- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
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.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's especially an honor when a duo--a husband-and-wife nature conservation team--is singled out for that recognition.
Leslie Saul-Gershenz (she holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis) and husband, Norm Gershenz, co-founders of the Bay Area-based SaveNature.Org, have namesakes:
Ethmia lesliesaulae and Ethmia normgershenzi are newly discovered species of moths in the rain forests of Costa Rica.
The moths belong to the family Depressariidae and now they're part of the Gershenz family, too!
Both new species and 20 others in the genus are described in the Zookeys paper, A Synopsis of the Genus Ethmia Hübner in Costa Rica: Biology, Distribution, and Description of 22 New Species (Lepidoptera, Gelechioidea, Depressariidae, Ethmiinae), with Eephasis on the 42 Species known from Área de Conservación Guanacaste by E. Phillips-Rodríguez, J.A. Powell, W. Hallwachs and D. H. Janzen. The larvae feed on plants in the genus Drymonia (Gesneriaceae).
- Ethmia lesliesaulae has been recorded from both sides of the Cordillera Volcánica de Guanacaste at altitudes ranging from 300 to 645 meters.
- Ethmia normgershenzi has been recorded from the east side of the Cordillera Volcánica de Guanacaste from 400 to 660 meters.
Norm and Leslie co-founded SaveNature.Org, an international conservation program, a 501(c)( 3), 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). 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.
They make the news. 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 organization has added 74,000 acres of wildlife habitat to large-scale National Parks around the world and protected marine habitat and watersheds in the Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean. To date, SaveNature.Org has raised more than $4.7 million to help preserve thousands of acres of rain forest, coral reef and desert habitat around the world. Their catchy theme: "Saving Nature Is Habitat Forming."
Norm was affiliated with the San Francisco Zoo for more than 18 years as an educator, member of the animal care staff, fundraiser, and researcher. Norm has quite the biography: he has tracked black rhinos in Zimbabwe, chased orangutans in Borneo, and stalked the elusive platypus in Australia. He has handled boas and bobcats, pandas and elephants, snow leopards and koalas, hippos and hornbills. He has worked as a field biologist and naturalist in Borneo, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Costa Rica and Namibia.
Basically, 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.
"Our research has added to the understanding of the communication signals of bees in the genus Habropoda," she related. "We now know that they use long-chain hydrocarbons for the female sex attractant and vary the position of the double bounds in different components and vary proportions of these components to avoid cross attraction among closely related species. Parasites co-opt this communication channel to deceive male bees in the Meloe-Habropoda system."
Leslie is also a 2004 graduate of The Bee Course, an intensive 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. One of The Bee Course instructors is Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Leslie's presented her research at the Entomological Society of America meeting in November in Denver, Colo. Her next research presentation will be the California Native Plant Society Conservation conference, scheduled Feb. 1-3, 2018 in Los Angeles.
Overall, moths boast incredible diversity, according to Jerry Powell, emeritus professor at UC Berkeley and co-author Paul Opier, in their masterwork, "Moths of Western North America" (University of California Press). They describe and illustrate some 2500 species in their book. The region is comprised of some 8,000 named species of moths. Most attract attention only when their larvae create economic damage, such as eating holes in woolens, infesting stored foods, boring into apples, damaging crops and garden plants, or defoliating forests.
Meanwhile, Ethmia lesliesaulae and Ethmia normgershenzi are right at home in the rain forests of Costa Rica, and their namesakes are right at home in their Bay Area-based conservation group.
And meanwhile, if you want an insect named for you or a loved one, here's one way: Contact the Bohart Museum of Entomology's biolegacy program. Insects that need naming include a stiletto fly from Australia and Thailand, said director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis.
(Editor's Note: Insect images from Wikipedia, courtesy of E. Phillips-Rodríguez, J. A. Powell, W. Hallwachs and D. H. Janzen)