade point average), her excellence as an entomologist and teacher, and her incredible publication record. “Note that she has 11 refereed publications on her thesis organisms in very strong journals,” Kimsey wrote. “Most entomologists do not publish nearly that much, even as a postdoctoral scholar or a junior faculty member!”
"Not only is Jessica's research on the cutting edge of the field of phylogenomics but--and this is where leadership comes in--she has taken it upon herself to involve and train other graduate students in the same cutting-edge techniques and theoretical framework," Kimsey said. "She is a dynamo--brilliant and high energy, but also constantly teaching."
A native of Brazil, Gillung speaks four languages fluently: Portuguese, Spanish, English and German. While at UC Davis, Gillung was active in PBESA and ESA, presenting a number of presentations and serving on award-winning Linnaean Games teams. In outreach programs, she reached at least 20,000 people encompassing all events from 2013 to 2018. This included open houses, off-site programs, science presentations, summer camps, classroom activities, UC Davis Picnic Days, agriculture days, and fairs and festivals.
As a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University in the Bryan Danforth lab, Gillung is researching Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
PBESA Award Recipients
The complete list of PBESA recipients:
- CW Woodworth: Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Riverside.
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Teaching: Allan Felsot, Washington State University
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Extension: Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: Silvia Rondon, Oregon State University
- PBESA Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award: Christiane Weirauch, UC Riverside
- PBESA Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award: Joanna Chiu, UC Davis
- PBESA Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award: Rebecca Maguire, Washington State University
- PBESA Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: Neal Williams, UC Davis
- PBESA Distinction in Student Mentoring Award: Gerhard Gries, Simon Frazier University, British Columbia
- PBESA Excellence in Early Career Award: Jessica Gillung, UC Davis
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award: Brendon Boudinot, UC Davis
- PBESA Student Leadership Award: Kelsey McCalla, UC Riverside
PBESA is one of six branches of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). Founded in 1889, ESA is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. It is comprised of more than 7000 members, who are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
His seminar, part of the department's weekly seminars, is from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13 in 122 Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive. The title: "Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Photoperiodic Time Measurement in Drosophila melanogaster."
"I will talk about the molecular mechanisms involved in seasonal adaptation in insects," Brieux said. "Overwintering insects undergo profound physiological changes characterized by an arrest in development and reproduction in adults, known as diapause. While the hormonal control of reproductive diapause is relatively well described it is still unclear how organisms interpret variations in photoperiod (daylength) and temperature to modulate their physiology in order to survive through unfavorable seasons."
"In this context I will present the progress we made in the characterization of a key mechanism signaling seasonal changes in insects and how it can promote our understanding of animal seasonal timing in a comparative framework. In addition, future work on this aspect is also expected to have a broad significance in understanding the evolutionary response of pest insects to rapid climate change."
Says Brieux: "Arguably, the most well recognized seasonal response in insects is the induction of overwintering diapause, which can be induced at different life stages, and is characterized by arrest in growth and reproduction. Since PPTM is critical to seasonal adaptation in insects, it has been studied extensively. Yet, the molecular and neuronal basis of the insect photoperiodic timer has evaded characterization."
The overall goal of this study, he says, is "to address the long-standing knowledge gap using the genetically tractable Drosophila melanogaster and the migratory butterfly, the monarch, Danaus plexippus, as complementary model."
"Specifically, we propose to investigate the mechanisms by which the seasonal timer interprets and signals changes in photoperiod to elicit downstream neuroendocrine and physiological responses in insects."
D. melanogaster "continues to be widely used for biological research in genetics, physiology, microbial pathogenesis, and life history evolution," according to Wikipedia. "As of 2017, eight Nobel prizes had been awarded for research using Drosophila."
Brieux received his bachelor's degree in biology in 2009 and pursued a master's degree from Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris, France. He finished his doctorate in 2014 with faculty members Line Duportets and Christophe Gadenne at Angers University, western France, where he investigated the role of hormones and biogenic amines in the behavioral response to the sex pheromone in the noctuid Agrotis ipsilon.
The postdoctoral scientist joined the Chiu lab in the spring of 2016. In addition to his passion for research, Brieuz is a talented photographer passionate about macrophotography. Check out his photos on his website.
Associate professor Joanna Chiu, a molecular geneticist and physiologist, serves as the vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and is a newly selected Chancellor's Fellow. Her research expertise involves molecular genetics of animal behavior, circadian rhythm biology, and posttranslational regulation of proteins.
More than 2000 scientists are registered to attend the meeting, to be held Sept. 2-6 in Gramado, Brazil.
UC Davis scientists delivering plenary addresses will be Frank Zalom, distinguished professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and a past president of the Entomological Society of America (ESA); Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a past chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. More than 2000 attendees are registered.
