The scientists and butterfly/moth enthusiasts who gathered Saturday, Feb. 9 for the Northern California Lepidoptera Society meeting in the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, did all that: identify specimens and engage in collaboration and camaraderie.
They ranged from those early in their career, to mid-point, to the height of their career, to retired.
The group meets for a mid-winter gathering once a year, alternating between the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis and the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley.
Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon, Bohart associate John "Moth Man" DeBenedictis; and Jeff Smith, curator of the butterfly/moth section at the Bohart hosted the event, assisted by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and Bohart associate and naturalist Greg Kareofelas.
In their meeting notice, Heydon, DeBenedictis and Smith noted that those attending could bring specimens, photos, PowerPoint presentations "or slides from collecting trips and tales of collecting triumphs to share with others
and that "attending lepidopterists may be able to help you identify specimens and the museum collection will be open for yoour inspection."
Retired public health entomologist and Bohart associate Dick Meyer of Bakersfield, known as "the mosquito guy," was there. He recently retired as assistant manager of the Orange County Vector Control Agency. He did not bring any of his collection, but he did tell us that he has 225 drawers of insects at home, including 71 drawers of butterflies. "Did you know that the highest diversity of butterflies in the country is in Kern County?" he asked. Meyer, who holds a doctorate in entomology, studied with major professor Richard M. Bohart Jr., for whom the Bohart Museum is named.
Among those participating:
- Bohart associate Jerry Powell, emeritus director of the Essig Museum, and co-author of California Insects.
- Marc Epstein, senior insect biosystematist for the California Department of Food and Agriculture and author of the book, Moths, Myths and Mosquitoes: the Eccentric life of Harrison G. Dyer Jr.
- Kelly Richers, treasurer of the Lepitopterists Society and an affiliate of Essig Museum of Entomology who is also afield associate with the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and member of board of directors of the Wedge Entomological Research Foundation
- Lawrence "Larry" Allen of Calaveras County, author of A Field Guide to the West Coast Butterflies of the United States, one of the books available in the Bohart Museum's gift shop (he donated all sales of his book that day to the Bohart).
- Arthur Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology and author of Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley Regions.
- Entomologist Rick Kelson, who directs the butterfly habitat at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo
- Bohart associate Bill Patterson, former graduate student of Richard Bohart
- Rosser Garrison, research associate with the California State Collection of Arthropods, retired senior insect biosystematist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and co-author of Dragonfly Genera of the New World: An Illustrated and Annotated Key to the Anisoptera
- Don Miller, professor at Chico State University who teaches entomology in the Department of Biological Sciences
- Ryan Hill, professor at University of Pacific, Stockton
- Chris Tenney, retired educator from Pacific Grove
- Jeffrey Caldwell, known for his ecological restoration
- John Lane, one of first graduate students of Art Shapiro (Lane received his master's degree)
- Paul Johnson, biologist with the National Parks Service
- Hobbyist Jeff Baier of Napa
- Physician Val Albu of Fresno
- And many more...
At the last gathering in the Bohart, Kelly Richers, who compiles the California Moth Specimen Database, maintained at the Essig Museum since 1996 as a resource to better survey and understand California moths, said of the systematists: "We're a dying breed."
This year self-described "aspiring entomologist" Madison Cunha of Modesto attended with her mother, Christine Cunha. True to her love of insects, Madison wore a dress adorned with a beetle pattern.
Scientists say that 180,000 species of the Lepidoptera are described, in 126 families and 46 superfamilies.
"The Lepidoptera are among the most successful groups of insects. They are found on all continents, except Antarctica, and inhabit all terrestrial habitats ranging from desert to rainforest, from lowland grasslands to mountain plateaus, but almost always associated with higher plants, especially angiosperms (flowering plants). Among the most northern dwelling species of butterflies and moths is the Arctic Apollo (Parnassius arcticus), which is found in the Arctic Circle in northeastern Yakutia, at an altitude of 1500 m above sea level. In the Himalayas, various Apollo species such as Parnassius epaphus have been recorded to occur up to an altitude of 6,000 miles above sea level."--Wikipedia.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, says "I believe we have half a million Lepitoptera in our collection, and it is likely 60 percent moths and 40 percent butterflies."
