Two USDA forest entomologists will be presenting in-person and virtual seminars at the University of California, Davis on Tuesday, Jan. 31 and Wednesday, Feb. 1. If you're around UC Davis, drop in and hear the seminars, sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They'll take place at 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hallon Kleiber Hall Drive, located near the UC Davis police and fire departments.
Or, you can access the seminars on Zoom.
The first speaker is Justin Runyon, who will deliver his seminar at 4:10 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 21 on "Secrets of a Long Life: Chemical Defense of Bark Beetles by Bristlecone Pines." The Zoom link:
Next is Chris Fettig, who will speak at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 1 on "Bark Beetles: How Tiny Insects Are Transforming Western Forests with a Little Help From Climate Change." The Zoom link:
Host for both seminars is UC Davis doctoral student Crystal Homicz, who is advised by Fettig. She began her studies with forest entomologist and chemical ecologist Steve Seybold (1959-2019). Her dissertation research focuses on western pine beetle and red turpentine beetle interactions with forest disturbances, such as drought, wildfire and prescribed fire.
"Bristlecone pines are iconic species that can live to be thousands of years old," Runyon says in his abstract. "Secrets to their great longevity include a stable environment, sectored architecture, and avoidance of fire. However, to survive thousands of years, these trees must also avoid getting attacked by tree-killing bark beetles."
"Only in the last few years have we begun to uncover how bristlecone pines do this," he related. "We use field work, chemical ecology and laboratory assays to understand interactions between long-lived bristlecone pine species (Great Basic Bristlecone pine and foxtail pine), co-occurring limber pine, and the mountain pine beetle (MPB). I will talk about recent and going research examining (1) the plant volatile cues used by host-searching MPBs, (2) the terpene-based phloem defenses used against MPB larvae, and (3) tradeoffs between constitutive and induced defenses across these pine species. Understanding these interactions provides insight into the longevity of bristlecone pines, the implications for these species under climate change, and development of management tool to protect trees from bark beetles."
Runyon, based on the Montana State University (MSU) campus in Bozeman, received his bachelor's degree in biology and mathematics in 1998 from the University of Virginia's College at Wise, Va.; his master's degree in entomology from MSU in 2001; and his doctorate in entomology in 2008 from Pennsylvania State University Park, Pa.
In 2014, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
"Bark beetles are a major disturbance in western forests," Fettig says in his abstract. "Several recent outbreaks of species such as mountain pine beetle, spruce beetle, and western pine beetle are among the most severe in recorded history. There is strong evidence that climate change has increased the impacts of bark beetles. For example, in California warming and exceptional drought resulted in mortality of more than a 100 million trees from 2014-2017. Much of this mortality was attributed to western pine beetle colonizing drought-stressed hosts. I will discuss observed and projected changes in climate, the direct and indirect effects of climate change on bark beetles and forests, and management actions that increase the resilience of forests to bark beetles and climate change."
Fettig received his bachelor's degree (1993) and a master's degree (1996) from Virginia Tech University, and his doctorate in forest entomology in 1999 from the University of Georgia.
Winter Seminars. Note that the Justin Runyon seminar is a specially scheduled seminar. The Chris Fettig seminar is part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's series of winter seminars, held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Urban landscape entomologist Emily Meineke, assistant professor, coordinates the weekly seminars. (See schedule.) She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any technical issues. A coffee social precede each seminar in158 Briggs from 3:30 to 4:10 p.m.
For general information about bark beetles, read the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's "How to Manage Pests in Gardens and Landscapes":
"Bark beetles, family Scolytidae, are common pests of conifers (such as pines) and some attack broadleaf trees. Over 600 species occur in the United States and Canada with approximately 200 in California alone...California now has 20 invasive species of bark beetles, of which 10 species have been discovered since 2002." The UC IPM information includes a chart of bark beetles common in landscapes.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on beetles, set Sunday, Jan. 22, will include "Beetles in Belize."
Beetle expert Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College and a Bohart Museum scientist, will discuss the beetles that she and other scientists collected in Belize, and will introduce the public to several drawers of the specimens.
The open house will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, 455 Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. It is free and family friendly.
"In November I started working in the Natural History Museum London Coleoptera collection, working on Belize Cerambycidae to facilitate identification and then catalog specimens for the Belize National Insect Collection," Keller said. "I worked with Larry Bezark, via the internet/email/Google Drive, who is retired from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. There were 28 new country records for Belize and two new species to science that Larry will describe."
