It was a gathering of science experts and policymakers to share science and conservation actions to help the declining western monarch population. The scientists discussed the natural history of the monarch (Danaus plexippus), its population status, habitats and barriers to conservation success.
"It was a great group of folks working hard to connect science and policy to improve monarch conservation," Yang said. "It was a privilege to part of it.'
During the summit, the Department of the Interior announced a $1 million award to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's (NFWF) Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a Pollinator Conservation Center.
Sen. Merkley organized the summit in collaboration with the Department of the Interior. Officials attending included Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland; Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon; Sen. Alex Padilla of California; Cong. Jimmy Panetta of California; Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks (USFWS) Shannon Estenoz; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams.
- Professor Matt Forister, the Trevor J. McMinn Endowed Professor in Biology, Foundation Professor, at the University of Nevada, Reno. He holds a doctorate in ecology (2004) from UC Davis where he studied with major professor Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology
- Elizabeth Crone, professor and population ecologist at Tufts University and a UC Davis collaborator who recently completed a six-month sabbatical at UC Davis.
- Sarina Jepsen, director of the Xerces Society's Endangered Species and Aquatic Program, who holds a master's degree (2006) in entomology from UC Davis. She studied with major professor Jay Rosenheim, distinguished professor of entomology.
Others giving scientific presentations were Amanda Barth, Western Monarch and Native Pollinator Working Group; Wendy Caldwell, executive director, Monarch Joint Venture; Ryan Drum, wildlife biologist, USFWS; Wayne Thogmartin, quantitative ecologist, U. S. Geological Survey; Cat Darst, wildlife biologist, USFWS, Cheryl Schultz, professor, Washington State University, Pullman; Sarah Hoyle, pesticide program specialist policy lead, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; and Francis Villablanca, professor, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
"The Senator convened the Monarch Butterfly Summit to elevate the conservation issues that western monarchs face, and to include policy makers in work sessions to identify solutions," Black noted. "Working closely with the USFWS and Xerces, Senator Merkley ensured that issues like pesticides, the availability of early emerging native milkweeds in the spring breeding areas, loss and degradation of western monarch overwintering sites, and other important issues would be highlighted throughout the meeting. Sarina and Sarah did an amazing job representing Xerces – not only in their talks, but in the working groups."
Black wrote that the event "raised the profile of western monarchs. One participant that came up to me enthusiastically and said, 'This was incredible. I have been working on monarchs for decades and never expected to come to a meeting where three U.S. Senators [Merkley, Padilla-CA, Wyden-OR] a congressperson [Panetta-CA] and the Secretary of Interior [Deb Haaland] come to talk about western monarchs!'"
In a news release, the U.S. Department of Interior noted: "In the 1980s, more than 4.5 million monarchs overwintered along the California Coast. Currently, the western overwintering population has declined by more than 95 percent. In 2020, western monarch numbers dropped to all-time lows when only 1,900 overwintering monarchs were observed. In 2021, biologists and the public alike were greeted with the news that monarch numbers were heading in the right direction with approximately 250,000 monarchs estimated at overwintering groves along the coast of California."
"There is no single cause for the extreme multi-decade drop in the western monarch butterflyoverwintering population numbers," according to the Department of Interior, which aims to play "a central role in how the United States stewards its public lands, increases environmental protections, pursues environmental justice, and honors our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes.
On July 21, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which works in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, listed the migratory monarch on its Red List of Threatened Species (Endangered). It is not yet listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but is listed (as of Dec. 15, 2020) as a candidate. (See more on the monarch butterfly on the USFWS website.)
“First, we documented early and late seasonal windows of opportunity in the wild, migratory western monarch population," the UC Davis professor said. "Second, our data suggest that early and late seasonal windows were constrained by different factors. Third, climatic and microclimatic variation had a strong effect on the timing and importance of multiple factors affecting monarch development. Broadly, we hope that this study contributes to a more temporally detailed understanding of the complex factors that contribute to year-to-year variation in monarch breeding success.”
The project, funded by two of Yang's National Science Foundation grants, involved UC Davis, Davis Senior High School and the Center for Land-Based learning. Among them were 107 high school students and a K-12 teacher, 18 UC Davis undergraduate students, three graduate students and two post-graduate researchers.
“This study collected a high-resolution temporal dataset on milkweed-monarch interactions during the last three years prior to the precipitous single-year population decline of western monarchs in 2018," Yang said. He organized and led a 135-member team, all co-authors of the paper, “Different Factors Limit Early- and Late-Season Windows of Opportunity for Monarch Development,” published in the journal Ecology and Evolution. (This document is open access at https://bit.ly/3volFaI.)
