The highly respected California Academy of Sciences greeted its 2019 Class of Fellows on Oct. 15, and one of them is a pollination ecologist from the University of California, Davis.
Professor Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology was inducted into the scientific organization at the annual Bay Area gathering of the Fellows. The group includes more than 450 distinguished scientists who have made notable contributions to science.
Fellows nominate others for the high honor, and then the California Academy of Sciences' Board of Trustees votes on the nominees. James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology, nominated Williams, with Claire Kremen of the University of British Columbia, formerly of UC Berkeley, seconding the nomination. Maverakis was nominated by Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the entomology department.
In his letter of nomination, Carey wrote that Williams is “widely known and respected for his excellence in research, extension, outreach, teaching and leadership” and “is not only one of the stars of our campus, and the UC system, but is an internationally recognized leader in pollination and bee biology and strong voice in the development of collaborative research on insect ecology. He has organized national and international conferences, leads scores of working groups, and guides reviews of impacts of land use and other global change drivers on insects and the ecosystem services they provide.”
The UC Davis professor served as co-chair (with Extension apiclturist Elina Lastro Niño) of the seventh annual International Pollinator Conference, a four-day conference held July 17-20 on the UC Davis campus. The global conference focused on pollinator biology health and policy.
In his work--a labor of love--Williams seeks and finds found common solutions for sustaining both wild and managed bees and communicates that information to the public and stakeholder groups. Said Carey: “This is a critical perspective in natural and agricultural lands, but also in urban landscapes in northern and southern California.”
Each year the UC Davis professor speaks to multiple beekeeper, farmer and gardener groups, and provides guidance to governing bodies, including the state legislature, and environmental groups. He and his lab are involved in a newly initiated California Bombus assessment project, which is using both museum and citizen scientist records to understand past, current and future distributions and habitat use by bumble bees. This program will host a series of workshops this spring and summer open to practitioners and the public.
Williams received his doctorate in ecology and evolution in 1999 from the State University of New York, Stony Brook and served as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Bryn Mawr (Penn.) College from 2004 to 2009. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 2009, advancing to full professor in 2017.
His honors and awards are numerous. Williams was part of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the Team Research Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) in 2013. In 2015, he was named a five-year Chancellor's Fellow, receiving $25,000 to support his research, teaching and public service activities. And then earlier this year, Williams received PBESA's Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award, presented annually for outstanding accomplishments in the study of insect interrelationships with plants.
In addition to Carey, five others affiliated with UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology are Fellows of the California Academy of Sciences:
- Professor Phil Ward, ant specialist
- Frank Zalom, integrated pest management specialist and distinguished professor of entomology. He is a past president of the Entomological Society of America
- Robert E. Page Jr., bee scientist and UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor. He is a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and provost emeritus of Arizona State University
- Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the entomology department; and
- Visiting scientist Catherine Tauber, formerly of Cornell University.
Former Fellows from the UC Davis entomology department include Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, and visiting scientist Maurice Tauber (1931-2014), formerly of Cornell University.
It's a party.
It's a pollinator party.
It's the Bay Area Bee Fair in Berkeley.
And it's the place to be on Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Berkeley Flea Market, located at Ashby BART.
The second annual event, free and family friendly, is set from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will feature a presentation on "How to Save the Bees" by UC Berkeley professor Gordon Frankie; educational and entertainment opportunities, kids' art activities, pollinator-themed art, and plant, book and bee condo sales, as well as honey and bee products, according to organizers Jackie Dragon and Mary Lynn Morales, who describe themselves as "Bee Fair dreamers."
The Bay Area Bee Fair is a time to "celebrate, educate and motivate the community about bees and other pollinators," they said. "Their health is vital to our health."
- 10 a.m.: Opening and welcome
- 11 a.m.: "How to Make a Pollinator-Friendly Garden Presentation" by Andrea Hurd, of Mariposa Gardening
- Noon: "How to Save the Bees" by bee scientist Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley professor and co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
- 2:30 p.m.: Giant Puppets Pollinator Parade
- 3 p.m.: Closing
For more information, access:
The late Robbin Thorp, the renowned UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology and global bee authority who will be memorialized at a celebration of life on Friday, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis, began his career studying honey bees.
Professor Thorp, who served as a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death on June 7. In his retirement, he co-authored two books, both in 2014: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
Thorp was a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation and known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
The distinguished emeritus professor was also an authority on honey bees.
Said Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus: "We should not forget that Robbin originally was hired to work on honey bees, and he did. His greatest area of expertise was the use of honey bees in almond pollination. Robbin determined that until the colonies reached the population size of six frames of bees, they did not have enough spare bees to serve as foragers (pollinate almonds) since they were all needed to keep the brood warm."
"He also noted that the amount of pollen collected by the bees in a colony was pretty much in direct proportion to colony size, peaking at between 10 and 12 frames of bees," Mussen said. "It was obvious to Robbin that the bees still visited almond blossoms for nectar, days after there was no pollen left in the flowers and the stigmata were no longer young enough to be pollinated. Other studies determined which blossoms along the branches were pollinated earlier and later during the season. All of those studies were very well designed and the results contributed significantly to our recommendations to growers and beekeepers for obtaining maximum benefit from the bees."