"We don't have an exact number but I would say we have over 500 beetle species identified, but there are many more that need identification."
Among the other presenters at the Bohart Museum open house will be UC Davis graduate student and burying beetle researcher Tracie Hayes of the laboratory of Professor Louie Yang, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Cal Fire bark beetle specialist Curtis Ewing, a senior environmental scientist, Forest Entomology and Pathology.
The family arts-and-crafts activity will be to color a drawing of a carrion beetle, the work of Tracie Hayes.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, Department of Entomology and Nematology, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens; a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, cave roaches, tarantulas, black widow spiders, a brown widow spider and a centipede (see species); and a year-around gift shop, stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, books, posters and collecting equipment.
Founded in 1946, the Bohart Museum is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007), UC Davis entomology professor, and is open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.
And from UC Davis to France...
Seminar coordinator Emily Meineke, urban landscape entomologist and assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, has announced the list of the department's 10 winter seminars, which begin Jan. 11 and continue through March 15.
Eight of the 10 seminars are both in-person and virtual, while two will be virtual only. The in-person seminars will take place from 4:10 to 5 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Wednesdays in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Drive. All seminars will live-streamed on Zoom and recorded for future viewing. The Zoom link: https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/95882849672.
Wednesday, Jan. 11--Virtual Only
Clément Vinauger, Ph.D.
Virginia Tech Department of Biochemistry
Title: (Title pending: He researches molecular genetics of host-seeking behavior in insects)
Wednesday, Jan. 18
Quinn McFredrick, Ph.D.
UC Riverside Department of Entomology
Title: "The Weird World of Pathogens, Microbes, and Meat-Eating Bees"
Wednesday, Jan. 25
Lisa Chamberland, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral fellow, Jason Bond Lab
UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Wednesday, Feb. 1
Chris Fettig, Ph.D.
U. S. Forest Service
Title: "Bark Beetles: How Tiny Insects Are Transforming Western Forests with a Little Help from Climate Change'
Wednesday, Feb. 8
Lauren Ponisio, Ph.D.
University of Oregon Department of Biology
Title: (Title pending: Her research involves untangling the complexity of community ecology, wild bee conservation and data science)
Wednesday, Feb. 22
Kyle Lewald, doctoral candidate
Molecular geneticist, Joanna Chiu lab
UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Title: "Using Genomic Data to Understand and Prevent the Spread of Tuta absoluta" (exit seminar)
Wednesday, March 1
Dana Nayduch, Ph.D.
USDA-ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research
Wednesday, March 8
Amy Worthington, Ph.D.
Creighton University Department of Biology
Title: "A Host of Hardships: The Costs of Harboring a Long-Lived Parasite"
Wednesday, March 15 -- Virtual Only
Sylvain Pincebourde, Ph.D.
University of Tours, Insect Biology Research Institute
Title: "The Key Role of Microclimates in Modulating the Response of Ectotherms to Climate Change"
The Department of Entomology and Nematology, ranked among the top entomology departments in the United States, is chaired by nematologist and professor Steve Nadler. Vice chair is molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu.
For further information on the seminars or technical difficulties with Zoom, contact Meineke at email@example.com.
Take the case of a male monarch reared, released and tagged by Steven Johnson in a Washington State University citizen-science project operated by WSU entomologist David James. Johnson tagged and released the monarch on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016 in Ashland, Ore. Seven days later, on Sept. 5, it fluttered into our family's backyard pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif., where we photographed it.
"So, assuming it didn't travel much on the day you saw it, it flew 285 miles in 7 days or about 40.7 miles per day," James said. "Pretty amazing." (See Bug Squad blog)
But how do monarchs know when to migrate? You can find out when you attend the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Saturday, Jan. 18 from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
Doctoral student Yao Cai, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Joanna Chiu lab who studies circadian clocks in insects, will relate how monarchs know when to migrate. “Using Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) and Danaus plexippus (monarch butterfly), as models, we seek to understand how these insects receive environmental time cues and tell time, how they organize their daily rhythms in physiology and behavior, such as feeding, sleep and migration (in monarch butterfly)," he says.
Cai is one of six doctoral students who will be showcasing their research. The event is free and family friendly.
Visitors not only will have the opportunity to talk to graduate students about their research and glean information about insects, but will be able see their work through a microscope. In fact, eight microscopes will be set up, Yang said.