Other monarch research from the Yang lab is pending publication.
“This study collected a high-resolution temporal dataset on milkweed-monarch interactions during the last three years prior to the precipitous single-year population decline of western monarchs in 2018,” said community ecologist Louie Yang, a professor in the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Yang organized and led a 135-member team, all co-authors of the paper, “Different Factors Limit Early- and Late-Season Windows of Opportunity for Monarch Development,” published in the journal Ecology and Evolution. (This document is open access at https://bit.ly/3volFaI.)
From 2015 through 2017, the team monitored the interactions of monarchs, Danaus plexippus, on narrow-leaved milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, planted in December 2013on city-owned property adjacent to the North Davis irrigation channel.
“This study has three key findings,” the UC Davis professor said. “First, we documented early and late seasonal windows of opportunity in the wild, migratory western monarch population. Second, our data suggest that early and late seasonal windows were constrained by different factors. Third, climatic and microclimatic variation had a strong effect on the timing and importance of multiple factors affecting monarch development. Broadly, we hope that this study contributes to a more temporally detailed understanding of the complex factors that contribute to year-to-year variation in monarch breeding success.”
Feared on its way to extinction, the migratory monarch is now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered—threatened by habitat destruction and climate change. Statistics show that the overwintering population of western monarchs along coastal California has declined by more than 99 percent since the 1980s, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
The UC Davis-based team set out to answer three questions: (1) How do the developmental prospects of monarchs vary in time, within- and across years? (2) How do the combined effects of bottom-up, top-down, and abiotic factors interact with seasonal variation in monarch density to constrain the timing and extent of seasonal windows of opportunity? and (3) How do climatic variation and microhabitat heterogeneity affect these constraints?
The results showed that different combinations of factors constrained the early- and late-season windows of opportunity for monarch recruitment. “Early-season windows of opportunity were characterized by high egg densities and low survival on a select subset of host plants, consistent with the hypothesis that early-spring migrant female monarchs select earlier-emerging plants to balance a seasonal trade-off between increasing host plant quantity and decreasing host plant quality,” the abstract relates. “Late-season windows of opportunity were coincident with the initiation of host plant senescence, and caterpillar success was negatively correlated with heatwave exposure, consistent with the hypothesis that late-season windows were constrained by plant defense traits and thermal stress.”
The researchers also noted:
- “Throughout this study, climatic and microclimatic variations played a foundational role in the timing and success of monarch developmental windows by affecting bottom-up, top-down, and abiotic limitations. More exposed microclimates were associated with higher developmental success during cooler conditions, and more shaded microclimates were associated with higher developmental success during warmer conditions, suggesting that habitat heterogeneity could buffer the effects of climatic variation.”
- “Together, these findings show an important dimension of seasonal change in milkweed-monarch interactions and illustrate how different biotic and abiotic factors can limit the developmental success of monarchs across the breeding season. These results also suggest the potential for seasonal sequences of favorable or unfavorable conditions across the breeding range to strongly affect monarch population dynamics.”
Yang and his team planted 318 narrow-leaved milkweed adjacent to the seasonal irrigation channel, which carries runoff water with a “seasonal pattern of generally increased flow during summer irrigation periods and immediately following winter precipitation events. As a result, this site combines several elements representative of the California Central Valley at a landscape scale.” The Davis site typifies a “Mediterranean pattern of cool, wet winters and hot dry summers.”
The researchers recorded daily temperatures and precipitation in one dataset, and in a second dataset, sub-hourly temperature observations, approximately every 20 minutes. They defined the “early season” as days 90–180 (approximately the end of March to the end of June) and the late season as days 180–270 (approximately the end of June to the end of September) each year.”
They measured and recorded the milkweed growth and leaf area removal by herbivores, and counted and measured the eggs and larvae. They also gathered information on the predator and herbivore community.
MMMILC Project. Participants in the Monitoring Milkweed–Monarch Interactions for Learning and Conservation (MMMILC) Project, directed by Yang, collected most of the observations. Yang provided hands-on, in-person training in milkweed-monarch biology, data collection, and data entry protocols, partnering with the Environmental Science internship program led by Eric Bastin at Davis Senior High School and the Growing Green internship program led by Karen Swan at the Center for Land-based Learning, Woodland.
