Niño, known internationally for her expertise on honey bee queen biology, chemical ecology, and genomics, joined the faculty in September of 2014 and maintains laboratories and offices in Briggs Hall and at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Niño serves as the director of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), which she launched in 2016. The California Master Beekeeper Program is a continuous train-the-trainer effort. CAMBP's vision is to train beekeepers to effectively communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within their communities, serve as mentors for other beekeepers, and become the informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and UCCE staff.
Niño is also the faculty director of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the department's half-acre educational bee garden located next to the Laidlaw facility, which serves as the outdoor classroom for the Pollinator Education Program, lovingly known as PEP.
“My research interests are fluid and designed to address immediate needs of various agriculture stakeholder groups,” she writes on her website. “Projects encompass both basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding queen mating and reproductive processes, discovery and evaluation of novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, and evaluating orchard management practices with a goal of improving honey bee health. Some of our more fun projects revolve around precision beekeeping and investigate the use of cutting edge technologies to make beekeeping more efficient and sustainable.”
Niño says she “greatly enjoys working with the community and especially with children. To ensure that our future researchers, agriculture leaders and innovators and future voters understand the importance of honey bees and other pollinators to our agroecosystems.”
“Our Pollinator Education Program at the Häagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven garden has been working with the Farms of Amador County to serve third grade students and we are planning on expanding our efforts in the near future and as the pandemic hopefully resolves.”
Niño received her bachelor's degree in animal science from Cornell University in 2003; her master's degree in entomology at North Carolina State University in 2006; and her doctorate at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in 2012. She served as a postdoctoral fellow, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), as a member of the PSU Center for Pollinator Research.
Niño has a varied entomology background. While working on her bachelor's degree at Cornell, she was involved in studies on darkling beetle control in poultry houses, pan-trapped horse flies, and surveyed mosquitoes in New York state. While working toward her master's degree at North Carolina State University, she studied dung beetle nutrient cycling and its effect on grass growth, effects of methoprene (insect grown regular) on dung beetles in field and laboratory settings, and assisted in a workshop on forensic entomology.
A UC Davis communications specialist who creates habitat for monarch butterflies in her family's pollinator garden, won a silver award or second-place honors, in a photography competition hosted by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Life and Human Sciences (ACE). ACE announced the award June 22 at its virtual conference.
Kathy Keatley Garvey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology captured the image of a monarch egg with a Canon MPE-65mm lens.
“The purpose of my image is to draw attention to the dwindling monarch butterfly population,” Garvey wrote. “They are on life support.” The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation's reports that overwintering monarchs have declined 99 percent in coastal California since the 1990s.
Garvey posted the image at https://bit.ly/3cUx358 Aug. 10, 2020 on her daily (Monday-Friday) Bug Squad blog on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website.
Wrote the judge: “Capturing a subject this small is really quite impressive. I appreciate the photographer sharing their equipment and process to capture this image of such a delicate and beautiful little butterfly egg. Very well done.”
The image scored 25 out of 25 points in creativity/originality, audience interest/impact, and overall evaluation.
In her contest entry, Garvey described the egg “as an incredible work of nature! The intricate egg is about the size of a pinhead, 0.9mm wide and 1.2mm high. It's creamy yellow with narrow longitudinal ridge. Unless it encounters a predator or parasitoid or another life-threatening factor, the egg will usually hatch 3 to 4 days after Mama Monarch deposits it beneath a milkweed leaf.”
“A good place to see butterfly specimens from all over the world is at the Bohart Museum of Entomology (now temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic)," Garvey wrote. “Of the nearly eight million specimens in the Bohart, some 500,000 are in the Lepidoptera collection, curated by entomologist Jeff Smith.“ She also drew attention to the butterfly-rearing process of Bohart associate and natural historian Greg Kareofelas.
In addition to the silver award, the UC Davis communicator won a bronze award or third-place honors for her photo series of male and female Gulf Fritillaries, Agraulis vanillae, “keeping busy.” Her post, “Fifty Shades of Orange, with a Touch of Silver,” appeared July 13, 2020 on her Bug Squad blog at https://bit.ly/2Q6cU3q.
Wrote the judge: “This submission was a delight! I adored the written piece that accompanied the photos, describing the insect wedding during COVID times. To take notice of these delicate creatures, which many people just pass by without noticing, and to document them in photos is unique…. When photographing subjects of this size, the tack-sharp focus which captures the details that our eyes cannot normally see is what makes them so captivating. It's also incredibly difficult to capture--the photographer did a lovely job.”
