Chemical ecologist and conservation biologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz of UC Davis and Norman Gershenz, conservation biologist and CEO of SaveNature.Org, will speak on “Is Insect Biodiversity, Biomass and Abundance Declining? What Can Be Done If It Is?” at a public talk on Monday night, March 2, at the Hillside Club's Fireside Lecture Series, Berkeley.
The husband-wife team of environmental scientists will address the audience at 7:30 p.m. The Bay Area venue is in north Berkeley at 2286 Cedar St., between Spruce and Arch streets. (See directions)
They will discuss what factors are affecting native bees and insect populations in California and around the world; review some of the latest body of literature on insect declines; and relate how people can participate to make a positive difference.
Also as part of the Fireside Lecture Series, Kathy Kramer, founder and coordinator of the “Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour” will discuss “Garden as If Life Depends on It: How Bringing Back the Natives Can Help You Do So” at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 6.
The events are free and open to the public, but a $10 donation per talk is requested to benefit the speaker fund.
Leslie, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, is associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, and on March 1, will join the research team at the USDA-ARS Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Unit, Davis. She will continue collaborating with the John Muir Institute.
Norm and Leslie co-founded SaveNature.Org, an international conservation program, to "protect terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems worldwide and to inspire stewardship in the public through hands-on education programs." Norm serves as the chief executive officer and director of the Insect Discovery Lab (IDL). (See article on the duo.)
SaveNature.Org conducts nearly 800 hands-on conservation education programs in schools throughout the Greater Bay Area, and reaches more than 38,500 children annually with its IDL. Their work has been highlighted in National Geographic, Time magazine, and ABC's World News Tonight. Robert Pringle's recent article, Upgrading Protected Areas to Conserve Wild Biodiversity, in the journal Nature, details the organization's collaborative work to increase the size of protected areas.
The Hillside Club is a neighborhood social club established in 1898 to promote good design practices in the Berkeley hills; today it is a community-based membership organization supporting the arts and culture.
Saul-Gershenz studies how blister beetle nest parasites mimic the sex pheromone of digger bees.
Bohart associate Emma Cluff curated the wall display, “Digger Bees and Their Nest Parasites,” which examines the life cycle, research process, results, research challenges and implications.
Saul-Gershenz, associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, at the John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis, researches the chemical ecology and parasite-host interactions of these solitary native bees and their nest parasites across the western U. S., including the coastal sand dunes of Oregon and the Mojave Desert in south-central California.
Leslie did much of her work at the Mojave National Preserve, where she tracked the solitary bee Habropoda pallida and its nest parasite, a blister beetle, Meloe franciscanus.
The larvae of the parasitic blister beetle produce a chemical signal or allomone, similar to that of a female bee's pheromone, to lure males to the larval aggregation. The larvae attach to the male bee on contact and then transfer to the female during mating. The end result: the larvae wind up in the nest of a female bee, where they eat the nest provisions and likely the host egg.
Leslie's experiments found the allomones “released by each population of M. franciscanus triungulin (larvae) mimic the pheromones released by a specific species of Habropoda bees native to their local habitat,” Cluff wrote in the display. “Leslie found that these differences had a genetic basis. She also found that local bee species were more attracted to the allomones released by their local triungulin population.”
The M. franciscanus triungulin hatching is synchronized with the emergence of adult female Habropoda bees,” the display reads. “The triungulins aggregate on plant stems and release an allomone blend which attracts male bees. The aggregation of triungulins hop on to male bees who have chosen to investigate the allomone. Once the male bees find a real female bee, they mate in a ‘mating ball' at which time the triungulins transfer to the female. All this effort is so that the triungulins can get a free ride to the nest that the female bee lays her eggs in. Once inside the nest burrow, the triungulins will feed on the net provisions and likely the egg itself and will remain there until they emerge as adults the following winter.”
Results? “Leslie's experiments found that the allomones released by each population of M. franciscanus triungulin mimic the pheromones released by a the specific species of Habropoda” Cluff wrote. “Leslie found that these differences had a genetic basis. She also found that local bee species were more attracted to the allomones released by their local triungulin population.” The research contributes to the understanding of the communication signals of bees in the genus Habropoda.
Leslie, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, is currently finishing two research papers: the basic biology of digger bee Habropoda pallida, and the biology of the silver digger bee Habropoda miserabilis.
She and her husband, Norman, are the co-founders of the Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org. The international conservation consortium works with partners to protect ecosystems around the world.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens. It also includes a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and tarantulas. The museum is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., except during the holiday schedule. (See website)
The next open house, free and family friendly, will take place from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18. It will showcase "the amazing insect work that graduate students are doing," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. The theme is "Time Flies When You Are Studying Insects: Cutting Edge Student Research."
So we did…Because the Bohart Museum of Entomology is hosting an open house on entomophagy from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane--and you're invited.