“We documented 674 weekly observations of monarch eggs and 997 weekly observations of monarch caterpillars across the three years of this study,” the researchers wrote. “Monarchs were most numerous in 2016. We observed 2.7 times as many monarch eggs in 2016 as in 2015 and 2.2 times as many as in 2017. We observed 3.0 times as many caterpillars in 2016 as in 2015, and 2.5 times as many as in 2017. Separated by year and normalized by the total number of emerged plants each year, we observed 137 eggs and 193 caterpillars (0.49 egg and 0.69 caterpillar observations per plant) in 2015, 369 eggs and 576 caterpillars (1.55 egg and 2.42 caterpillar observations per plant) in 2016 and 168 eggs and 226 caterpillars (0.74 egg and 1.0 caterpillar observations per plant) in 2017.
Among their research findings:
- The early and late monarch developmental periods were generally warmer in 2017 than in the two previous years.
- The number of surviving emerged plants declined over the 3-year study, from 281 (88.3 percent) in 2015, to 238 (75 percent) in 2016 to 226 (71 percent) in 2017. However, an increasing proportion of the surviving plants attained a total stem length exceeding 50 cm across these same years: 137 (49 percent of 281) in 2015, 144 (61 percent of 238) in 2016, and 175 (77 percent of 226).
- The growth of milkweeds changed dramatically in 2017 following the rainy winter of 2016–2017. Milkweeds in 2017 attained sizes (maximum weekly mean total stem lengths) that were 70 percent larger than in 2015, and 64 percent larger than in 2016, and the variance of the plant size distribution also increased.
- Milkweed emerged earliest in 2016 (mean emergence day 110) and nearly four weeks later in 2017 (mean emergence day 137).
Unfortunately, a City of Davis maintenance crew unintentionally mowed the site on May 5, 2017, “damaging several plants in this population. However, most plants in the population were below the height of the mower blades at this point in the growing season.”
Today the milkweed population at the North Davis Channel is being maintained by the City of Davis and dedicated citizens, including Larry Snyder, who documented the project in photographs. “We aren't monitoring there intensively, but we've seen monarch eggs, caterpillars and adults there this year,” Yang said.
More monarch projects from the Louie Yang lab are pending. “The next paper in press represents research done several years ago and is focused on the timing of herbivory and its effects on flowering,” he said. “We are studying several California milkweed species.”
The deadline to RSVP for the Celebration of Life for internationally known honey bee authority, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is Monday, Aug. 1.
The memorial is set from 4 to 6 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 28 in the Putah Creek Lodge, 685 Putah Creek Lodge Drive. To RSVP, access https://ericmussencelebrationofli.rsvpify.com. For those who cannot attend in person, UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the Department of Entomology, is generously donating his time and talents to do a live Zoom webinar. Registration is underway here at https://bit.ly/3czl5Am; no deadline to register. It also will be on YouTube.
Dr. Mussen, a 38-year California Cooperative Extension apiculturist died Friday, June 3 from liver cancer, after a diagnosis several days before. He was 78. (See https://bit.ly/3ou1O5W)
The tentative program:
- Introductory remarks by administrators, including UC Davis Chancellor Gary May
- Speakers from UC Davis, the bee industry and almond industry
- Memory table
- PowerPoint presentation of images
- Songs by the Davis-based Doo wop group directed by Frank Fox (Dr. Mussen was an active member)
- A honey bee observation hive, compliments of Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, director of the California Master Beekeeper Program
- Light refreshments, including a bee-themed cake.
The National Honey Board is donating honey bee pins, and Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, will provide honey straws.
Dr. Mussen, known to all as "Eric,” joined the UC Davis entomology department in 1976. Although he retired in 2014, he continued his many activities until a few weeks prior to his death. For nearly four decades, he drew praise as “the honey bee guru,” “the pulse of the bee industry" and "the go-to person" when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media sought answers about honey bees. Join us to celebrate his life and legacy.
Dr. Mussen worked with everyone interested in honey bees--from 4-H beekeepers to large-scale commercial beekeeping operations. For years, he volunteered his expertise for the National 4-H Beekeeping Essay Competition sponsored by the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees. He chaired the California-level contest and judged the entries.
Family and friends suggest memorial contributions be made to the California State 4-H Beekeeping Program, with a note, "Eric Mussen Memorial Fund." Mary Ciriceillo, director of development for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, said checks may be made out to the California 4-H Foundation and mailed to:
Jean-Pierre Delplanque, vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies, says the program recognizes "faculty providing outstanding service in advising and mentoring at the program level."
In a letter to Professor Rosenheim, he praised his "excellent service to your graduate program, as well as your positive impact on graduate students and your colleagues. We thank you for your investment in advising and mentoring graduate students and contribution to their success."