On behalf of ESA, Zalom is co-organizing and co-chairing a joint conference with Antonio Panizzi, a past president and international delegate of the Entomological Society of Brazil. That event, to take place the day before the XXVII Congresso Brasileiro and X Congresso Latino-Americano meeting, will involve developing a “Grand Challenge Agenda for Entomology in South America.
Zalom will speak on “The American Experience with the Grand Challenge Agenda in Entomology.” In addition, ESA president Michael Parrella, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Idaho and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will provide an update on the 2018 ESA annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14 in Vancouver, B. C. Speakers also will include the presidents of the entomological societies of Argentina, Peru and Brazil.
Leal, a native of Brazil, will present the opening lecture of the joint conference of the XXVII Brazilian Congress and X Latin American Congress of Entomology on “Insect Vectors: Science with Applications in Agriculture and Medicine,” on Sunday, Sept. 2. This will be his fourth opening lecture—a record—at the Brazilian Congresses of Entomology (2004 in Gramado; 2008 in Uberlandia; and 2014 in Goiania). As an aside, legendary entomologist Marcos Kogan previously held the record: he presented two opening lectures, one in 1983 and another in 2002. Both Leal and Kogan (professor emeritus of agricultural entomology, University of Illinois and professor emeritus, Oregon State University) were elected ESA fellows; Leal in 2009 and Kogan in 2016. Zalom received the honor in 2008.
Zalom, an integrated pest management specialist, and former director of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) and Chiu, who specializes in molecular genetics of animal behavior, will speak on their research at the joint meeting. Zalom will deliver a plenary address on “Drosophila suzukii in the United States” on Sept. 5, and Chiu will keynote a symposium on Sept. 3; her lecture is titled “Circadian Clock Research Applied to Agriculture and Public Health.” She will give a second lecture: "Drosophila as an Insect Model" on Sept. 3.
The spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is a serious pest of fruit crops. Most drosophila flies feed on spoiled fruits, but SWD prefers fresh fruit (berries and soft-skinned fruits). Read more about SWD on the UC IPM website.
So begins National Public Radio science journalist Richard Harris in his chapter, “Broken Culture," in his newly published book, Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope and Wastes Billions.
Darwin was driven by curiosity; he didn't start out with a “coherent hypothesis,” Harris says. Plus, Darwin "had no need to hustle for money,” and "he was in no hurry to publish his discoveries.”
Today the “high pressure of competition can tempt even the best scientists into dangerous territory,” Harris warns in his 278-page book.
You can hear what Harris says about sloppy science/faulty research when he travels from his home in Washington, D.C. to the University of California, Davis, campus to deliver a Storer Lecture.
Harris will speak on “Common Errors that Bedevil Biomedical Research and How to Fix Them,” from 4:10 to 5 p.m., on Wednesday, Oct. 25 in the UC Davis Student Community Center. The event is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow the lecture.
The lectureship, established in 1960, is funded through a gift from Professor Tracy I. Storer and Dr. Ruth Risdon Storer to bring eminent biologists to the UC Davis campus. Speakers have included Nobel laureates, members of the National Academy of Science and acclaimed authors in the life sciences and medicine.
“Richard Harris has written a very important and unsettling book based on his careful investigation of the biomedical research enterprise,” said Mark Winey, distinguished professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and dean of the College of Biological Sciences, UC Davis, who is hosting the journalist. “We can expect an intriguing and thought provoking lecture.”
In his book, Harris relates that American taxpayers spend $30 billion annually funding biomedical research. “We all rely on biomedical research for new treatments and cures,” Harris points out. “But this critical enterprise is not in the best of health itself. Most experimental treatments fail. One reason is that the underlying research does not hold up to scrutiny. Scientists find that far too often that they are unable to repeat experiments that other researchers have carried out.”
By some estimates, half of the results from these studies can't be replicated elsewhere—the science is simply wrong, Harris asserts.
The national award-winning science journalist, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, has covered science, medicine and the environment for NPR Radio since 1986. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz with a bachelor's degree in biology, he began his journalism career as a reporter for the Livermore (Calif.) Tri-Valley Herald. He later joined the San Francisco Examiner as a science writer. He is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers and the Northern California Science Writers' Association.
We just finished reading Rigor Mortis today. It's not only an eye opener, but a call to action. It's as easy to read as a well-documented and detailed newspaper investigative piece, complete with patient and researcher interviews and anecdotes. It zeroes in on “the constant scramble for research dollars” and the fact that scientists' “promotions and tenure depend on their making splashy discoveries.” Sadly, it's often quantity over quality in the "publish-or-perish" world of academia.
Harris writes about egregious research, targeting cancer, heart disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, diabetes, and other diseases--diseases that can and do affect us all, either through taxpayer funding or personal/family/friend experiences.
Charles Darwin was in no hurry to publish his discoveries. Neither should today's researchers. We can and must do better.
(Editor's Note: The presentation will be recorded for later viewing. Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is coordinating the Storer Lectureships in Life Sciences for the academic year. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)