In addition to Cai, doctoral students participating and their topics:
Ants: Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Assassin flies: Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Bats (what insects they eat): Ecologist Ann Holmes of the Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Animal Science, and the Genomic Variation Laboratory, who studies with major professors Andrea Schreier and Mandi Finger.
Bark Beetles: Crystal Homicz. who studies with Joanna Chiu, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and research forest entomologist Chris Fettig, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Davis.
Forensic entomology: Alexander Dedmon, who studies with Robert Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Some doctoral students also will deliver PowerPoint presentations or show slides. The projects:
“Did you know that between 1987 and 2017 bark beetles were responsible for more tree death than wildfire?” asks Crystal Homicz, a first-year doctoral student. “Bark beetles are an incredibly important feature of forests, especially as disturbance agents. My research focuses on how bark beetles and fire interact, given that these are the two most important disturbance agents of the Sierra Nevada. At my table, I will discuss how the interaction between bark beetles and fire, why bark beetles and fire are important feature of our forest ecosystem, and I will discuss more generally the importance of bark beetles in many forest systems throughout North America.
“I will have several wood samples, insect specimens and photographs to display what bark beetle damage looks like, and the landscape level effects bark beetles have. I will also have samples of wood damage caused by other wood boring beetles and insects. My table will focus widely on the subject of forest entomology and extend beyond beetle-fire interactions.”
Visitors, she said, can expect to leave with a clear understanding of what bark beetles are and what they do, as well as a deeper understanding of the importance of disturbance ecology in our temperate forests.
Charlotte Alberts, a fifth-year doctoral candidate, will display assassin flies and their relatives, as well as examples of prey they eat and/or mimic. Visitors can expect to learn about basic assassin fly ecology and evolution. Alberts studies the evolution of assassin flies (Diptera: Asilidae) and their relatives.
“Assassin flies are voracious predators on other insects and are able to overcome prey much larger than themselves,” she said. “Both adult and larval assassin flies are venomous. Their venom consists of neurotoxins that paralyze their prey, and digestive enzymes that allow assassin flies to consume their prey in a liquid form. These flies are incredibly diverse, ranging in size from 5-60mm, and can be found all over the world! With over 7,500 species, Asilidae is the third most specious family of flies. Despite assassin flies being very common, most people do not even know of their existence. This may be due to their impressive ability to mimic other insects, mainly wasps, and bees.”
For her thesis, she is trying to resolve the phylogenetic relationships of Asiloidea (Asilidae and their relatives) using Ultra Conserved Elements (UCEs), and morphology. "I am also interested in evolutionary trends of prey specificity within Asilidae, which may be one of the major driving forces leading to this family's diversity."
Ecologist Ann Holmes, a fourth-year doctoral student, is studying what insects that bats eat. "I will be talking about my research project that looks at insects eaten by bats in the Yolo Bypass. The insects eat crops such as rice, so bats provide a valuable service to farmers. Hungry bats can eat as much as their own body weight in insects each night."
"Visitors can expect to learn how DNA is used to detect insects in bat guano (poop)." "Insects in bat poop are hard to identify because they have been digested, but I can use DNA to determine which insects are there," she said. "We care about which insects bats eat because bats are natural pest controllers. With plenty of bats we can use less pesticide on farms and less mosquito repellent on ourselves."
Zachary Griebenow, a third-year doctoral student, will be showcasing or discussing specimens of the ant subfamily Leptanillinae, most of them male. “I will be showing specimens of the Leptanillinae under the microscope, emphasizing the great morphological diversity observed in males and talking about my systematic revision of the subfamily," he said. "In particular, I want to explain how the study of an extremely obscure group of ants can help us understand the process of evolution that has given rise to all organisms."
Forensic entomologist Alex Dedmon, a sixth-year doctoral student, will display tools and text and explain what forensic entomology is all about. "My research focuses on insect succession. In forensic entomology, succession uses the patterns of insects that come and go from a body. These patterns help us estimate how long a person has been dead. Visitors can expect to learn about the many different ways insects can be used as evidence, and what that evidence tells us."
Other Open House Activities
The family craft activity will be painting rocks, which can be taken home or hidden around campus. "Hopefully some kind words on rocks found by random strangers can also make for a kinder better future,” said Yang.
