UC Davis Distinguished Professor Walter Leal: Third Academic Senate Award
The UC Davis Academic Senate today announced that UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, is the recipient of the Faculty Distinguished Research Award.
And with that award, comes Academic Senate history.
Leal is the first UC Davis faculty member to be honored by the Academic Senate for all three of its awards celebrating outstanding teaching, public service and research. In 2020, the Academic Senate awarded him the Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching, and in 2022 Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award.
“Dr. Leal is an internationally recognized entomologist and a world leader in his field for his groundbreaking and transformative research in insect olfaction and chemical ecology,” said nominator UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, who won the Academic Senate's Faculty Research Award in 2001 and its Distinguished Teaching (Graduate Students/Professional) Award in 2008.
Leal said he's honored and humbled to receive the award, but emphasized that “it's a team effort.” See more.
Professor Louie Yang Receives Academic Senate's Distinguished Teaching Award
“I have watched him engage, inspire, and challenge his students, fostering creative and critical thinking like no one else I've ever seen,” Joanna Chiu, professor and chair of the department, wrote in her nomination letter. “We deeply appreciate and admire his innovative and inclusive teaching, his exemplary work ethic, his welcoming demeanor, his dedication to his students, and his nationally recognized ecology expertise. Louie has received many well-deserved teaching and mentoring awards for his teaching contributions on and off campus.” See more.
Professor Joanna Chiu: PBESA's Student Mentoring Award
Professor Chiu will receive the award at the PBESA meeting, set April 14-17 in the city of Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii. PBESA encompasses 11 Western states, plus parts of Canada and Mexico, and U.S. territories.
Nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and former chair of the department, nominated her for the mentoring award. He praised her as “an incredible mentor, inspirational, dedicated and passionate about helping her students succeed, as exemplified by her receiving the 2022 UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching and Mentoring Award for her contributions to graduate student and professional mentoring, and the 2023 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research. See more.
He will deliver his seminar at 4:10 p.m., Monday, Jan. 29 in 122 Briggs and on Zoom. The Zoom link:
"Forests cover approximately 30 percent of the Earth's landmass and provide important ecosystem services that include food, fuel, and timber, as well as habitat for diverse organisms," Johnson writes in his abstract. "Threats posed to forests by invasive and pestiferous species are rapidly growing.
"Global change, an umbrella term that includes may human-mediated processes such as climate change and international trade, is altering the structure and functioning of forests. Our recently formed research group studies how natural variation impacts the outcomes of interactions between trees, herbivores, and the natural enemies of herbivores. My seminar will provide an overview of our ongoing and developing studies to better understand how variation in chemistry across the landscape shapes the fitness of woodboring insects, and how this variation can be harnessed to optimize management of forest ecosystems."
His research group studies the behavioral and chemical ecology of forest arthropods, with an emphasis on building fundamental knowledge that can further our understanding and management of natural and managed ecosystems. Johnson received his bachelor's degree in biology from Moravian College, his master's degree in entomology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to accepting his position at LSU in the fall of 2022, he was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of New Hampshire.
The research, “Circabidian Rhythm of Sex Pheromone Reception in a Scarab Beetle,” published in the Jan. 18 edition of Current Biology, marks the first sex pheromone receptor identified in Coleoptera, the order of beetles.
While most insects exhibit a 24-hour circadian rhythm that regulates their behavior and physiology, the large black chafer beetle, Holotrichia parallela, operates on a 48-hour clock, said Leal, a global expert on insect olfaction and communication. A professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, he is a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, now the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“Insects smell with their antennae,” said Leal, who has unraveled the molecular mechanisms of mosquitoes, true bugs, long horned beetles, moths and other insects. “They have a sophisticated olfactory system and can selectively detect minute amounts of odorants.”
The female H. parallela emerges from the soil every other night, after sunset, climbs the canopy of the host plant, and seeks a mate by releasing a sex pheromone. Leal wanted to know if the males are also on a 48-hour rhythm clock, and he wanted to identify the elusive male gene in the pheromone receptor that allows the male to scent the female's pheromone.
The answers: “yes” and “yes.”
“I have been waiting for almost three decades to answer these questions,” Leal said. “I identified the sex pheromone of this beetle species in 1993 while working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Japan. At that time, I found for the first time a very unusual sex pheromone, which is derived from an amino acid. Now similar sex pheromones have been identified from many species of beetles.”
“Also, we showed that females produce the sex pheromone every other night,” Leal said. “The burning question in biology is what males do about sensing or smelling the female sex pheromone. Back then, we had no idea how insects sense smell. With the advancements in sequencing, we identified all potential receptors and identified which one senses the sex pheromone. COVID happened and delayed our research collaboration. Finally, we found that the receptor is expressed every other day.”
