The Multistate Research Fund supports agricultural innovation and sustainability by providing federal funds to collaborative research projects led by State Agricultural Experiment Stations and land-grant universities. These projects bring together scientists, Extension educators, and other university, federal, and industry partners to tackle high-priority regional or national issues in agriculture, a spokesman said.
Under the category, “Researchers studied chemical cues that mediate interactions among plants, pests, and predators,” UC Davis (Karban) is credited with identifying “the sagebrush cues that trigger resistance against chewing herbivores” and also finding that “plant cue effectiveness is affected by the geographic proximity of the source of the cue.”
Under the category, “Researchers used chemical ecology to protect pollinators from pesticides and disease,” UC Davis (Vannette) is credited with identifying “floral chemistry traits and microbial communities that affect the patterns or preferences of hummingbirds, honey bees, and carpenter bees.”
Professor Karban, an international authority on plant communication, is the author of the landmark book, Plant Sensing and Communication (University of Chicago Press).
Karban has researched plant communication in sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) on the east side of the Sierra since 1995. His groundbreaking research on plant communication among kin, published in February 2013 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, drew international attention. In that study, Karban and his co-researchers found that kin have distinct advantages when it comes to plant communication, just as “the ability of many animals to recognize kin has allowed them to evolve diverse cooperative behaviors.”
Karban is a fellow of Ecological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Michael Pollan featured him in the Dec. 23-30, 2013 edition of The New Yorker: “The Intelligent Plant: Scientists Debate a New Way of Understanding Plants."
Vannette, an assistant professor who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2015 after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University's biology department, seeks to unlock the mysteries of flower microbes: how do plants protect against them, and can bees benefit from them?
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). “We often study microbial communities in flowers, on insects or in soil,” according to her website. “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?).
All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants, Vannette explains. “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.”
“Much of the work in my lab focuses on how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators. 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.”
Agrawal is one of 120 newly elected members, of which 59 are women. The number of NAS members now totals 2,461, according to NAS president Marcia McNutt.
Agrawal received his doctorate in population biology in 1999 from UC Davis, working with major professor Richard "Rick" Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Anurag is an inspiration as a scientist and as a person," Karban said. "I've learned a lot from him."
At Cornell, Agrawal researches the ecology and evolution of interactions between wild plants and their insect pests, including aspects of community interactions, chemical ecology, coevolution and the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.
Agrawal authored the celebrated book, Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution, published in 2017 by Princeton University Press. He investigated "how the monarch butterfly has evolved closely alongside the milkweed—a toxic plant named for the sticky white substance emitted when its leaves are damaged—and how this inextricable and intimate relationship has been like an arms race over the millennia, a battle of exploitation and defense between two fascinating species," according to the publisher.
The book won a 2017 National Outdoor Book Award in Nature and Environment and an award of excellence in gardening and gardens from the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. It was also named one of Forbes.com's 10 best biology books of 2017.
“It's a tremendous honor and totally unexpected,” Agrawal told the Cornell Chronicle in a recent news release. “I look forward to representing Cornell and also playing a part in the NAS role of advising the U.S. government on science policy.”
"A key research focus for Agrawal's Phytophagy Lab is the generally antagonistic interactions between plants and insect herbivores," according to the news release. In an attempt to understand the complexity of communitywide interactions, questions include: What ecological factors allow the coexistence of similar species? And what evolutionary factors led to the diversification of species? Agrawal's group is currently focused on three major projects: the community and evolutionary ecology of plant-herbivore relationships; factors that make non-native plants successful invaders; and novel opportunities for pest management of potatoes. Recent work on toxin sequestration in monarch butterflies was featured on the cover of the April 20 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
Members are elected to NAS in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. Among those elected to NAS: Bruce Hammock, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was elected to NAS in 1999.
Agrawal holds two degrees from the University of Pennslvania, a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in conservation biology. He joined the Cornell faculty in 2004 as an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology. He advanced to associate professor in 2005, and to full professor in 2010. He was named the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies in 2017.
A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012), and recipient of the American Society of Naturalist's E.O. Wilson Award in 2019, Agrawal won the Entomological Society of America's 2013 Founders' Memorial Award and delivered the lecture on Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) at ESA's 61st annual meeting, held in Austin, Texas.