In addition to meeting and chatting with the researchers, visitors can see insect specimens (including butterflies and moths), meet the critters in the live “petting zoo” (including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and browse the gift shop, containing books, insect-themed t-shirts and sweatshirts, jewelry, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Professor Lynn Kimsey and founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of insect biodiversity.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
That would be the recent open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, on "Bark Beetles and Forest Health," coordinated by USDA Forest Service research entomologist/UC Davis affiliate Steve Seybold and his graduate and undergraduate students.
It was definitely a beetle invasion. You couldn't see the Bohart for the trees!
"It was a mixed conifer forest right out of the central Sierra Nevada,” Seybold commented.
“As of last winter, bark beetles had killed 102 million trees in California during the last drought period,” said Seybold, who is a lecturer with the UC Davis Entomology and Nematology. “Tree mortality in the western United States over the past 15 years caused by native bark beetles exceeded 21 million hectares, which surpasses all other disturbances, including fire.”
UC Davis Department of Design emeritus professor and environmental artist Ann Savageau, showcased her wood sculptures patterned with bark beetle galleries. Retired from UC Davis in 2014, she now works as a full-time studio artist.
Visitors marveled at the eight-foot trunk sections of mass-attacked conifers as the scientists peeled back bark to reveal larvae of bark beetles and wood borers in their galleries in the phloem and xylem. Visitors also learned about the development of bark beetle pheromones and their release devices, and the role of semiochemicals (behavioral chemicals) to lure and repel the beetles.
One display station zeroed in on the onslaught of invasive bark and wood boring beetles, including the walnut twig beetle, goldspotted oak borer, and polyphagous shot hole borer, all among California's 25 new invasive species.
The scientists warned that beetle-infested firewood can become a “Trojan horse” when campers unknowingly transport beetles from site to site and spread the pests.
Enlarged aerial photos of southern Sierra Nevada forests--taken by USDA Forest Service Aerial Survey Unit in May and August 2016--hammered home the havoc that bark beetles can and do wreak. Visitors also learned about bark beetles via a computer slide show, and looked at specimens of western pine beetle, pine engravers, and fir engravers through a scanning electron microscope (on loan from Hitachi to the museum). The microscope magnified the specimens 100 times.
A craft table near Ann Savageau's exhibit featured the family craft activity, "Bark Beetle Art." Children traced and colored bark beetle patterns on paper, and also colored bark beetle gallery patterns on wood samples. Then they hung their art as ornaments on "The Bark Beetle Tree," a white fir.
Entomologist Wade Spencer, a UC Davis undergraduate student and an associate at the Bohart Museum, enthralled the crowd by reading Vlasta van Kampen's children's book, “Beetle Bedlam,” about a bark beetle on trial for killing trees in the forest.
Despite the 107-degree temperatures, the open house drew some 110 visitors, representing Davis, Elk Grove, Fairfield, Pinecrest, Redding, Sacramento, South Lake Tahoe, Vacaville, Woodland, and other cities.
Assisting Seybold were Yigen Chen, formerly with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and now with Gallo Wines in Modesto; UC Davis entomology graduate students Jackson Audley and Corwin Parker; UC Davis junior specialist Megan Siefker; UC Davis undergraduate student Crystal Homicz; and graduate student Irene Lona of California State University, Chico.
Representing the Bohart Museum were Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology; senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and Bohart associates/volunteers Greg Kareofelas, Wade Spencer, Chloe Stott. Riley Gilmartin, Joel Hernandez, Maia Lundy, amd Alex Nguyen.
Seybold credited Rob York, UC Berkeley Center for Forestry, Blodgett Forest Research Station. for providing infested tree and wood samples for the displays; Jeffrey W. Moore, USDA Forest Service R5 Forest Health Protection, Davis for providing the aerial imagery of California tree mortality; and Ross Gerrard, USDA Forest Service PSW Research Station, Davis, for providing the poster-sized photos and illustrations for the exhibit.
Want to attend the next Bohart Museum open house? It's from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane. The theme is "Insects and U" and it's in keeping with the arrival of UC Davis students for the fall quarter. The open house, a family friendly event, is free and open to the public.
"This purposely coincides with UC Davis dorm move-in weekend," said Tabatha Yang. "Our target audience is new students and their families, but everyone is welcome. The focus is how to study insects at home and in school--any age."
Undergraduate advisor Brandy Fleming will be on hand (tabling) to talk about classes, careers, and fun with entomology.
Yang is also planning a display featuring cabbage white butterflies for educators.
The Bohart Museum is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids, and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The insect museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.