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.
Two UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty members are now full professors, and a third faculty member has achieved tenure as associate professor.
Molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, and community ecologist Louie Yang were promoted from associate professors to professors, effective July 1. Community ecologist Rachel Vannette was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor.
Professor Chiu joined the Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2010 as an assistant professor and advanced to associate professor and vice chair in 2016. She received her bachelor's degree in biology and music from Mount Holyoke College, Mass., and her doctorate in molecular genetics in 2004 from New York University, New York. She served as a postdoctoral fellow from 2004 to 2010 in chronobiology (biological rhythms and internal clocks)--molecular genetics and biochemistry--at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Chiu's research expertise includes molecular genetics of biological timing and posttranslational regulation of proteins. She uses animal models including Drosophila melanogaster and mice to study the mechanisms that regulate circadian and seasonal physiology and behavior. Major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation fund her biological rhythms research. In addition to her research in biological rhythms, Chiu also aims to leverage her expertise in genomics to address key issues in global food security.
In 2019, she was named one of 10 UC Davis Chancellor's Fellows, an honor awarded to associate professors who excel in research and teaching.
Chiu and Yang co-founded and co-direct (with Professor Jay Rosenheim) the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, launched in 2011 to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in biology. The program crosses numerous biological fields, including population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; entomology; and cell biology. The goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research.
Professor Yang, who holds a bachelor's degree (ecology and evolution) from Cornell University, 1999, received his doctorate from UC Davis in 2006, and joined the UC Davis faculty in 2009. In 2013, he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award of $600,000. He was named a UC Davis Hellman Fellow in 2012; the Hellman Family Foundation contributes funds to support and encourage the research of promising assistant professors who exhibit potential for great distinction in their research. He was promoted to associate professor in 2015.
Yang won the 2018 Outstanding Faculty Academic Advising Award from NACADA, also known as the Global Community for Academic Advising; and the 2017 Faculty Advisor Award of Excellence in NACADA's Pacific Region 9, comprised of California, Nevada and Hawaii.
Yang says of the research underway in his lab: “We study how species interactions change over time. We apply a diversity of approaches and perspectives to a diversity of systems and questions. We do experimental community ecology. We also use observational methods, meta-analysis, conceptual synthesis, ecosystem perspectives, and theoretical models. We like data, and we like learning new things.”
Associate Professor Vannette joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2015 after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University's biology department, where she was a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow from 2011 to 2015 and examined the role of nectar chemistry in community assembly of yeasts and plant-pollinator interactions.
Vannette received her bachelor of science degree, summa cum laude, in 2006 from Calvin College, Grand Rapids,Mich., and her doctorate from the University of Michigan's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Ann Arbor, in 2011. She received a Hellman Fellowship grant in 2018 and a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2019 to study microbial communities in flowers and a National Science Foundation grant to support work on solitary bee microbiomes.
Of her research, Vannette says: “ All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants. I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution.”
“The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects (sometimes other organisms, too),” she says. “We often study microbial communities in flowers, on insects or in soil. We rely on natural history observations, and use techniques from chemical ecology, microbial ecology and community ecology. In some cases, we study applied problems with an immediate application including pathogen control or how to support pollinators. Other questions may not have an immediate application but are nonetheless grounded in theory and will contribute to basic knowledge and conservation (e.g. how can dispersal differences among organisms affect patterns of abundance or biodiversity?)”
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.)
UC Davis alumnus Hannah Burrack, a professor of entomology and extension specialist at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, has been named chair of the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University, East Lansing, effective Jan. 1, 2022. Burrack will replace F. William Ravlin, the chair since 2014.
“Hannah's background in extension, combined with her research experience and administrative skill set makes her a great fit for our college, its students and for our stakeholders in Michigan,” said interim dean designate Kelly Millenbah, of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) in a news release. “Hannah is also committed to undergraduate and graduate student development and has supported various mentoring initiatives.”
Said Burrack: "I have followed the innovative research, exceptional students, and impactful extension undertaken by the MSU Entomology Department from the very start of my career, and I am thrilled to be joining this team in January. I am passionate about science that connects with stakeholders—be that students, growers, industry partners, or the broader citizens of the state. Entomology as a discipline naturally fosters these connections, and I am so excited to work together with the faculty, students, and staff at MSU to do great things!”
Burrack received her doctorate from UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2007, studying with Frank Zalom, UC Davis distinguished professor and a former president of the 7,000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA). She also received her master's degree from UC Davis.
"Hannah is going to make a great chair," Zalom said. "She has great communication skills, vision and energy."
When she joined NC State in 2007 as assistant professor and Extension specialist for small fruits and tobacco pest management, Zalom said: "The NC State faculty made a very wise choice in hiring her. Hannah has the complete package when it comes to IPM research and extension, and I have every confidence that she will be a leader of her generation of IPM specialists."
At NC State, Burrack directs Education & Outreach for the NC Plant Sciences Initiative, an interdisciplinary initiative with the goal of conducting transformational plant sciences research, education, and outreach, according to the news release. Her current research focuses broadly on the ecology of insect pests in tobacco and small fruit crops; she utilizes the information to enhance pest management. Her extension appointment supports tobacco production and small fruit crop diversification, as she works with local and regional growers.
Burrack, known for her “boundless energy and fresh ideas,” served as the principal investigator and manager of several USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grants and panels related to research on spotted wing drosophila management, crop protection, pest management and methyl bromide transitions. In 2018, she received the University Faculty Scholar Award and the Extension Service Award from NC State University.
The UC Davis alumnus "has been part of extension engagement and outreach with stakeholders; taught courses in entomology, horticulture and crop sciences departments; supported undergraduate research projects; and mentored students and visiting scholars," according to the news release. "She has also been a part of various NC State University committees related to teaching and tenure, extension, research and technology, as well as faculty search committees."
Burrack was named the 2011 recipient of the “Future Leader” award from the Southern Region Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Center. She received the Friends of IPM award at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Branch of ESA, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Friends of IPM Future Leader award recognizes IPM leaders early in their career for their excellent work. (See UC Davis news release.)
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."