“This is remarkable,” Leal said. “How do they know when it is a 'date night' or a non-calling night? It is still a mystery, but we will find out one day.”
Leal and Yin and their team pointed out that virtually all life on Earth experiences a 24-hour circadian rhythm, which affects almost all behaviors, including sexual activity and mating.
Leal, a native of Brazil, received his Ph.D. in applied biochemistry from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, with subsequent postdoctoral training in entomology and chemical ecology at the National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Science and Cornell University, respectively. He was the first non-Japanese person to earn tenure at Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.
Leal, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 2000, is a newly elected trustee of the Royal Entomological Society, the first UC Davis scientist to be elected a trustee. He chaired the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 2006-2008 before accepting a position in 2008 as professor of biochemistry in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. His many honors include Fellow of the Entomological Society of America (2009), American Association for the Advancement of Science (2005), and the National Academy of Inventors (2019).
Other co-authors of the Current Biology paper: Yinliang Wang, Huanhuan Dong, Yafei Qu, Jianhui Qin, Kebin Li, Yazhong Cao and Shuai Zhang, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing; Yuxin Zhou and Bingzhong Ren, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China; and Chen Luo, Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences.
The research drew financial support from the National Key R&D Foundation of China; National Natural Science Foundation, China; and the Natural Science Foundation of Beijing.
- For This Beetle, ‘Date Night' Comes Every Other Day, Jan. 18, 2024, Andy Fell, UC Davis News and Media Relations
- Walter Leal Elected Trustee of Royal Entomological Society, Sept. 5, 2023
That's the title of the Jan. 22nd seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and presented by William Ja, associate professor, Herbert Wertheim Scripps UF Institute for Biomedical Innovation and Technology in Jupiter, Florida.
The seminar is at 4:10 p.m., in 122 Briggs Hall. It also will be on Zoom. The Zoom link:
"The Ja lab uses the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model organism for uncovering the genetic and neuronal mechanisms that drive aging, behavior, and disease," Ja says in his abstract. "Recently developed tools allow us to track fly feeding behavior with unparalleled resolution. These tools facilitate the identification of genes and circuits that regulate food intake at diverse time scales, including studies of: 1) meal intake; 2) daily (circadian) feeding rhythms; and 3) compensatory feeding in response to high or low quality food. Our studies of feeding behavior and nutrition also inform aging interventions, including a novel caloric restriction paradigm and an intermittent fasting regime that extends fly life through the stimulation of circadian-regulated autophagy. Overall, our fly studies shed light on basic neurobiological principles that drive animal behavior, providing insights that potentially inform the development of conserved therapeutic strategies."
Ja received his chemistry degree at UC Berkeley, working with Richard Mathies and Alex Glazer on DNA sequencing technologies. He pursued doctoral studies at the California Institute of Technology with Rich Roberts, utilizing mRNA display technology to identify modulators of G protein signaling. Ja remained at Cal Tech as a postdoctoral scholar to work with Seymour Benzer on developing longevity ‘drugs' in Drosophila. His laboratory focuses on aging and nutrition, animal behavior, and host-microbiome interactions.
Seminar coordinator is Brian Johnson, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. For Zoom technical issues, he may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the seminars is here
The Bohart Museum of Entomology recently hosted an evening open house to engage and inform UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology biologists on how to streamline their efforts at all stages of their research, from collecting insects and arachnids to using the Bohart specimens.
More than two dozen scientists, including UC Davis undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, researchers, associates and faculty, attended. They gathered information on:
- Making wet, dry or cryo collections
- Donating, borrowing or sampling museum specimens from the Bohart or from collections around the world
- Prepare specimens and formatting labels
- Field collecting (equipment, permits, storing, regionally and internationally)
- Identifications services
- Language for grants, and budget development
- Science communication: public outreach, and broader impacts
UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, led the event. Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the lepidoptera collection, offered a pinning demonstration. (See one of his previous videos.) Others assisting were other Bohart staff and associates, including the laboratory of arachnologist Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and associate dean, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The Bohart Museum has an online playlist of 11 short videos on "How to Make an Insect Collection." It was the brainchild of UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey, who led a class of entomology students 13 years ago to create tightly scripted clips, with an emphasis on brevity, simplicity and low cost.
The entire series can be viewed in less than 10 minutes. The clips range in length from 32 seconds to 77 seconds. UC Davis forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey provided the introductory narration for each clip. See Bohart web page for more information on insect collecting and links to the videos.
- Hand Collecting
- Using an Aspirator
- Ground Collecting
- Aquatic Collecting
- Using Nets
- How to Kill Insects
- How to Point Mount
- Storage and Display
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946, houses a global collection of eight million insect specimens. The insect museum is open to the public Mondays through Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, and from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information contact email@example.com or telephone (530) 752-0493.