Gillung, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University and a UC Davis alumnus, is the recipient of the prestigious Marsh Award for Early Career Entomologist, sponsored by the Royal Entomological Society.
She is the first UC Davis-affiliated scientist to win the award. She will receive a certificate, 1250 pounds ($1,624) and an expense-paid trip to London to receive the award at the Ento 19 conference, set Aug. 20-22 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The Royal Entomological Society, an international organization devoted to the study of insects, was founded in 1833 as the Entomological Society of London. Its mission is to disseminate information about insects and improve communication between entomologists.
Gillung's work on spider flies, involving genomics, phylogenetics, systematics, and comparative analyses, “has increased our understanding of the biological patterns and processes that have shaped our planet's biodiversity,” wrote her major professor and award nominator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Gillung received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in December 2018, studying with Kimsey and mentor Shaun Winterton, insect biosystematist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and a member of the Royal Entomological Society. Gillung also collaborated with ant specialist and taxonomist Phil Ward, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Gillung is now a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University in the Bryan Danforth lab, where she is researching Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
Her dissertation, “Systematics and Phylogenomics of Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae),” focused on the evolution, conservation, biology, and taxonomy of spider flies, a group of spider natural enemies,
Gillung's taxonomic work on spider flies, described as landmark, included identification keys and morphology-based diagnoses of species using modern techniques of cybertaxonomy—the application of the internet, digital technologies, and computer resources to increase and speed up the discovery and cataloging of new species, Kimsey wrote. “Using cybertaxonomic tools, Jessica described 25 new spider fly species herself, and in collaboration with fellow entomologists, three fossil species from Baltic amber, described in her first dissertation chapter. Cybertaxonomy is a powerful tool that allows researchers and citizen scientists to collaborate in real time and across great distances to increase the speed and efficiency of biodiversity discovery.”
“Jessica unraveled the functional and ecological implications of key morphological traits, as well as their distribution across the Tree of Life,” Kimsey said. “In her doctoral dissertation, she established new homologies for the wing venation of spider flies and conducted detailed and assiduous dissections of male reproductive structures (i.e., genitalia) to understand homologies, demonstrating that morphological traits are dynamically evolving systems useful for both classification and inference of evolutionary history.”
Since many insect species are threatened, geographically restricted, or relatively rare in nature, Gillung performed non-destructive DNA extraction of specimens housed in entomological collections, including the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Gillung collected molecular data from decades-old insects without damaging the specimens.
Gillung's multifaceted research on genomics, bioinformatics, phylogenetics, plant-pollinator interactions, and biodiversity discovery drew more $120,000 in grants and awards while at UC Davis.
The UC Davis alumnus is known for her “phenomenal leadership activities, her nearly straight-A academic record (3.91 grade point average), her excellence as an entomologist and teacher, her public service and outreach programs (from 2013 to 2018, she reached more than 20,000 people at UC Davis-based events) and her incredible publication record, Kimsey said. “She published 11 refereed publications related to her thesis in very strong journals. Most entomologists do not publish nearly that much, even as a postdoctoral scholar or a junior faculty member.”
A recipient of numerous other awards, Gillung won the prestigious international award for “Best Student Presentation Award” at the ninth annual International Congress of Dipterology, held in 2018 in Windhoek, Namibia. She also won the 2019 Early Career Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) and the 2018 PBESA Student Leadership Award. PBESA encompasses 11 western states, U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Gillung was a key member of the 2015 PBESA championship Linnaean Team that went on to win the ESA national championship. The Linnaean Games are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
Gillung also collaborated on a project aimed at encouraging students to attend and participate in the Orlando, Fla., meeting of the International Congress of Entomology. She and several colleagues published a paper entitled “From the Students to the Students: Why YOU need to Attend ICE 2016.”
The Royal Entomological Society will publish her biography and photo in its Antenna magazine, on the society website, and in the Marsh Christian Trust Award brochure./span>
Call it a case of royalty plus.
UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, has just received a double honor. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and he received a coveted award from his native Brazil.
First the royalty...It's an honor just to be nominated for the Fellow award. Among the imminent scientists who've received the award: Charles Darwin.
