The award-winning trio:
- Medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo received the Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award. (See news story)
- Doctoral student Erin Taylor Kelly of the Attardo lab won the Student Leadership Award (See news story)
- Undergraduate entomology student Gwen Erdosh of the Louie Yang lab and a member of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, won the inaugural Dr. Stephen Garczynski Undergraduate Research Scholarship (See news story)
Rankin says her research "focuses on investigating species interactions and their effects on trophic dynamics and ecosystem services within the contexts of invasion biology, community ecology and evolutionary ecology." She received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2002 from Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and obtained her doctorate in biological sciences from UC San Diego in 2009. Then it was off to UC Davis for a year in the Yang lab before accepting a position as postdoctoral researcher with the University of Maryland's Department of Entomology. Rankin joined the UC Riverside faculty in 2013 as an assistant professor and advanced to associate professor in 2019.
In 2021 Rankin was named the recipient of two major awards: the Outstanding Faculty Mentor and the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award. See her research and publications on her website.
Rankin's award was one of five awarded to UC Riverside entomologists:
- Mark Hoddle won the C. W. Woodworth Award
- Jessica Purcell, Distinction in Student Mentoring Award
- Dong-Hwan Choe, Distinguished Achievement in Extension Award
- Kerry Mauck, Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award
Results showed UC entomologists (from the two campuses) winning a total of eight awards, and USDA, four. (See the chart below) Congratulations, all!
Pacific Branch. The Pacific branch encompasses 11 Western states, parts of Canada and Mexico and several U.S. territories.
In the United States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
U.S. Territories: American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Johnston Atoll, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Islands, Wake Island
In Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Yukon
In Mexico: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora
ESA, founded in 1889, is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. Its 7,000 members are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. They are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
"Scientists now understand how certain animals can feed on picturesque, orange monarch butterflies, which are filled from head to abdomen with milkweed plant toxins.
"In high enough concentrations, milkweed can kill a horse, or a human. To be able to eat this plant, monarchs evolved a set of unusual cellular mutations. New UC Riverside research shows the animals that prey on monarchs also evolved these same mutations.
"A Current Biology journal article, published Nov. 22, 2021, describes the research that revealed these mutations in four types of monarch predators — a bird, a mouse, a parasitic wasp, and a worm." --EurekAlert.
The leading author of that research article, evolutionary biologist Simon "Niels" Groen, an assistant professor at UC Riverside, will discuss "Plant Toxins and the Evolution of Host-Parasite Interactions" when he presents a seminar to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 2 in 122 Briggs Hall.
"Plants interact with incredibly diverse groups of animals including plant-feeding insects and nematodes as well as their natural enemies," Groen says in this abstract. "These interactions are influenced by toxic defensive chemicals that plants make. In my talk, I will focus on how plants evolved variation in production of these defensive chemicals and how animal parasites in turn evolved mechanisms enabling them to handle such toxins."
Groen, who joined the UC Riverside faculty in July 2021 following his postdoctoral research position (2014 to 2021) in the Noah Whiteman laboratory, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, focuses his research on "understanding molecular mechanisms of adaptation in the context of species interactions and fluctuating environmental conditions."
A native of the Netherlands, he received his bachelor's degree and masters degree in biology from Wageningen University, Netherlands, and his doctorate in plant sciences from the University of Cambridge, UK.
Groen served as a visiting researcher from 2007 to 2008 in the Department of Multi-Trophic Interactions, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, and as a visiting researcher from 2008 to 2012 in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University.
"Growing up in The Netherlands, I became fascinated with plants and their responses to ever-changing environmental conditions while working as a 'ziekzoeker' in tulip fields outside of school hours," he writes in an author profile on the American Society of Plant Biologists website. The site featured him as the first author of “Evolutionary Systems Biology Reveals Patterns of Rice Adaptation to Drought-Prone Agro-Ecosystems," published Nov. 15, 2021 in the journal Plant Cell.
"A 'ziekzoeker' looks for diseased plants and I searched in particular for variegated white and red tulips--the ones you'd recognize from a golden-age Dutch still life painting," Groen related. "I learned how these tulips are infected with an aphid-transmitted virus and during my PhD in the group of John Carr at the University of Cambridge, I would further investigate the molecular mechanisms of how virus infections would change plant interactions with aphids and pollinators. I was gripped by the role that plant defensive chemicals play in shaping species interactions and I continued to study these as a postdoc with Noah Whiteman at the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley.'
On the author page, he chronicled his previous work on the interactions between milkweeds and the monarch butterfly "and found out how the monarch evolved resistance to the cardenolide toxins that milkweeds make. While this work mostly revolved around a single gene of large effect, typically several or many genes are involved in organisms' evolutionary responses. As a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fellow in the group of Michael Purugganan at New York University, I learned about the latest developments in evolutionary genomics and systems biology while investigating patterns of natural selection on gene expression in rice populations that we grew under wet and dry field conditions with our collaborators at the International Rice Research Institute in The Philippines."
