But if you're Jasmin Ramirez Bonilla, a UC Davis graduate student in entomology, you're seeking to control these agricultural pests through more effective integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.
Jasmin, who plans to complete her master's degree in the spring of 2022, recently presented her thesis proposal, “Advancing Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Cucumber Beetles in California,” to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at a Zoom session.
“The beetle of focus for my thesis is the Western striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma trivittatum,” said Jasmin, who studies with major professor and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “A second species, the Western spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata--a milder pest but still a pest of melons-- is also part of my project but not the primary subject of my studies.”
Her thesis project consists of three objectives:
- Characterize the non-crop and overwintering habitat
- Clarify short-distance dispersal dynamics after harvest
- Evaluate the utility of the aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone
Both species feed on muskmelons, Cucumis melo. “These include honeydew melon, cantaloupe, crenshaw, and cassava,” she said. “However, Acalymma is the specialist.” Cucumber beetles are pests of plants in the Cucurbitaceae family,which includes melons, gourds, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin.
Of key concern is “the lack of effective IPM tools for the management of cucumber beetles, especially the western striped cucumber beetle,” she said. “There is a critical need to visit this system and revisit the ecology to have a clearer understanding of the non-crop habitat uses and dispersal dynamics to improve and optimize the scouting and monitoring strategies. In addition, one way to monitor and manage insect pests is using semiochemicals such as aggregation pheromones and kairomones—for example, cucurbit blossom volatiles--which are of interest to be combined and studied their efficacy attraction.”
Preliminary data for one of her experiments indicates that the synthetic aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone, attracts the western striped cucumber beetle and the spotted cucumber beetle. “This pheromone was mimicked from airborne volatiles produced by male beetles, Acalymma vittatum, the cousin of the western striped cucumber beetle,” Bonila related. “This pheromone is a potential monitoring tool for managing these beetles and minimize the intensive applications of insecticides on the field.”
What sparked her interest in entomology? When she worked as a field research assistant for six months in 2017 with the UC Cooperative Extension in Woodland and sampled Lygus damage in sunflower fields.
“After this field assistant position, I worked as a junior specialist on an alfalfa weevil project to improve management in alfalfa,” Jasmin related. This was a research grant of the late Larry Godfrey (1956-2017), an Extension entomologist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Godfrey, the principal investigator of the grant, worked with co-principal investigator Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long until his death in April.
Long invited Jasmin to apply for the position. “That increased my interest in bugs,” Jasmin said. “There were so many different species and I was constantly collecting plethora of insects in each sample!”
A native of Guatemala, Jasmin moved to the United States at age 15 with her family. “Even though I wasn't born here, I still consider myself Guatemalan,” she related. “My family lives in Los Angeles and I attended Reseda High School in the San Fernando Valley.”
Jasmin, who received her bachelor's degree in earth system science at UC Merced in 2016, worked as a vegetation and ecological restoration intern with the National Park Service before enrolled in the UC Davis graduate program.
But it's the insects—particularly cucumber beetles—that fascinate her.
The annual campuswide award honors researchers who have made a long-term positive impact on the lives of others and who inspire other innovators. It is one of several awards announced June 15 in a program managed by the Office of Research. (See recipients.)
“Research universities like UC Davis play a critical role in advancing innovative solutions for the global community that not only stimulate our economy but create a better quality of life,” said Chancellor Gary S. May in a news release. “The recipients of this year's awards demonstrate the impact of reaching beyond what is expected to deliver game-changing innovations that address some of the world's most critical issues.”
Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, co-discovered a human enzyme termed Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH), a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. It regulates a new class of natural chemical mediators, which in turn regulates inflammation, blood pressure and pain. Hammock and his lab have been involved in enzyme research for more than 50 years.
Hammock is the founder and chief executive officer of the Davis-based pharmaceutical company, EicOsis LLC, formed in 2011 to develop an orally active non-addictive drug for inflammatory and neuropathic pain for humans, as well as a version in development for treating painful conditions in companion animals. A drug candidate known as EC5026 and now in human trials, targets a novel pathway to block the underlying cause of certain types of pain.
UC Davis recently licensed certain patents exclusively to EicOsis that support the underlying technology.
“My research led to the discovery that many regulatory molecules are controlled as much by degradation and biosynthesis,” Hammock said. “The epoxy fatty acids control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, depression, pain and inflammation to name a few processes.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded a $15 million HEAL grant (Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative) to EicOsis in 2019 to support human clinical trials of a novel compound that has been found effective for the treatment of pain in preclinical animal studies.
In 2019, Hammock received a $6 million “outstanding investigator” federal grant for his innovative and visionary environmental health research. His pioneering work on inflammation not only extends to alleviating chronic pain, but to targeting inflammation involved in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other health issues.
EicOsis won the Sacramento Region Innovation Award in the Medical and Health category in 2019.
More recently, Hammock has turned his attention to using sEH as a means to control the deadly cytokine storm associated with COVID-19.
A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, Hammock has directed the UC Davis Superfund Research Program (funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) for nearly four decades, supporting scores of pre- and postdoctoral scholars in interdisciplinary research in 5 different colleges and graduate groups on campus. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Sciences, and the Entomological Society of America. He is the recipient of scores of awards, including the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry; and the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. At UC Davis he received the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Faculty Research Lectureship.
He has authored or co-authored more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and holds more than 95 patents in agriculture, environmental science and medicinal chemistry.
Hammock is known for his expertise in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology. Early in his career, he founded the field of environmental immunoassay, using antibodies and biosensors to monitor food and environmental safety, and human exposure to pesticides. His groundbreaking research in insect physiology, toxicology led to his development of the first recombinant virus for insect control.
