And now doctoral candidate John Mola of the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will present his exit seminar on "Bumble Bee Movement Ecology and Response to Wildfire" at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9 in Room 122 of Briggs Hall.
Mola, who specializes in bee biology, pollinator ecology and population genetics, says in his abstract:
"Observing bumble bees on flowers can be a deceptive practice. When standing in a field looking at a bunch of bees, we have little clue about the distances they traveled to get there or the number of colonies to which the individuals belong. However, modern genetic tools let us reveal this unseen information. In my dissertation I use genetic mark-recapture to understand two areas of general ecological interest and apply them to bumble bees: organismal movement and disturbance ecology. In this talk I discuss what I learned about bumble bee movement ecology in a subalpine meadow complex and insights gained from an unexpected opportunity to study the response of a bumble bee population to wildfire."
Mola holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental studies from Florida State University, and a master's degree in biology at Humboldt State University. He enrolled in the UC Davis Ph.D. program in ecology in 2014.
In August 2019 Mola published a "Review of Methods for the Study of Bumble Bee Movement" in Apidologie with his major professor, co-author and pollination ecologist Neal Williams. The abstract:
"Understanding animal movement is critical for conservation planning, habitat management, and ecological study. However, our understanding is often limited by methodological constraints. These limitations can be especially problematic in the study of ecologically and economically important pollinators like bumble bees, where several aspects of their biology limit the feasibility of landscape-scale studies. We review the methods available for the study of bumble bee movement ecology, discussing common limitations and tradeoffs among several frequent data sources. We provide recommendations on appropriate use for different life stages and castes, emphasizing where recent methodological advances can help reveal key components of understudied parts of the bumble bee life cycle such as queen movement and dispersal. We emphasize that there is no one correct method and encourage researchers planning studies to carefully consider the data requirements to best address questions of interest."
Mola expanded on the topic on his website: "This manuscript contains more within it than the title alone lets on. Understanding the landscape-scale movements of bumble bees has long-plagued researchers despite heavy interest. In some ways reviewing the methods is to review the history of bumble bee movement research. We cover the tools one may use for tracking bumble bees. We also include information on how to interpret and contextualize results, considerations on conceptualizing bumble bee movement, and suggestions for future research efforts. I think folks will find the table and supplemental information particularly handy in planning research and writing manuscripts (we provide a long list of great studies on bumble bee movement in the supplemental). If you're really interested in the research area, consider coming to BOMBUSS 2.0 where Jamie Strange and I will be co-leading a session on this very topic. https://wildlifepreservation.ca/about-bombuss/"
In 2018, Mola wowed the judges at the graduate student research poster competition at the fourth annual UC Davis Bee Symposium for his work on "Bumble Bee Movement and Landscape Genetics." As the first-place winner, he received the $850 cash prize. The judges: Tom Seeley, professor at Cornell University, the symposium's keynote speaker; speaker Santiago Ramirez, assistant professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis.
“In conservation biology and ecological study, we must know the distances organisms travel and the scales over which they go about their lives,” Mola said of his work at the time. “To properly conserve species, we have to know how much land they need, how close those habitats need to be to each other, and the impact of travel on species success. For instance, if I'm told there's free burritos in the break room, I'm all over it. If the 'free' burritos require me traveling to Scotland, it's not worth it and I would spend more energy (and money) than I would gain. For pollinators, it's especially important we understand their movement since the distances they travel also dictates the quality of the pollination service they provide to crop and wild plants."
“Despite this importance, we know comparatively little about the movements of bees--the most efficient of pollinators--due to the difficulty of tracking individuals," Mola explained.
Mola says that "Unlike birds or large mammals, we can't just attach large radio collars and follow them around. As such, my work has focused on improving methods that we can use for study. I use a combination of landscape ecology and molecular genetics to identify the locations of siblings (colony-mates) in landscapes. From that information, we can infer all sorts of useful information about the potential foraging range, habitat use, population size, etc. It's a very exciting time to be working on these topics as the availability of new genetic and GPS technologies allows us to answer or re-address scientific and conservation issues with bees.”
Mola's next step: Fort Collins, Colo., where he will be a USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) Mendenhall postdoctoral fellow.
How fast time passes.
Bick will present her exit seminar at 3 p.m., Monday, Aug. 5 in Room 158 of Briggs Hall. Her topic: "Evaluating the Relative Importance of Mechanisms for Diverse Plant Use in Agroecosystem Herbivore Mitigation: an Example in California Strawberries."
"As pest management strategies shift away from agrochemical use, practitioners aim to implement more ecologically friendly practices," Bick writes in her abstract. "One such practice uses diverse crops placed in an agroecosystem to mitigate pest damage. There are many possible mechanisms which facilitate this phenomenon. Knowing a diverse plant's mechanism(s) allows for more efficient field implementation."