“Robbin's scientific achievements during his retirement rival the typical career productivity of many other academic scientists,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “His contributions in support of understanding bee biodiversity and systematics are a true scientific legacy.” (See more about Robbin Thorp)
Robbin Thorp was a treasure, a gem in the entomological world of bees and beyond./span>
Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, was a global authority on bees and he generously shared his expertise with others.
"Robbin had a long, well-respected career in pollination biology and bee taxonomy, but when he retired, he became even more engaged," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. "He became the go-to person for everyone working on pollination in the western states. Many careers were made with his assistance."
"I've known Robbin since I was a graduate student at UC Davis," Kimsey said. "Even though he wasn't my major professor, my project was on bees and he was incredibly helpful and supportive. His enthusiasm about pollinators and bees in particular actually grew after he retired, and he continued helping students and researchers and was the backbone of so much research. His support and kindness was matched by his undemanding assistance and expertise. What a terrible loss to his family and to the research and conservation communities."
Now Kimsey is coordinating the celebration of life for Thorp. It will take place from 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11 in the Putah Creek Lodge, located on Putah Creek Lodge Drive, southwest section of the UC Davis Arboretum.
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death.
A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, Thorp was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
“Robbin's scientific achievements during his retirement rival the typical career productivity of many other academic scientists,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “His contributions in support of understanding bee biodiversity and systematics are a true scientific legacy.
In his retirement, Thorp co-authored two books Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014). Locally, he was active in research projects and open houses at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden on Bee Biology Road operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He detected and identified more than 80 species of bees in the haven.
Colleague Norman Gary, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, earlier said that "I doubt that there is anyone else in the world who can compete with his expertise in the systematics of the 20,000 species of bees on this earth."
"Robbin was one of the few people in North America who could identify bees down to the species level,” said former graduate student Katharina Ullmann, director of the UC Davis Student Farm, Agricultural Sustainability Institute, and a UC Davis alumnus (doctorate in entomology).
Every summer from 2002 to 2018, Thorp volunteered his time and expertise to teach at The Bee Course, an annual workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The intensive 9-day workshop, considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists.
Highly honored by his peers, Thorp was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco in 1986; recipient of the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship of UC Davis in 2010; and recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won PBESA's Team Award in 2013. In addition, he was a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and former chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
Williams said the PBESA symposium was “perhaps the greatest honor one can receive from close colleagues--a special symposium honoring him and his contributions to the field of bee biology and pollination. We designed the symposium to honor the impact of Dr. Thorp, on the field of bee biology and conservation, but at the same time present innovative research that brings together bee and pollination biology researchers."
An authority on the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp began monitoring the bumble bee population in 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He had not seen it since 2006 and was instrumental in placing the bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He was the former regional co-chair of the North America IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group.
In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to a meadow where Thorp last saw Franklin's bumble bee. Sutter wrote about Thorp, then 82, in a piece he titled "The Old Man and the Bee," a spinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
His wife, Joyce, 84, preceded him in death on Dec. 9, 2018. Survivors include three children, Kelly, Katie and Jeff, and stepchildren Donna Gary and Steve Gary.
No monarchs this time of year, you say?
Well, this one was little Saathiya Patel, 4, riding the shoulders of her Pollinator Posse-father, Seth Newton Patel of Oakland. When he tossed her in the air, she spread her wings!
What a joy to see!
Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, delivered his second annual presentation on butterflies, this one on "Are Butterflies Heralds of the Insect Apocalypse?" (more about that later).
Meanwhile, it's good to see the Pollinator Posse, co-founded by Tora Rocha and Terry Smith, helping out our beleaguered butterflies and native bees.
Rocha and Smith formed the Pollinator Posse (see their Facebook page) in Oakland in 2013 to create pollinator-friendly landscaping in urban settings and to foster appreciation of local ecosystems through outreach, education and direct action.
Rocha, a retired Oakland parks supervisor, says that eco-friendly landscape techniques are at the heart of their work. "We teach respect for the creatures which keep Oakland--and the world--blooming."
"We envision a day when life-enhancing, thought-inspiring green spaces will grace every corner of the city and the world beyond," Rocha says.
This is a dedicated group, committed to making a difference, and what a difference they are making! Their activities include rearing monarchs and other butterflies; encouraging folks to plant the host plant and nectar sources; showing children how to make bee condos or bee hotels--AirBeeNBees--for native bees; and hosting "Tees for Bees," at which youths visit golf courses to hit pollinator friendly seed balls "which help make the courses more habitable for beneficial insects," Rocha says. (See news story on Best Garden Whiz and Butterfly Savior: Victoria 'Tora' Rocha.)
Tora Rocha and her fellow Pollinator Posse love it when monarchs take flight. So do we. And so does Pollinator Posse member Seth Newton Patel and his daughter, Saathiya, already a monarch enthusiast at age 4.