Agrawal was at UC Davis in January of 2012 to present a seminar on "Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Defenses." His abstract: "In order to address coevolutionary interactions between milkweeds and their root feeding four-eyed beetles, I will present data on reciprocity, fitness tradeoffs, specialization and the genetics of adaptation. In addition to wonderful natural history, this work sheds light on long-standing theory about how antagonistic interactions proceed in ecological and evolutionary time."
In her abstract, Currano says: "Fossil leaves preserve the scars of insect-feeding damage, allowing paleontologists to investigate plant-insect interactions deep in Earth's past. My research on 21-million-year-old fossils from Ethiopia and 59-to-52- million-year-old fossils from Wyoming demonstrates that the diversity and intensity of insect feeding on leaves is affected by both climate and plant nitrogen concentration."
Currano, an associate professor of paleobotany, uses fossil plants to investigate the response of ancient forest ecosystems to environmental perturbations. "Specifically," she asks on her website, "how did environmental changes affect taxonomic diversity, ecosystem structure, plant-insect interactions, and biogeographic patterns? By understanding how ecosystems reacted to past changes, we can better predict how modern ecosystems will respond to anthropogenic changes like CO2-induced global warming. The research conducted in my lab is field-based, specimen-based, and collaborative."
Her current research focuses on 1) biotic response to climate changes during the hothouse Paleogene in the Western United States, particularly Wyoming, 2) the evolution of East African terrestrial ecosystems over the last 30 million years, and 3) the use of fossil plants to reconstruct paleoclimate and paleoenvironment.
Currano holds a bachelor of science degree (2003) from the University of Chicago and a doctorate (2008) from Pennsylvania State University.
Currano and Lexi Jamieson Marsh (founder and director of On Your Feet Entertainment) co-founded The Bearded Lady Project: Challenging the Face of Science, a documentary film and photography project that "investigates our stereotypes of what a field scientist looks like."
The mission of The Bearded Lady Project: Challenging the Face of Science, is twofold: "First, to celebrate the inspirational and adventurous women who choose to dedicate their lives in the search of clues to the history of life on earth," they write on their website. "And second, to educate the public on the inequities and prejudices that exist in the field of science, with special emphasis on the geosciences." Their documentary meshes art with science. They have also set up a scholarship fund to support future female paleontologists. (See paleosoc.org)
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger coordinates the weekly UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars. For technical issues, he may be reached at email@example.com
Hamilton, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, will speak on "Understanding Aphonopelma Diversity across the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot by Integrating Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)" at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, April 21. Click on this link to access the seminar.
Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Hamilton's major professor at Auburn University, is hosting the seminar.
"Dr. Hamilton does great work on terrestrial arthropods with an emphasis on mygalomorph spiders (trapdoor spiders, tarantulas and their kin)," Bond commented.
Hamilton's abstract: "Within the world of theraphosid systematics, the genus Aphonopelma has received considerable attention in recent years. But despite these efforts, the group's diversity remains poorly understood in the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot located in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico--an ecoregion known for its exceptional biodiversity and endemicity. It has long been thought that Aphonopelma was a 'taxonomic and nomenclatural nightmare' because across their distributions, similarly sized species are often frustratingly similar morphologically. This is all too obvious when examining populations in the Madrean Sky Islands and Sierra Madre Occidental, as their shared evolutionary history and divergence in similar isolated habitats has produced very similar phenotypes. This work looks to employ an integrative approach for delimiting species that incorporates information from morphology (traditional and advanced techniques) and molecules (phylogenomics), as well as data on ecology (niche, distribution, and behavior) and how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of the Apache and Tohono O'odham peoples may help piece the puzzle together. As we continue to investigate some of the more remote and hard-to-access mountain ranges, we have discovered that most independent ranges harbor their own divergent and distinct lineages that may represent new species."
Hamilton's naming of a newly discovered tarantula species drew widespread interest in 2016. A team of researchers, led by Hamilton "has discovered a previously unknown species of tarantula and name it after legendary singer-songwriter, Johnny Cash," according to an Auburn University news release.
"The species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, was found in California near the site of Folsom State Prison, which Cash made famous in his song Folsom Prison Blues," wrote Lindsay Miles of Auburn University's Office of Communications and Marketing. "The mature male Aphonopelma johnnycashi measures up to 6 inches across and is generally solid black in color, much like Cash's distinctive style of dress from which his nickname, 'The Man in Black,' was coined."
