The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Pheronym, a company in Alachua, Fla., that develops and produces nematode pheromones, have announced plans to send nematodes (small round worms) to the International Space Station as early as this year.
The news, announced Feb. 20 on the ARS website, may have been overlooked by many ("What's a nematode?") but not by nematologists and other scientists.
The headline: "Starship Nematode."
"The mission represents a look into the future where food crops will be grown in space," according to writer Sharon Dunham. "The goal is to develop environmentally friendly methods for space travel that are not harmful to humans," she wrote. "This will be the first biological control experiment in space."
She went on to relate that experiment will "test the movement and infection behavior of beneficial nematodes (also called entomopathogenic nematodes or EPNs) that control a wide array of insect pests in agriculture." ARS research entomologist, David Shapiro-Ilan at the Fruit and Tree Nut Research Station in Byron, Ga., is co-project director of the experiment.
Nematodes, Dunham said, are "environmentally friendly alternatives to broad spectrum chemical insecticides and are also safe to humans and other nontarget organisms. One fascinating aspect of the EPN biology is that the nematodes kill their insect pest hosts with the aid of symbiotic bacteria that are carried in the nematode gut."
Nathan Augustus Cobb (1859-1932), the "father of nematology in the United States," had this to say about a world without nematodes.
"In short, if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings, there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites."
In fact, nematodes seem totally destructible.
The event, free, family friendly and educational, is always held on Presidents' Day weekend. It's billed as a time "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."
The times will be staggered. Some collections will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and others, from noon to 4 p.m. Here's a list of what you can see, with links to their websites:
Room 1124 and hallway of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane
Greenhouses along Kleiber Hall Drive
340 Equine Lane, off Old Davis Road
Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (Noon to 4 p.m.)
Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road (take West Hutchison Drive to Hopkins (take West Hutchison Drive to Hopkins)
Marine Invertebrate Collection (not linked) (Noon to 4 p.m.)
Sciences Laboratory Building, off Kleiber Hall Drive
Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Room 1394, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lame
Nematode Collection (Noon to 4 p.m.)
Paleontology Collection (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Earth and Physical Sciences Building, 434 LaRue Road
Phaff Yeast Culture Collection (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
Viticulture Enology Culture Collection (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, 392 Old Davis Road, on campus
Want a peek at what happened last year? See the YouTube video, the work of UC Davis student Alexander Fisher-Wagner.
There will be plenty of attractions for youngsters, including the insect petting zoo at the Bohart Museum; dinosaur bones at the Paleontology Collection; carnivorous plants at the Conservatory; Vegemite and Kombucha (to eat!) at the Yeast Collection; demonstrations of eagles and hawks and other birds at the Raptor Center; prehistoric tool demonstrations (flint knapping, atlatl throwing) at tje Anthropology Collection; leaf rubbing and olive wreath crown making at the Arboretum; insect vacuum for observation at the Bee Haven, and pine cone petting zoo at the Herbarium.
Yes, you can pet stick insects at the Bohart Museum and pet pine cones at the Herbarium.
Meanwhile, you can find more information on the Biodiversity Museum Day website. (More information is pending)/span>
What was diagnostic parasitologist Lauren Camp of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital wearing on her head as she talked about the nematode collection last Saturday at the seventh annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day?
“The hookworm in that image is a parasite of dogs,” explained Camp, who received her doctorate in entomology in 2016 from UC Davis, studying with major professor Steve Nadler, chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “This nematode lives in the small intestine of dogs, and is pretty small, at around 14-16 mm. Dogs can have no symptoms from this parasite, but the parasite can be fatal in some cases. Some of the hookworm samples I showed on Saturday were red because hookworms eat blood from their hosts in addition to eating the intestinal lining. Importantly, Ivana Li made the hat for me using papier mache!”
That would be entomologist Ivana Li, a UC Davis biology lab manager who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2013.
Among nematologists staffing the collection, displayed from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Sciences Laboratory Building, were graduate students Corwin Parker and Chris Pagan, who study with major professor Steve Nadler.
Camp, who hails from rural northern Indiana, first became interested in parasites as an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, where she received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2005. She went on to earn her master's degree in biology from Wake Forest University in 2007 and her doctorate from UC Davis in December 2017. Her doctoral research focused on the genetic characterization of raccoon roundworm, a zoonotic nematode, in North America.
Camp joined the Clinical Diagnostic Laboratories Parasitology Lab in August 2017. Her responsibilities include looking through feces to find and identify parasites. “Many of these parasites are nematodes,” she points out.
"My specific interest in nematode parasites developed when I read some of Dr. Nadler's work on the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for an invertebrate biology class," she related.
Nematologists are accustomed to answering "What's a nematode?"
In one word, "worms."
“Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms--they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue," Camp told us back in 2017, prior to setting up a display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Parasite Palooza. "I find parasites particularly fascinating, because they are dependent on another organism (or organisms) for part or all of their life cycle."
Camp appeared Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017 on Good Day Sacramento's "Parasite Palooza" show with entomologist Jeff Smith, curator of the moth and butterfly specimens at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. They shared and showed specimens and live insects. Camp mentioned a 30-foot-long whale nematode. (See http://gooddaysacramento.cbslocal.com/video/category/spoken-word-good-day/3610653-parasite-palooza/). Her public service activities also include speaking to Capital Public Radio. (See http://www.capradio.org/88726.)
Do you know where your nematodes are? If you're a grower, you should.