“So there they were," Garvey wrote. "The two of them. The blushing bride and the quite dapper-and-dashing groom. They didn't invite me to their wedding. I was an uninvited guest, the only guest. So, I felt obliged to crash their wedding and capture some images…Who can resist insect wedding photography? That's about the only wedding photography happening during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Garvey also drew her readers to the research website of butterfly guru Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, and his information on A. vanillae (see https://bit.ly/3uw9Yf1), and to specific work of insects “keeping busy” (see https://bit.ly/3rVU1xg) by UC Davis alumnus and renowned macro photographer Alex Wild, curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin.
ACE, founded in 1913 primarily for ag communicators, is now an international association of professionals who practice in all areas of communication.
(Editor's Note: Last year three UC Davis-affiliated communication specialists won a total of six writing or photography awards in the ACE global competition for work accomplished in 2019 (pre-COVID pandemic). Steve Elliott, communications coordinator for the Western Integrated Pest Management Center,Davis, won one silver (second-place) and two bronze (third-place) for his writing and photography; Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, two silvers for her writing and photography; and Diane Nelson, communication specialist for the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, won a bronze for her writing.)
Pollination ecologist Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will speak on "Beyond Flowers; Examining the Role of Soils in Bee Conservation Efforts" at the next UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar.
The online seminar, the last of the spring quarter, is set for 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, June 2. Host is pollination ecologist and professor Neal Williams. Access the Zoom link here.
More than 80 percent of bees nest below ground and most univoltine species spend more than 90 percent of their life cycle in contact with soils, Harmon-Threatt points out. "Yet most conservation efforts ignore soils and few research studies consider these critical life stages and possible exposures that occur during them. In a series of studies, our lab has begun to explore how much soils matter and whether ignoring them is to the detriment of conservation."
In her research, Harmon-Threatt zeroes in on understanding the patterns and processes that govern plant-pollinator interactions for conservation. "Pollinators play a vital role in plant reproduction, food production and ecosystem stability but are believed to be declining globally," she says. Her work focuses on identifying and understanding patterns in natural environments to help conserve and restore pollinator diversity. With a particular focus on bees, she investigates how a number of factors at both the local and landscape scale, including plant diversity, isolation and bee characteristics, effect bee diversity in local communities.
Harmon-Threatt received her doctorate from UC Berkeley, where she worked on bumble bee preferences and phylogenetic patterns. She completed a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in biology at Washington University in St. Louis.
She was recently featured on the podcast, People Behind the Science. Any change in pollinator populations, she told her audience, can have significant effects on natural and agricultural communities. Recent declines in bee populations, in particular, indicate how "little we know about these important insects in their natural environments, she told her audience."
Vannette isolated one new species on California fuchsia, Epilobium canum, located in the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and another new species on California figwort or California bee plant, Scrophularia californica, in the 258-acre UC Davis Stebbens Cold Canyon Reserve, located near Winters and encompassing parts of Solano and Napa counties. Both plants are natives and perennials.
The new species are named Acinetobacter pollinis (from Stebbins) and Acinetobacter rathckeae (from the Arboretum). Acinetobacter pollinis was named for its affinity for pollen, "as it does not grow well in the absence of pollen," Vannette said. Acinetobacter rathckeae memorializes University of Michigan emerita and lauded female pollination biologist Beverly Rathcke (1945-2011).
“There's more to come on these bacteria and what they do in flowers but from what we know now they seem to germinate and 'eat' pollen,” Vannette said. “In any case, we love and appreciate our reserves and natural areas on campus: they are an awesome source of unexplored biodiversity and really interesting biology.”
The third species the scientists described is Acinetobacter baretiae, named for female botanist Jeanne Baret (1740-1807). "So two of the three newly described species are named for noted female botanists, one a great pollination biologist and ecologist--Beverly Rathcke--and the other, historical botanist Jeanne Baret."
Rathcke, who received her doctorate from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1973, served on the faculty of the University of Michigan's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from 1978 to 2010. She focused her research on community ecology, specifically, plant–animal interactions such as herbivory, competition, and pollination ecology. "She published some of the first papers using null models in community ecology," according to an obituary published by the Ecological Society of America. "She researched how environmental changes, such as introduced species, habitat fragmentation, and hurricane disturbances, affect species' reproductive success."
Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, disguised herself as man and as an aide to botanist Philibert Commerson, to board the French ship, Etoile, on a 1766-69 expedition. "Baret captured the attention of Commerson because she possessed botanic knowledge that lay well beyond the competence of his professors and mentors," according to Glynis Ridley, author of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe. "She was an herb woman: one schooled in the largely oral tradition of the curative properties of plants."
Microbiology Society Journal
The newly published research paper on the news species of Acinetobacter appears in the Microbiology Society's journal, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. See https://doi.org/10.1099/ijsem.0.004783.
Other co-authors are Tory Hendry, Lydia Baker, and Vivianna Sanchez of Cornell University; Sergio Alvarez-Perez, affiliated with KU Leuven University, Belgium and Complutense University, Spain; Megan Morris of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore; Kaoru Tsui of Kyoto University, Japan; Bart Lievens of KU Leuven and Tadashi Fukami of Stanford University.
The abstract: “A detailed evaluation of eight bacterial isolates from floral nectar and animal visitors to flowers shows evidence that they represent three novel species in the genus Acinetobacter . Phylogenomic analysis shows the closest relatives of these new isolates are Acinetobacter apis , Acinetobacter boissieri and Acinetobacter nectaris, previously described species associated with floral nectar and bees, but high genome-wide sequence divergence defines these isolates as novel species. Pairwise comparisons of the average nucleotide identity of the new isolates compared to known species is extremely low (Acinetobacter species, for which the names Acinetobacter pollinis sp. nov., Acinetobacter baretiae sp. nov. and Acinetobacter rathckeae sp. nov. are proposed. The respective type strains are SCC477T (=TSD-214T=LMG 31655T), B10AT (=TSD-213T=LMG 31702T) and EC24T (=TSD-215T=LMG 31703T=DSM 111781T).”
Rachel Vannette Lab
The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects.
All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants, Vannette explains. She and her lab investigate the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects.
“Much of the work in my lab focuses on how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators,” Vannette related. “For example, we are interested in understanding the microbial drivers of soil health, which can influence plant attractiveness to herbivores and the plant's ability to tolerate or defend against damage by herbivores. In addition, we are working to examine how microorganisms modify flower attractiveness to pollinators. This may have relevance in agricultural systems to improve plant and pollinator health.”
Vannette, who holds a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology (2011) from the University of Michigan, was selected a UC Davis Hellman Fellow in 2018.
Her recent research grants include two from the National Science Federation (NSF). One is a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award, titled “Nectar Chemistry and Ecological and Evolutionary Tradeoffs in Plant Adaptation to Microbes and Pollinators.” The other is a three-year collaborative grant, “The Brood Cell Microbiome of Solitary Bees: Origin, Diversity, Function, and Vulnerability.”
López-Uribe, the Lorenzo L. Langstroth Early Career Professor and assistant professor of entomology, will deliver the seminar from 4:10 to 5 p.m. Host is community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor of entomology. Access the online seminar here.
"Despite the dominance of domesticated plants across the globe, the mechanisms by which human-mediated selection shapes the ecological interactions and reciprocal evolutionary changes of crop-pollinator interactions have not been systematically investigated," López-Uribe says in her abstract. "In this talk, I will present ongoing research using the plant genus Cucurbita and their specialized pollinators to investigate: (1) the role of crop domestication on the evolution of floral functional traits, (2) the expansion of pollinator populations following extensive crop cultivation, and (3) how shifts in floral signaling of domesticated plants drive changes in pollinator foraging behavior."
López-Uribe holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University de los Andes, Colombia, and her master's degree in genetics and evolution from Universidade Federal de São Carlos, Brazil. She received her doctorate in entomology from Cornell University and served as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at North Carolina State University.
Of her research interests, she says: "Declines in bee populations worldwide have raised concerns about the environmental and economic consequences of pollination loss in natural and human-dominated ecosystems. I am interested in understanding how environmental change (e.g. land use, climate) and management (e.g. beekeeping practices) drive changes in population demography and health of wild and managed bee species. My ultimate goal is to contribute with informed strategies for conservation and restoration of bee populations and the ecosystem services they provide."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger coordinates the spring seminars, which take place every Wednesday at 4:10 p.m. He may be reached at email@example.com for any technical issues.