The event, free and family friendly, is an opportunity to participate in the joy of eating...drum roll...insects! And for that, you'll get a button proclaiming “I ate a bug at the Bohart."
If you're not into eating insects, you can cuddle and photograph the critters in the live "petting zoo," or view insect specimens. Just remember that 80 percent of the world consumes insects as a protein source. Some 1700 species of insects are edible.
“Many insects are quite edible and if you try them, you might find that crickets are the new shrimp,” says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Personally, I like flavored mealworms."
"Just think of insects as terrestrial shrimp or crab," adds senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.
Now, what do other entomologists and bug ambassadors think about eating insects?
Danielle Wishon, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis, is an entomophagist. She likes baking with mealworms when she's not working five jobs, including (1) teaching assistant in the lab of UC Davis alumnus Fran Keller, assistant professor at Folsom Lake College, and (2) police services officer for the Lafayette Police Department.
“Mealworm cookies are visually fun and taste good,” Wishon said. “It's my understanding that people with nut allergies will sometimes make cookies and cakes with ground-up mealworms because they have a ‘nutty flavor' but don't bother their allergies. Crickets are good as well, but only if they are baked or sauteed.”
Rather than asking "why,” Wishon asks "why not?"
“Most of the world includes arthropods in their diet,” Wishon noted. “We do, too; we just think of them differently because we pull them out of the sea. Depending on the arthropod, they are healthy, abundant, and an eco-friendly alternative to other sources of protein.”
Back in 2014, Wishon participated in a “Beer and Bugs” event (Bugs and Beer—Why Crickets and Kölsch Might Be Matches in Heaven” at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. It featured UC Davis Professor Charles Bamforth, aka “The Pope of Foam,” and David George Gordon, aka "The Bug Chef," extolling the virtues of beer and bugs. Guests sampled eight different insect-inspired creations in what was billed as "an ultimate tasting experience."
Wishon ate a baked cricket. A very large cricket.
She liked it, too!
That's not to say she likes consuming all crickets. “I once ate a boiled cricket and it was absolutely disgusting!”
When we asked entomologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and is associate director of research, Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis campus, if she has cooked with insects and eaten them, she responded:
“Many times! I have baked chocolate chip chirpies, made cricket dip surprise, mealworm pizza and eaten all of them. I have eaten beetle larvae in Papua, New Guinea and Peru and grasshoppers in Mexico. Seriously, they are important sources of protein all around the world and they are eaten regularly in most cultures except ours. We, of course, eat their close relatives the crustaceans without hesitation.”
Bohart Museum associate and naturalist/photographer Greg Kareofelas of Davis remembers when he and colleague Danielle Wishon participated in the “insect-eating affair” at the Mondavi Institute. Frankly, he doesn't make a habit of eating insects. "My favorite is pizza," he says.
Kareofelas can usually be found at the Bohart Museum open houses showing visitors the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moth) section with curator and entomologist Jeff Smith.
“I think it was Dan Janzen (noted evolutionary biologist and conservationist affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania) that used to say he ‘chewed' butterflies and moths to see how they would taste to birds--the “distasteful monarch” thing," Kareofelas related. "Reading that was the closest I have gotten to eating Leps (Lepidopderans).”
“I will try and keep an open mind at the open house,” Kareofelas promised. “But my favorite is still pizza!”
'I Ate a Bug at the Bohart'
Various companies, including Hotlix, Exo and Chirps Chips, are providing samples for the Bohart Museum open house, says education and outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang. Visitors will learn about entomophagy, sample insect-based foods, make buttons (“I ate a bug at the Bohart”), view the collection, and handle insects from the petting zoo, which includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks or stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids.
The event coincides with "Student Move-in Day," when students head back to campus for the academic year, and family and friends help them move. Many campus visitors are expected to tour the Bohart Museum.
The Bohart Museum, founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is home to the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. It also maintains a year-around gift shop, which is stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The insect 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 email@example.com. (See list of open houses for the 2019-2020 academic year.)
Odds are that the children who attend the SaveNature.Org insect-themed sessions in Berkeley will.
The husband-wife team of Norman Gershenz and Leslie-Saul Gershenz and their staff have taught a class for young enthusiastic insect lovers for the past two years at UC Berkeley's summer Elementary Division summer school.
It's not so-much a labor of love, but a love of insects and the drive to teach youngsters about them. The couple founded SaveNature.Org, a non-profit, Bay Area-based organization, to inspire "participation and awareness in the preservation of fragile ecosystems by providing opportunities for personal direct action to save the diversity of life on Earth." Norman, a biologist, serves as the executive director. Leslie, an entomologist, holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis and now serves as the associate director of research for the Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis.
The three-week class drew many repeat attendees from last year. Yes, the fascination with insects is contagious! Indeed, there's a lot to study. The global population of described species of insects totals more than a million, with millions more--maybe as many as 30 million more?--yet to be discovered.