"To make informed management decisions and ensure that environmentally damaging soil fumigants are applied only when and where needed, growers need to know precisely the density and distribution of pest nematodes," says nematologist Amanda Hodson, a professional researcher in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who will present a departmental seminar at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 31 in 122 Briggs Hall.
Hodson, who will deliver the hourlong seminar on "Molecular Detection and Integrated Management of Plant Parasitic Nematodes," studies the interrelationships between nematode pests, ecosystem functioning and management decisions.
"Molecular methods overcome some of the drawbacks of the labor and time intensive process of nematode detection," she says. "Our analysis has established the accuracy of real time PCR (qPCR) primers which accurately differentiate and quantify several pest nematodes from other nematodes in the soil including lesion nematode (Pratylenchus vulnus), ring nematode (Mesocriconema xenoplax) and two separate groups of root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.). Integrated management of these soil pests requires better understanding of the interactions between nematode pest suppression, soil food webs, management tactics, crop productivity, and soil health. Our experiments link managing for nematode pest suppression with other desired ecological outcomes such as increased soil organic matter and nutrient cycling in cropping systems such as almonds, tomatoes and carrots."
Hodson's research integrates plant and root biology with the fields of entomology, nematology, acarology and biogeochemistry. She completed her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 2010 on the ecological effects of a biological control agent in pistachio orchards, finding that the entomopathogenic nematode, Steinernema carpocapsae, caused temporary changes in native soil food webs. Following up on these results in the laboratory, she found that the European earwig (Forficula auricularia) could serve as a novel host for the nematode. This susceptibility depended on host body size with significantly higher mortality rates seen in larger earwigs.
The departmental seminars (see schedule) are open to all interested persons. Seminar coordinators are assistant professor Rachel Vannette, Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and doctoral student Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab.
But they did when UC Davis student Hannah Trumbull, a human development major and political science minor from Albany, Calif., delivered her address at the recent UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences commencement.
What's a nematode, you ask?
Short answer: worms. Longer answer? “Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms—they exist in almost every known environment on the plant, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue,” says UC Davis nematologist/parasitologist Lauren Camp, received her doctorate from UC Davis last December.
Enter Hannah Trumbull. Last winter she enrolled in a human development course on longevity taught by James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, and a recipient of national and international teaching recognitions.
What Trumbull had to say about worms, aka flatworms, at her commencement address stirred the crowd.
“Out of all the lessons I learned at Davis, the one I am thinking about today, that I come back to again and again, is that the best I can hope for in my life is to uphold the standard of a healthy flatworm,” Trumbull told her audience.
“I took a human development course on longevity with Professor Carey last winter and one day he lectured about how to characterize nematode health as an example of lifespan measures.”
"Here are the four stages of nematode health, in order from most to least healthy, and I hope you'll see why this struck me as profound.
- A Class A nematode is in constant motion.
- A Class B nematode only moves when prodded.
- A Class C nematode does not move even when prodded.
- A Class D nematode is a dead nematode.
"To reiterate: Constant motion, moving when prodded, not moving when prodded, death. In essence, all possible human responses to life can be boiled down to categorize us as degrees of healthy nematodes.
"Walking out of Haring Hall after Professor Carey's lecture, I stopped and bought a square of baklava from the Afghan Student Association bake sale and got handed about seventeen half-sheet flyers encouraging me to rush a service sorority, come to a disco dance-a-thon, volunteer at a honey bee festival and learn how to make my own shoes. I smiled at the man in all white who preaches on the quad with his dog and the guy who wears a kilt and plays celtic flute music. Young people threw frisbees, climbed trees, and played guitar, and I knew that if I went up to any of them I would be welcome to join in. This university is a massive petri dish with as many opportunities for motion as you have hours in your day. The difference between a Class B and a Class C nematode is whether we choose to respond.
"When a swastika was spray-painted near campus that year, those same community members were at my door with flowers and hugs checking in on me and asking how they could help. When the Davis mosque was attacked in a hate crime this year, I was immediately at their doors with all the support I could give. Communities set us into motion by propelling us outside of our own petri dishes and respond to the ways that other people are prodded. As a textbook Class A nematode once told me: 'the name of the game is do your best every single time and never stop.' The hard part, and the empowering part, is that from here on out the rules of the game are open to interpretation.
"Nematodes do not undergo somatic cell division, so they only ever have 159 cells. In contrast, millions of the cells in your body have divided, died, and been replaced since we entered this room today. How lucky are we to have the chance to recreate ourselves, in these constantly moving bodies? Entering this new stage of our lives, we must be cognizant of the threat of stillness. It is easy to become jaded and apathetic Class C nematodes who do not even move when prodded. Say yes to constant motion, take the hand of the opportunities for creation around you and in your future. College has taught me that hard work pays off, as does intelligence, but most of all it pays off to keep moving. To do your best every time. As we move into the next stage of our lives, I encourage each of you to take what you have learned in the course of your journey, and find how it can motivate necessary motion, widely, constantly and to the best of your ability. Thank you."
At UC Davis, Trumbull served as a board member of Challah for Hunger, program leader at the Multifaith Living Community, program staff at YMCA Youth and Government, and a recreation leader for the City of Davis. She lived at the Turtle House, a cooperative living house where she published magazines of student art and operated a “Taco Trike” that raised money for Planned Parenthood.
Career plans? Trumbull draws inspiration from her mother, a kindergarten teacher, to go into public education policy, and her father, a general contractor and small business owner, "to try to one day build an intentional living community." Next step: working at the Bay Area nonprofit Rising Sun.