The paper, “Two Centuries of Monarch Butterfly Collections Reveal Contrasting Effects of Range Expansion and Migration Loss on Wing Traits,” appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Lead author Micah Freedman, a former UC Davis doctoral candidate in population biology and now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.
- Emeritus professor Hugh Dingle of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, a noted authority on migrant animal behavior
- Sharon Strauss, professor, Center for Population Biology and the Department of Evolution and Ecology
- Santiago Ramirez, associate professor, Center for Population Biology and the Department of Evolution and Ecology
What they did:
"We measured the wings of 6,000 museum specimens of monarch butterflies collected from 1856 to the present, as well as contemporary wild-caught monarchs from around the world,” Freedman said. "The major implications of the research,” Freedman said, “are that it shows (1) loss of migration can affect the evolution of monarch butterflies over contemporary time scales--dozens to hundreds of years; and (2) monarchs with large forewings are better-suited for long distance movement, and this likely contributed to their global expansion over the past 200 years.”
Their research documents how migration-associated traits may be favored during range expansion but disfavored when species cease seasonal migration. “Furthermore, it highlights the value of museum collections by combining historical specimens with experimental rearing to demonstrate contemporary evolution of migration-associated traits in natural monarch populations,” Freedman said.
Freedman worked closely with Dingle, a UC Davis entomology professor from 1982 to 2002 who achieved emeritus status in 2003. Dingle authored two editions of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press), is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a past president of the Animal Behavior Society. His research has taken him throughout the world, from the United States to the UK, Kenya, Thailand, Panama, Germany and Australia. National Geographic featured him in its cover story on “Great Migrations” in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on“Why Do Animals Migrate?”
The researchers analyzed monarch specimen collections from nearly two dozen museums, including the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, houses a global collection of nearly 8 million insect specimens. Directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, the Bohart is geared toward "Understanding, documenting and communicating terrestrial arthropod diversity," which appears on its logo; see website. (Note that the Bohart Museum is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic precautions.)
Said Dingle: “At a time when museum collections are under pressure from a scarcity of funding, the results also show just how valuable such collections can be to evolutionary research and to the understanding of ongoing biological processes in the face of anthropogenic change.”
His comments bear repeating:
That bears repeating: “At a time when museum collections are under pressure from a scarcity of funding, the results also show just how valuable such collections can be to evolutionary research and to the understanding of ongoing biological processes in the face of anthropogenic change.”
If you're a student and thinking about a science career, this is for you.
If you're someone interested in all things science, and want to learn more, this is for you.
And it's free.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology will host an open house themed “Time Flies When You Are Studying Insects: Cutting Edge Student Research,” from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus. Six UC Davis doctoral students will showcase their work and it's an opportunity for you to ask questions.
Ant research? Check!
Assassin fly research? Check!
Bat research? Check!
Think fruit flies (how do they tell time?)
Think monarchs (how do they know when to migrate?)
Think bark beetles (what kind of havoc do they wreak?)
Forensic entomology (what's that all about?)
Doctoral students who will present their research are:
- Entomologist Yao Cai of the Joanna Chiu lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (circadian clock research on fruit flies and monarchs)
- Entomologist Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies assassin flies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology (assassin flies and their prey)
- Entomologist Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (ants)
- Forest entomologist Crystal Homicz who studies with Joanna Chiu and research forest entomologist Chris Fettig, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Davis (forest beetles and what they do)
- Forensic entomologist Alexander Dedmon, who studies with Robert Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (forensic entomology tools and discussion)
- Ecologist Ann Holmes, affiliated with the Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Animal Science, and the Genomic Variation Laboratory, studies with major professors Andrea Schreier and Mandi Finger (what insects bat eat)
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,” Yang said.
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 Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, 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.
And, by the way, be sure to mark your calendar: on Saturday, Feb. 15 for the annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. That's when 13 museums or collections will be open to the public. You can meet the scientists and discuss their research. And, yes, it's free and family friendly.
John Mola, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won the $850 first-place award with his presentation on "Bumble Bee Movement and Landscape Genetics."
“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. “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. "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.”
