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.
Which team--the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team or the Washington State University team--would win?
That was the white-knuckle scene at the Linnaean Games competition hosted by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) at its meeting June 10-13 in Reno. The Linnaean Games are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
The teams score points by correctly answering random questions. Per the rules, they often try to answer the question before it is completed.
Was the answer Dutch scientist Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek? Or not?
After hearing a portion of the question, WSU rapidly--and incorrectly--buzzed in the answer, Leeuwenhoek.
It was actually Jan Swammerdam.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis Team emerged victorious. The team, captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a graduate student in public policy at UC Berkeley, (formerly a graduate student at UC Davis), included UC Davis doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab, and Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab.
“Davis vs WSU was the final game of the night,” related Boudinot. “This went into Sudden Death as the teams were tied 90-90 after several UC Davis interrupts reduced their point total. We came back from DOWN to tie at about 15th question, and the sudden death question was specifically selected to be challenging. The key details were ‘Dutch ... microscopist from the 17th century.' WSU buzzed in on the interrupt and stated 'Leeuwenhoek,' which was incorrect, leading to their elimination. The correct answer was Swammerdam."
The complete question: What Dutch scientist, a microscopist, was the first to observe and describe red blood cells? As part of his anatomical research, Swammerdam (1637-1680) "carried out experiments on muscle contraction," according to Wikipedia. "In 1658, he was the first to observe and describe red blood cells. He was one of the first people to use the microscope in dissections, and his techniques remained useful for hundreds of years."
What a close competition! Congratulations to both teams!
PBESA will sponsor the UC Berkeley-UC Davis team at the National Linnaean Games at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14, in Vancouver, Canada. Runner-up WSU (my alma mater!) also will compete.
Some of the questions asked at this year's PBESA Linnaean Games, as related by Ralph Washington Jr.:
Question: Name the fungal agent that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes white muscardine disease and is commercially packaged as a biological insecticide for the control of termites, whiteflies, and other insect pests?
Answer: Beauveria bassiana
Question: Name the process through which spiders use silk to fly and disperse.
Question: Where are you most likely to encounter a rheophilic insect?
Answer: In moving streams.
UC Davis has done well in the Linnaean Games over the years. It won national championships in both 2015 and 2016; Washington captained both teams. Boudinot was a member of both teams, and Bick, the 2016 team.
Think you can answer some of the questions?
- Watch the 2016 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
- Watch the 2015 National Linnaean Games Championship Round (won by UC Davis), posted on YouTube
The list of national champions over the last five years:
1st Place: Texas A&M
2nd Place: The Ohio State University
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Georgia
1st Place: University of California, Davis
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: North Carolina State University
2nd Place: University of Florida
1st Place: University of California- Riverside
2nd Place: Mississippi State University
The Pacific Branch of ESA is comprised of 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming), plus U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
As for the parent organization, ESA, it was funded in 1889 and is the largest organization in the world, serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its some 7000 members 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.
One recipient is a faculty member, one is a postdoctoral fellow, and another, a graduate student.
- Molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis School of Medicine's Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (and soon will transition to the University of Idaho), has been named the recipient of the Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology Award.
- Ant specialist Marek Borowiec, who received his doctorate in entomology in June 2016, studying with major professor Phil Ward, won the Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at Arizona State University, Tempe.
- Third-year graduate student Ralph Washington Jr., who studies with major professors Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and assistant professor Brian Johnson, won the Student Leadership Award.
The three will be among the 13 award recipients honored by PBESA,which encompasses 11 Western U.S. states, plus several U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Shirley Luckhart, who received her doctorate in entomology in 1995 from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, joined the UC Davis faculty in 2004 from Virginia Tech. Since 1997, the National Institutes of Health has continuously funded her research on host-parasite interactions in malaria.
Highly regarded expertise on molecular cell biology and biochemistry of malaria parasite transmission, she is a Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2014. She and her colleagues drew international acclaim when Time Magazine, in 2010, named their work on a “malaria-proof” or genetically engineered mosquito as one of the “Top 50 Inventions of the Year,” ranking it No. 1 in the health category.
While most of her work has been lab-based, Luckhart has worked with collaborators in Kenya for the past 20 years and on highly productive field- and lab-based collaborative projects in Mali, Cameroon, and Colombia. Her career includes principal investigator on large awards to both national and international teams and co-director of multiple National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grants. She currently serves on the NIH Vector Biology study section and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Biodefense and Emerging Infections Research Resources Repository (BEI Resources).
For the past five years, Luckhart has chaired the national BEI Vectors Focus Group, which works with NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases leadership to significantly expand vector and vector-borne pathogen resources globally.