"The current paper (Plant Cell) is a culmination of this research," Groen related. "We found that under field drought rice plants do not just respond to changes in water availability, but also to concomitant changes in abundance of soil microbes that they interact with. As assistant professor in the Department of Nematology at the University of California, Riverside, I will continue to study rice and milkweed as well as plants from the nightshade family and look at the complex evolutionary tug-of-war between these plants and parasitic nematodes. Combining laboratory and field experiments, we will zoom in on the central role that plant chemicals play by using approaches from evolutionary and systems biology like the ones we describe in our paper."
Nematologist Shahid Siddique, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, coordinates the winter quarter seminars. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any technical issues involving the Zoom connection.
His work shows a cuckoo bee (Nomada sp.) and an Anthophora bee sharing honey on a twig. The image appears as an inset for the month of September.
Wright collected the bees at his field site in Hemet Calif., the day before. "I took them to my studio to try and get some images in flight and to bolster my files of native bee species," he related. "I often feed my subjects a little honey as I photograph them over the course of a day or two before releasing them back where I found them. They also tend to offer nice shots when they sit still drinking, so I figured I would try to fit two bees on a twig that I had around, and see if they would offer a picture."
"I managed a number of nice shots of them sharing a drink before letting them go their separate ways. Once spring starts back up in full, I'm hoping to recreate this shot with a half-dozen or more native bee species all on the same branch at the same time to show off the incredible diversity of native bees in California."
"I was so thrilled to have my image accepted to the ESA calendar, which always showcases incredible arthropod images!"
This is his first image selected for the international calendar, although he's submitted a few images over the last several years. He was also honored to have one of his arthropod images selected for the cover of the fall edition of the American Entomologist.
Wright, who holds a bachelor's degree in evolution, ecology and biodiversity from UC Davis in 2008 and a master's degree in evolution, ecology and behavior at the University of Texas, Austin, in 2015, began pursuing photography as a hobby in 2008, using a single lens reflex camera. Today he specializes in macro and wildlife photography but also enjoys "photographing people and, especially, the intersection of people and science."
Wright's hobby has grown into "a passion for documenting the species and behaviors I find during field work or on my many expeditions to observe species and their habitats around the country and the globe."
You can follow Ian Wright on the Internet:
- Website: https://ianmwright.zenfolio.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ian.wright.549
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ianmwright86
- Instagram: @ianmwright86 and @tinyspheres
The World of Insects Calendar is known for its striking, world-class photography of arthropods. The 2022 calendar drew more than 740 entries from more than 180 photographers from around the globe. The cover image depicts newly hatched brown marmorated stink bug nymphs (Halyomorpha halys), photographed by Tom Astle of Sherman Oaks, Calif.
ESA seeks photos of "the highest aesthetic and technical quality," and issues a call for photos early in the year for the following year's calendar. Photographers of all backgrounds, areas of expertise, career stage, and geographic location submit photos.
ESA, founded in 1889, serves the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines throughout the world. Its 7000 members are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. They include teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.
The general public can order the 2022 calendar online by accessing this link. The cost per calendar is $10 for ESA members and $14 or non-members, with decreased costs for multiple orders.
Who knew that you, along with billions of other people, could be infected with undetected microscopic parasitic nematodes, or round worms? And that they spit venom?
Parasitologist Adler Dillman of UC Riverside knows. In fact, he recently received a $1.8 million Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study these parasitic nematodes, which infect a quarter of a billion of the world's population and can cause blindness, cognitive issues and sometimes death.
Want to learn more about this research? The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology has booked him as a guest speaker as part of its fall weekly seminars, coordinated by nematologist and assistant professor Shahid Siddique.
Dillman will deliver his in-person seminar, "Nematode Venom Contains Potent Modulators of Insect Immunity," at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 27 in 122 Briggs Hall Drive, off Kleiber Hall Drive. It also will be broadcast live on Zoom at https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/
"Parasitic nematodes are master manipulators of host immunity," Dillman says in his abstract. "Little is known about the identity and function of the cocktail of effectors they release during active infection. We have developed an effector discovery model using entomopathogenic nematodes and fruit flies, which we are using to identify and characterize potent modulators of insect immunity."
Dillman, who joined the UC Riverside faculty in February 2015 and is now an associate professor, focuses his research on identifying the specific proteins in a nematode's spit or venom that can trick the immune system to ignore its presence. His model organism is the fruit fly. He hopes that his research could lead to treatments for autoimmune diseases in humans, such as celiac, Crohn's or inflammatory bowel diseases.
UC Riverside featured him, his NIH grant and his research in a press release "Parasitic Worm Venom Evades Human Immune System," posted July 20, 2020 on EurekAlert. "By some estimates, nearly a quarter of the world's population is infected with various types of microscopic worms, or nematodes, with effects ranging from cognitive impairment and blindness to debilitation, elephantiasis, and death," writer Jules Berstein of UC Riverside related. "Examples include hookworm, which thrives in the American South, causing developmental delays and anemia; and pinworms, which commonly infect children and child care workers with an itchy perianal-area rash."