The Royal Entomological Society, based in London, disseminates information about insects and strives to improve communication among entomologists at the national and international level. Its history is long and rich. Founded in London in 1833, it is a successor to a number of short-lived societies dating back to 1745.
The origin of the "royalty?" name? In 1885 Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter to the society. In the centennial year of 1933, King George V added the word "Royal" to the title.
The other honor? The coveted award, the 2nd National Award of Chemical Ecology, that Leal received in Brazil is linked closely to two people who have influenced him in his academic career and everyday life.
The award memorializes his former mentor, Professor Jose Tercio Barbosa, a pioneer in the field of chemical ecology. As part of the award, Leal received a book on the Museum of Contemporary Art Niteroi signed by internationally known Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Niemeyer, now a "young" 104 years old, designed the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City, and many public buildings in Brazil, including the Cathedral of Brasilia, the Museum of Modern Art of Caracas and the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, Rio de Janeiro.
“I grew up hearing about the wonderful work of Oscar Niemeyer, but never even imagined that one day I would get his autograph," Leal said. "It is sad, however, that it happened in part because Professor Tercio, a pioneer in the field of chemical ecology, passed away prematurely. Earlier on, Tercio introduced me to the scientific community in Brazil."
"Niemeyer is one of the two most famous contemporary Brazilians," Leal said. "The other is Pelé whom I've known since my years of working as a radio sportscaster to help fund my college education."
The path from sportscaster to chemical ecologist was a long one. Today Leal focuses his research on how insects detect smells, communicate with their species, detect host and non-host plants, and detect prey. For his innovative approaches to insect olfaction problems, the Entomological Society of America named him the 2011 recipient of Entomological Society of America's Nan-Yao Su Award for Innovation and Creativity in Entomology.
The circle widens, then narrows, then widens again.
Last weekend we spotted a San Francisco-bound car sporting a bumper sticker that read simply:
"I brake for bugs."
Bugs rule. Bugs are cool. Bugs are definitely worth stopping for (especially if it's the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis which houses seven million specimens).
Lot of brakin' going on.
Which brings us to what the Royal Entomological Society, United Kingdom, did.
The society invited 23 distinguished entomologists and entomologists-in-training to write a daily blog about bugs during National Insect Week. The blogs are online--and let's hope this really catches on.
They're "bug bloggers" extraordinaire.
Cranston, recently awarded an honorary membership in the Royal Entomological Society, teaches teaches systematic entomology and biodiversity at UC Davis and serves as the co-editor of the Royal Entomological Society’s journal Systematic Entomology. His research interests include the systematics, ecology and biogeography of aquatic insects, particularly the Chironomidae (non-biting midges).
His blog bio indicates: "In his childhood years in the West Midlands of the UK in the 1950s, he was allowed, even encouraged, to roam the countryside with friends and siblings, and he developed a fascination with aquatic wildlife--birds, mammals and the larger insects. His formal education built on these interests, thanks to the support of a high-school biology teacher who encouraged him to undertake fieldwork projects."
Cranston went on to earn his bachelor's degree in biology at the University of London. For his doctorate, also obtained from the University of London, he studied the development stages (larvae and pupae) of the dominant group of aquatic flies--the chironomid midges.
If you're an entomology student, you probably have a copy of the popular textbook, The Insects: An Outline of Entomology, written by Cranston and Penny Gullan, also an entomology professor at UC Davis.
As for Tom Miller, he teaches insect physiology, insect toxicology and first-year biology at UC Riverside. He earned his doctorate in entomology at UC Riverside in 1967. He then served a year as a research associate at the University of Illinois and a year as a NATO postdoctoral fellow at Glasgow University before joining the UC Riverside faculty in 1969.
Miller's research interests: the structure and function of the insect circulatory system; the mode of action of insecticides; insect neuromuscular physiology; physiology, toxicology and behavior of pink bollworm in cotton fields; transgenic insects; applied symbiosis for crop protection; and biopesticides for crop protection.
Miller received the coveted Gregor J. Mendel Medal for Research in Biological Sciences in 2003 from the Czech Academy of Sciences.