At UC Davis, she served as interim co-director of the Center for Vector-borne Diseases from 2014-15 and chaired the graduate level Designated Emphasis in the Biology of Vector-borne Diseases from 2012 to earlier this year. She also directs a large collaborative insectary facility at UC Davis, providing support to vector-borne disease research programs in the School of Medicine, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Veterinary Medicine.
Luckhart has published 93 peer-reviewed articles, with more than 2500 citations, and five book chapters. Throughout her career, she has taught and mentored nine doctoral students, who have gone on to successful careers at the state, national or international level. In recognition of her work, she received mentoring awards from the UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research (2012) and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association (2016).
Luckhart will transition to the University of Idaho, effective May 15, as will her husband Edwin Lewis, associate dean for Agricultural Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They will expand their research programs and co-direct the new Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem, which will focus on how the impacts of land use, including agriculture, urbanization and deforestation, interact to impact transmission and control of disease agents of people, animals and plants.
Luckhart's primary appointment is in the Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences (PSES) in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and her secondary appointment is in the Department of Biological Sciences. Lewis' appointment is in PSES.
Marek Borowiec, who holds a master's degree in zoology from the University of Wroclaw, Poland, joined the Phil Ward lab in 2010, receiving training as a molecular phylogeneticist and computational biologist. Borowiec is now a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of evolutionary biologist/ant specialist Christian Rabeling, Arizona State University, where he studies the genomics of speciation and evolution of social parasitism in Formica ants.
One of the highlights of Borowiec's career: last year he won the coveted George C. Eickwort Student Research Award, sponsored by the North American Section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI-NAS).
“Marek is an astute and dedicated scientist, with an insightful mind, diverse interests, and trenchant drive,” wrote Phil Ward in the awards nominations packet. “Marek's Ph.D. research was motivated by a strong interest in the patterns and processes underlying the genesis of biological diversity. He explored this through a range of studies on ant systematics, phylogeny and biogeography. The principal focus was on the evolution of army ants—those charismatic and notorious creatures that have a profound ecological impact in many communities—and he showed decisively that the ‘army ant syndrome' evolved independently in the New World and Old World tropics, settling a long-standing controversy on this matter.
Borowiec has published more than 25 papers, many focusing on the phylogeny of army ants, relationships among “basal” lineages of ants, and a collaborative phylogenomic project on ants and their relatives.
Ralph Washington Jr.
Ralph Washington Jr., who received his bachelor of science degree in entomology at UC Davis in 2010, is known as an outstanding scholar and leader. He holds a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He has also previously received a Gates Millennium Scholarship, a Ronald E. McNair Graduate Fellowship, and a Monsanto Graduate Student Scholarship.
Washington is active in leadership roles on the UC Davis campus, UC systemwide, and in PBESA and the Entomological Society of America (ESA). He captained the UC Davis Linnaean Games team to several first place wins at the PBESA level and then led his team in winning the national championship in both 2015 and 2016. He was an integral part of the UC Davis Student Debate Team that won the ESA's 2014 national championship. In addition, he swept first place in the Natural History Trivia Competition at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Naturalists.
Washington's leadership activities include 2015-2016 co-chair of the UC Council of Student Body Presidents, and 2015-2016 Chair of the UC Davis Graduate Students' Association. He was named Graduate Student of the Year in 2015 and 2016 at the UC Davis Black Affirmation Awards. He is currently president of the University of California Student Association. He is active in social justice issues, including gender-based violence and misconduct, and institutional oppression.
Washington was one of nine people invited to speak at TEDxUCDavis Conference (Igniting X). "All human beings are born curious, but the wrong conditions can jeopardize that curiosity," he said, speaking on “Science, Poverty and the Human Imagination.”
“Many children in poverty grow up feeling a lack of control over their circumstances, and this severely inhibits their ability to imagine a reality other than their own,” said Washington, who grew up in an impoverished family. “Targeted science education starting from a young age can inspire and help struggling children."
Other 2017 PBESA award recipients to be honored at the PBESA meeting in Oregon:
- Pacific Branch C.W. Woodworth Award: Gerhard and Regine Gries, Simon Fraser University, Canada
- Award for Excellence in Teaching: Helen Spafford, University of Hawaii, Manoa
- Award for Excellence in Extension: Carol Black, Washington State University (WSU), Pullman
- Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: Elizabeth Beers, WSU
- Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Award: Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University, Corvallis
- Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: David Crowder, WSU
- Distinction in Student Mentoring: James Strange, USDA, Logan, Utah
- Excellence in Early Career: Sarah Woodard, UC Riverside
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award: Amelia Lindsey, UC Riverside
- Entomology Team Award: Lisa Neven, Wee Yee and Sunil Kumar, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins--for their project “Pest Risk Analyses for Temperate Fruit Flies in Exported Fruits Team”