"You can have a person riddled with infection who never realized there's a 2-centimeter-long worm in their eye and thousands of parasites in their blood," Dlllman told her. "The immune system never signaled something was wrong. How is that possible? We know very little about how that works."
Devastating Parasites. Nematodes, he says, are "devastating parasites of humans, capable of modulating our biology in numerous ways, including suppressing our immune systems. The goal of my lab is to understand this modulation and to characterize the chemical pathways that allow it to happen. There's compelling data that parasites could even be used to treat autoimmune disorders such as Crohn's or inflammatory bowel disease. Parasitic worms are just the coolest things you could study because there are so many strange interactions, both positive and negative, that occur between the worms and their hosts."
Aylin Woodward of Business Insider spotlighted Dillman's work in a Sept. 13, 2020 news story headlined "A Scientist Won $1.8 Million to Study the Venom Parasitic Worms Use to Live Undetected in Our Bodies. He Thinks It Could Help Treat Celiac Disease. The Dillman lab is "looking at 500 or so different types of proteins released by nematodes that infect fruit flies," she wrote, quoting Dillman: "Flies are cheaper and easier to work with, and the parasites that affect insects release the same proteins as those that infect mammals."
"An analysis of research on this subject, published in 2017, described how the presence of nematodes and other parasites can lower inflammation in IBD and reduce the severity of multiple sclerosis, type 1 , asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis in animals," Woodward pointed out. "A 2010 study, in fact, described a patient with IBD who deliberately infected himself with a parasitic worm called a whipworm. The man's immune system started producing a type of protein crucial to healing his digestive tract, and the disease went into remission."
Dillman received his doctorate in 2012 from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a private research university in Pasadena, and then served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford from 2013 to 2014. He holds a bachelor's degree (2006) from Brigham Young University.
Shahid Siddique may be reached at email@example.com./span>
This is a story of what might have been that never was and never will be and it all has to do with Hammock's cockroaches.
While on the UC Riverside faculty, he worked on two cultures of very large roaches. One was the wingless Madagascar hissing cockroach, Gromphadorhina portentosa, and the other, the South American cave cockroach, Blaberus giganteus with "lovely translucent wings."
When he published a paper on his research, the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture discovered that these 20-year-old cultures had never been registered.
“So, I registered, certified and chugged on with the research,” recalled Hammock. “Then one day both cultures vanished. I was frantic.”
The next day the chair of the department walked into his lab, gave him $10, and told him: “This is your share.”
The chair had sold the roaches that “no one was using” to a Hollywood movie company. “This was the main project in my lab so I went to Hollywood and tried to get the insects back,” Hammock lamented. “No way.”
Hammock's prized roaches, perhaps destined for greatness in the scientific world of cockroach literature, instead starred as evil roaches in the 1975-released movie, “Bug,” an American horror film based on Thomas Page's novel, ”The Hephaestus Plague (1973).”
The plot: A massive earthquake releases mutant cockroaches that create fire by rubbing together their cerci, a pair of small sensory appendages at the end of their abdomen that function somewhat like antennae. However, these mutant roaches die because they cannot survive in the low air pressure on the Earth's surface. Nonetheless, Professor James Parmiter (actor Bradford Dillman, 1930-2018), manages to keep one alive in a pressure chamber and breeds it with a modern cockroach, creating a breed of intelligent, flying, super-cockroaches. Chaos erupts in the small farming community.
Chaos also erupted on the movie set—and not just because some of the actors hated roaches.
“In a twist of fate,” Hammock said, “the movie company had rented the zoology building during the summer at UC Riverside for filming evil cockroaches from the center of the planet that got in people's hair and set them on fire.” In the process, the flames ignited a minor fire in the building.
An image of zoo building and a Hammock-reared roach appear on the IMDB poster. “After they finished shooting, I heard that they released the roaches on campus,” Hammock said.
“I would never find them,” he lamented. "But my son (Tom Hammock) who now is in the film industry loved the story."
Madagascar hissing cockroaches, nicknamed "hissers," measure two to three inches long and are big in the pet trade. They are a popular attraction in the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology's live “petting zoo.”
Hammock's roach-rearing days at UC Riverside included giving a hissing roach to his mother because “she wanted a pet so I gave her one.”
“She had for several years as a pet. But she brought it back because she could not get her lady friends to babysit when she traveled. It terrified our cat but finally settled into an uneasy relationship.”
Viewers' description of Bug ranged from “the best of killer bug films” and “a scream fest” to “something that really freaked me out.” One reviewer, noting what happened to Professor Parmiter's wife, wrote “Bug, you light up my wife.”
Looking back, Hammock noted that "The science was actually a serious effort to work out the biosynthetic pathway of the hormone that regulates insect development, and then disrupt it for insect control. Sadly, I only published the first step before Hollywood turned the roaches into science fiction film history."