What can visitors expect to see at the Bohart Museum during the four-hour open house from 9 to 1 p.m. on Biodiversity Museum Day? The Bohart will be one of 13 museums or collections open to the public and the event if free and family friendly.
"They will see thousands of species of butterflies--and maybe moths if we open those aisles as well--that they have never seen before," Smith says. "They can learn about the defensive strategies these insects use for survival, such as camouflage, warning coloration, mimicry of other species. We love to teach about the importance of Lepidoptera in the environment, either to their habitat directly or possibly as an indicator of the health of their habitat. And, of course, they can be amazed at the beauty of these insects."
This is truly a global collection.
"We have specimens from all over the world, from every continent," Smith notes. "We are especially strong, of course, in North American material but also strong in Central and South America, and these areas represent much of our continuing growth. We have a great deal of material from Papua New Guinea, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and other eastern Asian countries. We have a great amount of material from Africa, particularly Zambia and Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are especially strong with northern Mexico moths, much of which likely represents species still undescribed by taxonomists."
Are endangered or threatened butterflies in the collection? Yes.
"We do have examples of most of the threatened and endangered species of butterflies, and even examples of some of the butterfly species now extinct (due to destruction of habitat by urbanization). Due to wonderful donations over the decades we have examples of very rare species from Asia and Africa, as well as a growing collection of the extraordinary Birdwing Butterflies from the Indonesian-Australian region."
The Bohart's monarch butterfly specimens comprise five drawers and they include specimens from the Pacific Islands, Australia and Eastern Asia, as well as the United States.
"Without a doubt, the biggest 'Wow Factor' comes from the huge and brilliant metallic blue Morpho butterflies from tropical America," Smith points out. "We also have four drawers of the Atlas moths from Asia, the largest insects in the world. We have specimens of the White Witch moth, with the widest wingspan of any Lepidoptera. We have many drawers of Asian swallowtails that are brilliant metallic blue and green, as well as the striking Birdwing Butterflies that are green, blue, gold, and HUGE."
Smith himself has collected many of them. "I have not kept track, but I have been passionate about Lepidoptera since 1967, have made 12 research trips to Latin America, and probably have collected 50,000 to 60,000 specimens myself, all of which reside in the Bohart collection."
Does he have a favorite?
"Oddly, my favorite group of butterflies may be the Arctics (genus Oeneis), which occur throughout the western United States, Canada, and to Alaska. I like them due to their habitat, normally, of high mountain areas, and they remind me of the thrill I feel when hiking in these areas. My favorite moths could be the wasp-mimics in the Arctiid moths, the subfamily Ctenuchinae. Hundreds of different species are found in the Neo-Tropics and their amazing colors and often strong resemblance to wasps intrigues me."
Smith, a resident of Rocklin, received a 2015 “Friend of the College” award from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for his volunteer work, including preparing specimens and organizing the collection. At the time he had spread the wings of more than 200,000 butterflies and moths, amounting to 33,000 hours of volunteer service.
Today it's many more. Many, many more.
“Entomology is my passion," he says, "and the Bohart Museum is my cause.”
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology, who nominated Smith for the award, praised him for completely reorganizing the butterfly and moth collection. “It's no small feat to rearrange this many specimens, housed in roughly one thousand drawers,” she said. “Many thousands of the specimens needed to be identified, and the taxonomy required extensive updating and reorganization.”
In her nomination letter, she wrote that “You could not ask for a better friend than Jeff Smith. He has brought us international acclaim and saved us $160,000 through donations of specimens and materials, identification skills and his professional woodworking skills. This does not include the thousands of hours he has donated in outreach programs that draw attention to the museum, the college and the university.”
Kimsey, who has directed the museum since 1989, remembers when Smith joined the museum. “When Jeff was working for Univar Environmental Services, a 35-year career until his retirement in 2013, he would spend some of his vacation days at the museum. Over the years Jeff took over more and more of the curation of the butterfly and moth collection. He took home literally thousands of field pinned specimens and spread their wings at home, bringing them back to the museum perfectly mounted."