"Along with the Aphonopelma johnnycashi, Hamilton's study determined there are only 29 species of tarantula in the United States, 14 of which are new to science. Researchers had previously identified 55 species. The new descriptions nearly double the number of species known from the American Southwest, a region described as a biodiversity hotspot featuring frigid mountains and scorching deserts."
Hamilton received his doctorate in evolutionary biology from Auburn University in 2015, and his master's degree in biology from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2009.
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger is coordinating the spring seminars and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any technical questions.
Entomological offerings will be showcased at the 107th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, themed "Discovering Silver Linings," to take place virtually on Saturday, April 17.
Silver linings promise to grace this family-oriented event, billed as informative, educational and entertaining.
Picnic Day officials have released the schedule of events that includes entomological exhibits and talks from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Bohart Museum of Entomology and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association.
Here's a quick list:
Bohart Museum of Entomology
Bohart associate Greg Kareofelas, Bohart Museum associate and naturalist, has created a pre-recorded video on the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, Agraulis vanillae. These orange-reddish butterflies have silver-spangled underwings, are glorious. Kareofelas will showcase them and show you how to rear them, which is what he did last year during the pandemic. It's on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3WwE7mbrA.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, the volunteer curator of the Lepidoptera collection at the Bohart, will present a live Zoom event from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday on mimicry in Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). "I will briefly mention camouflage," Smith says, "and spend most of the time on mimicry for defense--mimics of toxic or distasteful species, mimicry using odors or sounds, mimics of snakes or spiders, and mimics of non-food materials such as bird feces."
To connect, access https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/92841203978?pwd=ay91SUpFZnl5MEdnVmlzOUxmMFFZQT09
Zoom Meeting ID: 928 4120 3978
Zoom Passcode: 160485
"People who want to submit their questions to Jeff or request to see certain species from the collection can email their requests to email@example.com with Picnic Day in the subject," says Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator. "We won't have the time or capacity to access the collection during the event for any requests. Instead, we will pull the items that are requested or relevant to the talk and have those prepared to show. Of course we may not be able to honor everyone's request, but we will do our best."
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (the museum is closed now due to the pandemic), is directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. It houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
Department of Entomology and Nematology
Live Zoom session with questions and answers, from 10 to 11 a.m. with Cooperative Extension specialist IanGrettenberger, assistant professor,UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. A downloadable worksheet will be available.
Livestream on Zoom, 11 a.m. to 12 noon
Viewers can watch American cockroaches from a Briggs Hall colony race to victory.
Bug Doctor Booth
This is a live Zoom session from 12 noon to 3 p.m., with questions and answers. Folks can ask questions about insects and spiders.
Landscaping with Native Plants to Support Local Pollinators
This is a live Zoom session from 1 to 2 p.m. with question and answers, with community ecologist Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, talking about using landscaping with native plants to support local pollinators.
Zoom Meeting ID: 980 2830 2647
Zoom Passcode: 078510
EGSA T-Shirt Sales
The video will focus on Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) T-shirts, masks and stickers. Order items here.
Can Plants Communicate?
A pre-recorded video by Professor Richard Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, an expert on plant communication. The video is at https://youtu.be/xOXSqy05EO0
What Are Nematodes?
A pre-recorded video on "The Wonderful World of Nematodes" by nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Ants of Davis
A pre-recorded video by ant lab of Professor Phil Ward, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Graduate students in the Ward lab will talk about their ant research.
A downloadable coloring sheet will be available.
Entomology at UC Davis
This will include links to all of the department-based KQED videos and a downloadable coloring sheet.
Professor Sharon Lawler, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, offers a pre-recorded video, adapted from her live lil' swimmers exhibit. She will display water striders, dragonflies and damselflies and discuss their biology.
Can Bumble Bees Take the Heat?
A downloadable PDF from the lab of pollination ecologist Neal Williams, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, about climate change and native species.
Fly Fishers of Davis
A pre-recorded video about the Davis Fly Fishers Club.
UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
A downloadable worksheet will be offered.
Fight the Bite
Folks can learn about local vector control in this pre-recorded/reposted video from the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito Control District.