In his abstract, Mola related: "Understanding the way organisms move through environments is crucial to our ability to monitor, study, or conserve species--after all, a habitat that is wholly inaccessible is no habitat at all. However, studies of wild bee movement lag far behind those of many numerous individuals. This limits our ability to answer basic questions like how large of an area is needed for individuals to forage? Or how close do conservation areas need to be connected? For honey bees, we can answer these questions through the study of their infamous waggle dance--which reveals the distance and director of their travel. However, most bees do not possess these complex communication behaviors and so our ability to understand their patterns of movement has rlied on mark-recapture, observation, and nascent advances in radar tracking or molecular methods."
He went on to share that "Here, I present a novel methodology for studying bumble bee movement using high-throughput sequencing techniques. This method provides substantial improvement in the accuracy of estimations while simultaneously giving us insight into fine-scale population genetics. Both factors can be important in the conservation and study of pollinators and our ability to 'keep bees healthy." I demonstrate the method's utility by presenting a few case studies of its implementation, and the insight we gain into wild bumble bee movement."
Judges were 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, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis. Master beekeeper/journalist Mea McNeil of San Anselmo served as the timer and coordinator for the panel.
Mola, who aims for a career "to run a collaborative research program as a faculty member at a research-oriented university,” received his bachelor's degree in environmental studies in 2011 from Florida State University,Tallahassee, and his master's degree in 2014 from Humboldt State University, Arcata, in biology.
Second place of $600 went to Maureen Page, a second-year Ph.D. student in Neal Williams lab for her research, “Impacts of Honey Bee Abundance on the Pollination of Eschscholzia californica (California golden poppy).”
Page presented her research on the impacts of honey bee abundance on native plant pollination. “While honey bees are economically important, they are not native to North America and may have negative impacts on native bees and native plant communities in certain contexts,” she related. “My research is ongoing, but preliminary results suggest that honey bee abundance may negatively affect the pollination of California poppies.”
In her abstract, Page wrote: "Many studies support the claim that introduced honey bees compete with native pollinators. However, little is known about how honey bee introductions will affect native plant communities and plant species' persistence."
Page, who seeks a career as a professor and principal investigator, received her bachelor's degree in biology from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif. in 2006, cum laude.
Third-Place, $300: Doctoral student Emily Kearney of UC Berkeley, for her research on “How Does Landscape Context Affect the Pollinator Community of Chocolate (Theobroma cacao)."
Fourth-Place (tie, $250 each): Doctoral student Jacob Francis of the University of Nevada, for his “A Sweet Solution to the Pollen Paradox: Nectar Mediates Bees' Responses to Defended Pollen” and Katie Uhl, a master's student, UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, for her “Determination of Volatile Organic Compounds in Mono-Floral Honey Using HS-SPME/GC/MS."
Fifth-Place ($150): Doctoral student Kimberly Chacon, UC Davis Geography Graduate Group, for her “A Landscape Ecology Approach to Bee Conservation and Habitat Design."
The annual Bee Symposium is sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, headed by director Amina Harris, and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, chaired by nematologist and professor Steve Nadler. Neal Williams serves as the co-faculty director of the Honey and Pollination Center.
If you spot a ladybug, don't just start reciting "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home."
Aim, click and shoot.
With a camera, that is.
Agricultural Research Service scientists and entomologists at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and South Dakota State University, Brookings, are surveying the country's ladybug species.
They want you to photograph every ladybug you see and send the photos to them so they can inventory them. They are specificially seeking rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse ladybeetles, but any and all ladybugs will do.
Ladybugs, also known as ladybeetles (family Coccinellidae and beetle order Coleoptera) are the "good guys" and "good gals." They prey on insects that eat our agricultural crops. They also help protect our nation's forests.
The good folks at The Lost Ladybug Project also offer some photo hints. They know that the bugs may not sit still for a photo shoot (let alone "smile") so they recommend you pop them in the freezer to slow them down. "You can do this in a freezer at home or in a cooler in the field," they say on their Web site. "Lady beetles can be chilled in a freezer safely for 5 minutes (over six may kill them) and this will quiet them for 2-4 minutes. Coolers are not as cold as freezers so it will take 30+ minutes to get 1-6 minutes of quiet time. They will survive for days in a chilled cooler."
Nope, I did not "chill" my ladybugs. No ladybugs were harmed or "chilled" in the making of these photographs. I popped the 60mm macro lens on my Nikon and stealthily waited amongst the Russian sage.