As director of the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, he pioneered trans-disciplinary research across campus, engaging faculty in multiple colleges and schools “to transform the way we treat diseases in multiple species.”
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Hammock received his bachelor's degree in entomology (with minors in zoology and chemistry) magna cum laude from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1969. He received his doctorate in entomology-toxicology from UC Berkeley in 1973. Hammock served as a public health medical officer with the U.S. Army Academy of Health Science, San Antonio, and as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation, Department of Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
In the Army, he served as a medical officer at Fort Sam, Houston, and what he saw--severely burned people in terrible pain--made a lasting impression on him and steered him toward helping humankind.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will answer questions from 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. on the Bohart FacebookLive page. It will be recorded for those unable to watch it at that time.
Kimsey, an authority on wasps and bees, is a two-time past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists. The director of the Bohart Museum and executive director of the Bohart Museum Society since 1990, she has also served as interim chair and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
She recently won the C. W. Woodworth Award, the highest honor given by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. (See news story.)
“We thought people would be interested in talking to a wasp/bee expert given all the news about wasps and with spring coming and more people tuning into nature and their back yards due to sheltering in place,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. “We anticipate ‘murder hornet' questions.
“We host open houses to connect people directly to scientists,” Yang said. “Since the museum is closed at this time and social distancing is required, we are setting this up so people can connect with Lynn. We hope to do this regularly with other scientists, but this will be our first.”
North America's first known colony of the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, was detected (and destroyed) in September 2019 on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A single V. mandarinia was found dead in Blaine, Wash., in December 2019.
Three entomologists, including Kimsey just published research on this and the 21 other known species of hornets in the genus Vespa, in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity.
The article, “The Diversity of Hornets in the Genus Vespa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Vespinae); Their Importance and Interceptions in the United States,” is the work of lead author Allan Smith-Pardo, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); and co-authors James Carpenter of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Lynn Kimsey.
The Bohart Museum is also celebrating the birthday anniversary (May 23) of Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy. Linnaeus (1707-1778), was a Swedish botanist zoologist and physician who formalized the modern system of naming organisms. “It's a good time to celebrate biodiversity, scientific discovery, and museum collections,” Yang said.
In addition, talented Bohart student associates have crafted downloadable coloring pages for the family craft activity.
The Bohart also has pre-recorded tours linked to its website http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/
The $6000 grant is designed to support women over a two-month period in the summer as they prepare a solo-authored manuscript.
Bick's application focused on her scientific modeling work that originated from her Ph.D. program: investigating the lygus bug immigration and aggregation in California strawberries. Lygus hesperus, a serious pest of strawberries--as well as cotton, and seed crops such as alfalfa-- causes an estimated $40 million in annual losses to California's strawberry industry.
Bick's application detailed the academic women who supported her career, including one of her mentors, Cornell University entomology professor Laura Harrington. Additionally, women students she mentored while at UC Davis provided letters of support.
“Prior to receiving this good news, my fiancé, Nora Forbes, and I decided to get married in the historic home of the AAUW in St. Paul, Minn.,” Bick said. “We are both aware of AAUW's legacy of supporting women in their academic pursuits since 1881 and wanted to celebrate in a location in line with their pioneering vision.” Forbes is a statistician at the Danish Medtronic office.
Earlier this year, Bick received a $23,000 fellowship from the American Scandinavian Foundation for her proposal, "Designing Pest-Resilient Apple Orchards Using Bespoke Models." The project will start immediately following the AAUW grant.
As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen, the UC Davis alumnus is a member of Professor Lene Sigsgaard's research team. She received a $244,000 postdoctoral grant from the Danish Innovations Fund to estimate insect population dynamics in relation to FaunaPhotonics's LIDAR insect sensor. LIDAR stands for light detection and ranging.
Emily's entomological journey began at Cornell University, where she received her bachelor's degree in entomology in 2013. She then received two degrees in entomology from UC Davis: her master's degree in 2017 and her doctorate in 2019.
Bick, who specializes in integrated pest management, helped anchor the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Linnaean Games Team that won the national championship at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in 2016, and the University of California (UC Davis and UC Berkeley) Linnaean Games Team that won the national championship in 2018. 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 championship game on YouTube).
While at UC Davis, Bick served as vice president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA). ESA honored her as a Board-Certified Entomologist in 2014, and the Student Certification Award in 2018. She served as an emergency medical technician from 2008 to 2017.
UC Davis faculty and UC Cooperative Extension specialists fared well, with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, receiving the highest award, the C. W. Woodworth Award. (See news story)
Walter Leal, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won the Award for Excellence in Teaching. (See news story)
Emily Symmes, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 2012, and is an agricultural entomologist specializing in integrated pest management (she was formerly with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources), was part of the almond team that won the PBESA Entomology Team Award.
The complete list of recipients, as announced by PBESA President Elizabeth Beers, professor of entomology at Washington State University:
C. W. Woodworth Award
Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Award for Excellence in Teaching
Walter Leal, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Distinction in Student Mentoring
Robert Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management
Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award
Laura Lavine, Washington State University Department of Entomology, Pullman, Wash.
Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award
Dong-Hwan Choe, UC Riverside Department of Entomology, Riverside
Excellence in Early Career Award
Priyadarshini Chakrabarti, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.
Entomology Team Work Award
David Haviland (team leader)
UC Cooperative Extension, Bakersfield
Team: Brad Higbee, Charles Burks, Jhalendra Rijal, Emily Symmes, Robert Curtis, Stephanie Rill
John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award
Jacqueline Serrano, who holds a doctorate from UC Riverside, is currently with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in Wapato, Wash.
Student Leadership Award
Megan Asche, Ph.D candidate, Washington State University Department of Entomology
PBESA encompasses 11 western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming), U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.