The Bohart Museum 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 the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart 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 and on major holidays. Admission is free. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year. More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day
The UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, always held the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend, is billed as a “free, educational event for the community where visitors get to meet and talk with UC Davis scientists from undergraduate students to staff to emeritus professors and see amazing objects and organisms from the world around us.” Parking is also free. Maps are available on the Biodiversity Museum Day website at http://biodiversitymuseumday.ucdavis.edu/.
These seven collections will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- Arboretum and Public Garden, Good Life Garden, next to the Robert Mondavi Institute, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Bohart Museum of Entomology, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- California Raptor Center, 340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis Road
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, Room 1394, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
- Paleontology Collection, Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
- Viticulture and Enology Culture Collection, Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
The following will be open from noon to 4 p.m.:
- Anthropology Museum, 328 Young Hall and grounds
- Botanical Conservatory, Greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive
- Center for Plant Diversity, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road (take West Hutchison Drive to Hopkins)
- Nematode Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
- Marine Invertebrate Collection, Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
The distinguished professor, known for his expertise in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology, meshes all four sciences in his 50-year research on acute and neuropathic pain in humans and companion animals. It all began with his basic research on how caterpillars become butterflies, research that led to key discoveries about chronic pain.
But back to the reunion.
illed as “Biochemistry and Society: Celebrating the Career of Professor Bruce Hammock,” the three-day event drew Hammock lab alumni from throughout the United States, as well as Egypt, Spain, China, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic.
“It was really special and I will treasure that weekend always,” said Hammock, who trained scientists at UC Riverside for five years before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1980. He currently holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has directed the UC Davis Superfund Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health (NIH/NIEHS), for 31 years.
Hammock's colleagues, and former postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students and visiting scholars arrived at the lab reunion with their spouses--as well as their scientific posters for display and discussion. The posters covered everything from ground-breaking research in prestigious journals to a humorous look at his annual water balloon battles in front of Briggs Hall.
The scientists dined at the UC Davis Conference Center, the Buehler Alumni Center and the Stonegate Country Club; shared months, years and decades of memories; and toasted, roasted and gifted their mentor. Hammock, in turn, toasted, roasted and gifted them.
“We had a blast,” recalled organizer Shirley Gee, a former research toxicologist and manager of the Hammock lab for 31 years. She retired in June 2016 after 40 years of service with the university.
“I have had a vision of this event to honor Bruce for many years now, and it was such a thrill to see it come together,” she said. “Reconnecting in person with all the alumni and their families was more rewarding than I could have imagined, but even more importantly was the thrill of watching alumni reconnect with each other! There were a lot of tears in the house. Many people I think were surprised by how the years melted away when they began reacquainting. I think that speaks to the environment that Bruce created that led to many strong personal and professional bonds.”
Gee credited her seven-member committee—former Hammock students Keith Wing, Jim Ottea, Tom Sparks, Babak Borhan, Qing Li; postdoctoral fellow and “academic grandson” Kin Sing Stephen Lee, a former student of Babak Borhan; and colleague Sarjeet Gill, now a distinguished professor at UC Riverside, with greatly contributing to the success of the one-of-a-kind celebration.
Hammock has studied the enzyme system and its inhibitors ever since. His lab has generated more than 80 patents, 300 postdoctoral fellows, and more than 65 graduates, who now hold positions of distinction in academia, industry and government. He recently formed a Davis-based company, EicOsis, to develop an orally active non-addictive drug for inflammatory and neuropathic pain for human beings and companion animals. Human clinical trials are scheduled to begin in 2019. Several seed-fund grants and a NIH/NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) Blueprint Development Grant support EicOsis.
Hammock, described at the lab reunion as a “genius,” collaborates with scientists worldwide in what's been described as “unprecedented research with a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to research focused on insect biology, mammalian enzymology, and analytical chemistry.” He has authored more than 1000 publications on a wide range of topics in entomology, biochemistry, analytical and environmental chemistry in high quality journals, and has been cited more than 54,000 times. In the epoxide hydrolase field, the Hammock laboratory has published almost 900 peer-reviewed papers.
Tom Sparks, who was Hammock's first graduate student at UC Riverside, chronicled Hammock's career and recalled humorous anecdotes from his early professorship at UC Riverside. A former professor at Louisiana State University, and now a research fellow in Discovery Research at Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva Agriscience, Indianapolis, Sparks praised Hammock's intellect and curiosity. “For Bruce, it was all about the journey, looking around and operative at the interface between entomology, biochemistry and chemistry.”