"This presentation will evaluate the mechanism of the economic benefit of planting alfalfa in a California strawberry monoculture. Using a novel CO2 based sampling method, spatially explicit samples were taken at three sites over two years. We found that alfalfa did not act, as previously identified, a trap crop, but rather its presence actually increased natural enemies. This work serves as a framework for evaluation of the mechanism for use of diverse plants in agricultural landscapes."
Bick, who has accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Copenhagen, specializes in integrated pest management (IPM). She received her bachelor's degree in entomology in 2013 from Cornell University, and her master's degree in entomology in 2017 from UC Davis. She joined the doctoral program in September 2015.
Bick served as an emergency medical technician from 2008 to 2017 and gained her pesticide applicator's license in 2013. She was singled out to receive the Student Certification Award at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in 2018. In 2014, she was named a Board-Certified Entomologist, a honor bestowed on her at the ESA meeting.
Bick helped anchor the UC Davis Linnaean Games Team that won the national championship at the ESA meeting in 2016, and the University of California (UC Davis and UC Berkeley) Linnaean Games Team that won the national championship again in 2018. (See Bug Squad blog.) The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts and played by winners of the ESA branch competitions. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions. (Watch the 2016 championship round on YouTube).
Bick was also active in the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), serving as vice president.
A person of many talents, she wrote a highly praised review of the San Francisco-staged play, An Entomologist's Love Story, published in May of 2018 in Entomology Today. Tweeted the San Francisco Playhouse: “Quite possibly the coolest review we've ever received.”
In her review, Bick wrote that the play “shows that life imitates art and art imitates life, with insect mating rituals serving as a proxy for human dating behavior.”
“The well-known antagonistic insect mating behavior of bed bugs' traumatic insemination, praying mantids' sexual cannibalism, and honey bees' mating plugs are all accurately described and then used to represent adversarial (human) dating behavior. Fireflies' bioluminescence, meanwhile, is cast in a romantic light.”
“The play brims with entomological humor, from anthropomorphizing bed bugs to a running joke that sometimes volunteers actually make life harder for researchers,” Bick noted. “While the public will be entertained by the gross descriptions of entomological behavior (pun intended), only we insect scientists will know that the 'Lou' the protagonists keep referring to is actually Dr. Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (and that, yes, he does keep a bed bug colony there). Or, for those of us who have been lucky enough to take a tour, you know the Museum's offices really are that difficult to get to.”
Now it's off to the historic University of Copenhagen for the next chapter of her entomological life. "I am moving to Copenhagen on Aug. 31 but moving out of Davis the week before," she says.
That would be as Dr. Emily Bick...entomologist extraordinaire.
“Jess” with “icicles.”
That's because Jessica Gillung, who received her doctorate in entomology last Friday at the University of California, Davis, is heading for snowy Ithaca, New York, where she has accepted a postdoctoral position with professor Bryan Danforth at Cornell University.
In the Cornell lab, "Dr. Jessica" or "Dr. Jessicles" will be researching Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
At UC Davis, she studied the parasitoid flies commonly known as spider flies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis; mentor Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and collaborator Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology.
Last Friday afternoon, Gillung delivered her exit seminar on “Phylogenetic Relationships of Spider Flies (Acroceridae) – Discordance, Uncertainty and the Perils of Phylogenomics” to a packed crowd in 122 Briggs Hall.
Acrocerid adults are floral visitors, and some are specialized pollinators, while the larvae are internal parasitoids of spiders.
At the exit seminar, she professed “I love parasitoids.” She comically described Accoceridae species as varied; some look like “boomerangs,” some are “fuzzy” and some are "metallic."
The entomologist said she looks forward to researching Hymenoptera (including “vegan hunting wasps”).
It was a whirlwind day for Jessica Gillung. First the exit seminar at 2 p.m., followed by the awarding of her doctorate, and then a party at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, where she and her colleagues dined on pie, cake and ice cream; toasted her with champagne, and lavished her with gifts. She and Amir Ghoddoucy (they met at the California Department of Food and Agriculture office in Sacramento), are traveling--by car--to Ithaca.
She doesn't know where she'll be at Christmas. “On the road somewhere,” she said, smiling.
Highly honored for her research and leadership, Gillung recently won the prize for best student presentation at the recent 9th International Congress of Dipterology in Windhoek, Namibia, and won the prestigious 2018 Student Leadership Award, presented by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), which represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Gillung, a native of Brazil, holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil and a master's degree in zoology from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She speaks four languages fluently: Portuguese, Spanish, English and German.
At the Bohart party, she briefly conversed in Portuguese, accepting warm congratulations from a longtime friend.
None of the non-speaking Portuguese guests surrounding them knew if she answered to “Dr. Jessicles..."