"Insects are everywhere," says Norman Gershenz on his website. "In fact, there are more insects than any other type of animal on earth. This is true no matter how you measure their numbers – in terms of individuals or species. One scientist calculated that for every person on earth, there are about 200 million insects alive at any one time. More than 75 percent of all the named animal species are insects and there are millions of insect species yet to be discovered, named and classified!"
Their goal: "to build strong connections to nature using insects and arthropods, teaching about their connections with plants and other animals including humans through positive hands-on experiences!"
UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education administers the Academic Talent Development Program, which offers a variety of stimulating and challenging classes designed for academic advancement and enrichment.
It works like this: Students with exceptional academic promise are invited to a three-week summer session. "The Elementary Division courses unite teachers who love to teach with students who love to learn," Leslie says.
For the last two years, SaveNature.Org has taught its Nature Academy class, highlighting insects, and the Insect Discovery Lab where students explore the fascinating lives of beetles, millipedes, walking sticks, whip scorpions and more. "We introduce students to the extraordinary world of insects and other arthropods, and learn about their key role in the web of life," the scientists said. The youths learn how to collect insects in the field while doing scientific observation, identifying insects, learning about the natural history of insects' lives.
SaveNature.Org is currently searching for funding the Nature Academy's Insect Discovery Lab into underserved schools throughout the East Bay. See GoFundMe account.
The organization is based at 699 Mississippi St., Suite 106, San Francisco, CA 94107. Further information is available on the website or by telephoning (415) 648-3390. It also maintains a Facebook page.
That includes pollinator habitat.
In their paper, “Techno-Ecological Synergies of Solar Energy for Global Sustainability,” published today (July 9), the researchers propose a “techno–ecological synergy (TES), a framework for engineering mutually beneficial relationships between technological and ecological systems, as an approach to augment the sustainability of solar energy across a diverse suite of recipient environments, including land, food, water, and built-up systems.”
They provided “a conceptual model and framework to describe 16 TES of solar energy and characterize 20 potential techno–ecological synergistic outcomes of their use.”
The paper offers what is considered the most complete list yet of the advantages of solar energy. "The study also marks the launch of a partnership between the Center for Biological Diversity and UC Davis to advance a Wild Energy future, which emphasizes the potential of solar energy systems to benefit not only humans, but the entire planet," according to a UC Davis news release.
Despite solar energy's growing penetration in the global marketplace, “rarely discussed is an expansion of solar energy engineering principles beyond process and enterprise to account for both economic and ecological systems, including ecosystem goods and services,” wrote lead author Rebecca Hernandez of the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and the Wild Energy Initiative of the John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Davis. She considers the first step in creating a wild-energy future is "understanding the true value of solar."
The researchers defined TES “as a systems-based approach to sustainable development emphasizing synergistic outcomes across technological and ecological boundaries…solar energy combined with TES may prove a promising solution for avoiding unintended consequences of a rapid renewable energy transition on nature by mitigating global change-type problems.”
Co-author and entomologist Leslie Saul-Gershenz, associate director of research for the Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, said it is imperative to protect our ecological system, which includes pollinators and their required resources. Among them: nest sites, and pollen and nectar resources.
“Native pollinators face global pressure from many sources of habitat alteration, pesticide use, invasive non-native plants, and climate change,” said Saul-Gershenz, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis. “We are proposing land sparing priorities in undisturbed ecosystems, such as arid lands in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, which sustain some of the highest native pollinator species diversity in the United States. We add the valuation of these pollinators as essential resources into the calculation when selecting sites to deliver renewable energy goals to achieve true tech-ecological synergy and global sustainability.”
Solar cells, called photovoltaic (PV) solar energy, convert sunlight directly into electricity. For example, in Minnesota and Vermont, land adjacent to croplands is developed with PV solar energy, the authors noted. The low-growing flowering plants for native and managed pollinators help increase agricultural yields, reduce management (that is, mowing) costs, and confer the opportunity to produce honey and other honey-based commodities.
The researchers concluded that “achieving a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources on planet Earth to support human activities, in a manner benign to Earth's life support systems, is arguably the grandest challenge facing civilization today. The consequences of climate and other types of global environmental change are a cautionary flag against the extrapolation of past energy decisions.”
Hernandez initiated the research and led the conceptual design and writing of the manuscript All authors contributed to further content development and drafting of the manuscript. The team also included researchers from UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and UC San Diego, as well as scientists from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Sacramento; Center for Biological Services, Tucson, Ariz.; Université de Thiès, Senegal; Centers for Pollinators in Energy, Fresh Energy, St. Paul, Minn.; National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Co.; and Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance Group, Wells Fargo, San Francisco.
Look for more research on solar energy!
"Solar energy is the fastest-growing source of power worldwide," according to the UC Davis news release. "In 2019, solar is expected to provide more than 30 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity. According to the International Energy Agency, solar energy could become the largest electricity source by 2050. Solar has many advantages beyond providing power, particularly when built to maximize social, technological and environmental benefits."