Gill, along with University of Utah emeritus professor Glenn Prestwich and UC Davis research scientist Karen Wagner also delivered presentations, fondly recalling their shared time and science with Hammock.
Keith Wing, who was Hammock's second graduate student at UC Riverside/Davis, served as emcee at the lab reunion. A former senior research associate at DuPont and Rohm and Haas and current consultant, Wing said “Bruce has inspired many hundreds of developing scientists. For myself and many others, he was able to see what we could become as scientists and social contributors before we could see it ourselves."
Others commented that they learned this from Hammock: “We explore the unexpected and get to do things that don't work” and “Design things to fail; when they don't fail follow along.”
Hammock, the crowd agreed, seems to follow baseball legend Yogi Berra's sage advice: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Gill praised Hammock's “impact on human health, environmental health” as well as his love of the outdoors—from kayaking to mountain climbing.
Numerous alumni lauded Hammock's sense of humor. One scientist quoted Albert Einstein as saying “Creativity is intelligence having fun” and added “Bruce is always having fun.”
Among the other comments:
- “I never heard him speak a cross word.”
- "He treats everyone with respect.”
- "Bruce loves science and he loves people.”
- "He never heard a crazy idea.”
- "What Bruce does—he delivers the future.”
- "Bruce has a lot of determination and can approach difficult problems from multiple angles.”
- "Bruce values strong relationships with friends he has made over the years”
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Hammock received his bachelor of science degree, magna cum laude, in 1969 from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, where he majored in entomology and minored in zoology and chemistry. Then it was off to UC Berkeley, for his doctorate in entomology/toxicology in 1973, and postdoctoral fellowship.
It was at UC Berkeley where he met and married his wife, Lassie, who had just entered the doctoral program in plant physiology. They married in 1972 and then “the Army called me up,” Hammock remembers.
Hammock served as a public health medical officer/first lieutenant with the U.S. Army Academy of Health Science in San Antonio, Texas; and then did more postdoctoral research at the Rockefeller Foundation, Department of Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston. Ill.
Hammock then joined the faculty of the Division of Toxicology and Physiology, UC Riverside Department of Entomology in 1975 before heading for UC Davis in 1980 to accept a joint-faculty appointment in toxicology and entomology.
Bruce and Lassie reared three children: Tom, Bruce and Frances. “Frances and her husband, Adrian, teach math at UC San Diego; Bruce is on the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine faculty; and Tom, a graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory, makes movies,” Hammock said, adding that he and Lassie appeared in one of the movies that Tom directed: "The Last Survivors."
Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of scores of awards, including the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; and the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry.
Hammock told the crowd at the reunion that he began his career studying insect science but switched to human research after encountering “all the suffering involved in acute and neuropathic pain.”
His insect science research centered around how a key enzyme, epoxide hydrolase, degrades a caterpillar's juvenile hormone, leading to metamorphosis from the larval stage to the adult insect. He then wondered "Does the enzyme occur in plants? Does it occur in mammals?" It does, and particularly as a soluble epoxide hydrolase in mammals.
“It is always important to realize that the most significant translational science we do in the university is fundamental science,” said Hammock. “The extreme and poorly treated pain that I observed as a medical officer in a burn clinic in the Army, is a major driver for me to translate this knowledge to help patients with severe pain.”
And it all began with him asking how caterpillars turn into butterflies.
"Science is full of surprises," the distinguished UC Davis professor said. "We need to remember that the concept, the clinical target, and even the chemical structure came from asking how caterpillars turn into butterflies."
That's part of the creative title of a seminar that Arnaud Martin, assistant professor of biology, George Washington University, Washington, DC, will deliver next week to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Martin, an evolutionary geneticist who studies butterfly wing patterns, will speak on "Do Butterflies Dream of Genetic Tattoos? Exploring the Genotype-Phenotype Map Using CRISPR" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar at noon, Friday, Oct. 19 in 122 Briggs Hall, announced seminar coordinator Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
CRISPR is an abbreviation for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Definition: Segments of DNA containing short, repetitive base sequences in a palindromic repeat (the sequence of nucleotides is the same in both directions).
"He is doing some really cool work investigating the mechanisms underlying wing patterning in butterflies using CRISPR to knock out genes that regulate those mechanisms," said Attardo, who noted that the seminar was initially scheduled for 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 17 but was changed to noon, Friday, Oct. 19.
Martin, who researches the evolutionary and developmental genetics of butterflies and moths, was recently quoted in a Washington Post article (Sept. 19, 2017) titled "Mutant Butterflies Reveal the Genetic Roots of Colorful Wings." Reporter Ben Guarino wrote: "Engineered mutant butterflies give a glimpse deep into the genetic roots of wing patterns, an international team reported Monday in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences. The authors of the new study rearranged colors on butterfly wings by deleting a single gene using a genome editing tool called CRISPR. The gene's absence had a dramatic effect in sever butterfly species, including some that aren't closely related."
"We use butterfly wing patterns as a proxy to understand fundamental rules about the function of genes," Martin told Guarino.
About his UC Davis talk: "Understanding the generative mechanisms of morphological diversification requires the routine manipulation of genomes in a comparative context," Martin says. "I will present how current work using CRISPR mutagenesis has allowed to decipher developmental mechanisms behind the diversification of a spectacular of morphological radiation: the color wing patterns of butterflies. These experiments illustrate how evo-devo can delve into the genome-to-phenome relationship at different taxonomic nodes, from population levels to more macro-evolutionary scales. I will discuss this principle in the broader context of GepheBase (www.gephebase.org), a database of known genotype-phenotype that compiles from the literature more than 1600 allele pairs across all Eukaryotes."
Martin received his doctorate in biological sciences in 2010 from UC Irvine (thesis: "The Developmental Genetics of Color Pattern Evolution in Butterflies.") He then did postdoctoral research at Cornell University and UC Berkeley before joining the Department of Biological Sciences at George Washington University in January 2016.
He's the principal investigator on a $414,266 National Science Foundation grant (2017-2020) on "Collaborative Research: cis-Regulatory Basis of Butterfly Wing Pattern Evolution," and co-author of a research article on "CRISPR/Cas9 as the Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Butterfly Wing Pattern Development and Its Evolution," published in December 2017 in Advances in Insect Physiology.
The abstract: "With the exception of a few moth and butterfly species, gene-editing tools in Lepidoptera have been lagging behind other well-studied insects. In order to elucidate gene function across the order, it is necessary to establish tools that enable such gene manipulation. CRISPR/Cas9 is a promising technique and here we review the recent progress made in implementing the technique in butterflies; from broad patterning of the wing, to the development of specific colours in particular wing sections, to eyespot formation. The often species-specific responses to the CRISPR/Cas9-induced mutations in candidate genes, underscore the significance of these genes in the wide evolutionary diversification of butterfly wing patterns. We further discuss potential caveats in the interpretation of the resulting mutant phenotypes obtained through CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. Finally, we discuss the possibilities CRISPR/Cas9 offers beyond mere knockout of candidate genes, including the potential for the generation of transgenics that will further elucidate the developmental genetic basis for wing pattern evolution."
Attardo says the seminar will be recorded and posted at a later date.
When you head over to a nursery, and see bees and butterflies and other pollinators foraging on the plants, that's a good sign.
Buy the plants.
Promise: The pollinators will come.
Many gardeners and would-be gardeners are looking forward to the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Plant Sale--the "first entirely open-to-the-public plant sale of the fall season." It's set from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13 in the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, near the School of Veterinary Medicine.
Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden and the Davis Botanical Society receive 10 percent off their purchases. You can join online, at the door, or call ahead, officials say. New members receive a $10-off coupon as a thank you for joining.
That's a good incentive.
What plants are they offering? Download the inventory.
Meanwhile, summer has ended, fall crept in on Sept. 23, and winter is fast approaching--Dec. 21.
We caught a little sliver left of mellow mornings last weekend in the Kate Frey Pollinator Garden at Sonoma Cornerstone. An anise swallowtail, Papilio zelicaon, fluttered in, touched down to sip some nectar, and soared off. What a sight to see!
Buy a plant (help the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden), and promise, the pollinators that will surely come are free!