Delplanque singled out a few excerpts from the award packet:
- “He has demonstrated his unparalleled dedication to mentoring students, and ability to cultivate an atmosphere of learning, excitement, and critical thinking in the lab, field, and classroom. He consistently makes time to support his students. Regardless of his current teaching and research demands, Jay will provide feedback, schedule meetings, and maintain his open door policy.”
- “Jay is a remarkably skillful and reassuring mentor with a natural generosity of spirit and a broad view of mentorship. He has deep knowledge in a wide range of subject areas, and also has the wisdom to offer students good advice on all stages of the research process. Jay is especially good at putting students at ease and motivating them to persist through the setbacks of research. I have often seen students go to Jay for advice when they are worried and leave feeling better about the road ahead.”
Delplanque noted that "Graduate Studies is committed to showcasing and promoting positive mentoring experiences like yours. Graduate advising and mentoring is vital for guiding students through their degrees and professional development, while also helping ensure their overall success and well-being. Your efforts exemplify outstanding service in mentorship and we hope you will join us in championing the benefits and significance of graduate student mentoring across campus. Congratulations again on your achievement."
Rosenheim, who specializes in insect ecology, integrated pest management, and biological control, and the use of farmer-generated data to enhance pest and crop management ('Ecoinformatics'), holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (1983) from UC Davis and a doctorate in entomology (1987) from UC Berkeley. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 1990. and become a UC Davis distinguished professor in 2018.
Humbled and honored to receive the award, Rosenheim says that "The job of a professor is quite diverse, and quite rewarding in different ways. Teaching in a classroom provides instant gratification, as you see the light of understanding and excitement shining in students' eyes as they explore and grasp new concepts. Research in the laboratory provides instead delayed gratification, where long periods of hard work--sometimes years--may pass before questions are answered and one feels the satisfaction of pushing forward the margins of scientific understanding."
"But, perhaps the most lasting sense of accomplishment comes from mentoring graduate students," Rosenheim says. Building relationships with graduate students, watching them grow in their skills and confidence and, finally, seeing them establish themselves in their careers, provides the kind of reward that is similar in some ways to the happiness that parents derive from their children. And the relationships never end – they are bonds that last a lifetime. I think the key to effective mentorship is to place the student's welfare at the top of one's priority list. So, drafts of papers should be returned promptly with constructive suggestions, and not allowed to languish in a long queue of manuscripts waiting for reviews--more senior colleagues can wait, if someone needs to wait.
"And, I think effective mentorship also means tailoring the kind of assistance provided to the needs and desires of each student. Mentorship is definitely not a one-size-fits-all kind of undertaking. Some students need a lot of encouragement (actually, almost everyone benefits from positive feedback, because research often produces huge servings of critiques), some students need more assistance, especially at the earliest stages of their research, but some students absolutely chafe under too much input, and instead want total independence. That's fine – it's important to adjust to each student's desires and needs. I think good mentorship also means establishing a laboratory culture of openness and collegiality. Everyone should be happy to come to the lab, learn from each other, and contribute to each other's research progress. Mentorship doesn't just come from the lab PI (principal investigator), but from everyone who makes the lab a community."
A native of Yorktown, N.Y, young Jay developed an interest in biology while exploring the vernal pools behind his Hudson River Valley home. As an undergraduate at UC Davis, he initially majored in physics. "On a lark" he enrolled in Professor Harry Kaya's Entomology 100 course in 1981. The professor inspired him, the class enthralled him, and insects captivated him.
Rosenheim's career has not only led to his being elected a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, but recipient of teaching awards from the Associated Students of UC Davis and the UC Davis Academic Senate; and the Distinguished Student Mentoring Award from ESA's Pacific Branch.
He co-founded and co-directs the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB) with Professors Joanna Chiu and Louie Yang of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The program aims to provide "undergraduates with a closely-mentored research experience in biology," according to the website. "Because insects can be used as model systems to explore virtually any area of biology (population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; cell biology), faculty in the program can provide research opportunities across the full sweep of biology. The program's 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."
In the highly competitive “service award” category of the UC Davis Staff Assembly's annual 2022 Citations of Excellence program, Dyer received the second-place honor or honorable mention. The university employs some 17,000 academic and administrative staff.
Dyer, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (2018) from UC Davis, began volunteering at the Bohart Museum in 2015, advanced to a paid internship in 2016, and then in 2018, accepted his current position as the lab assistant.
Dyer overcame three obstacles: a challenging childhood, a marriage that didn't work, and the loss of his home and hometown in the 2018 raging inferno in Paradise known as “The Camp Fire.” He successfully struggled from #ParadiseStrong to #DyerStrong.
“Ninety-five percent of the town is gone,” Paradise council member Michael Zuccolillo told the San Francisco Chronicle in a news story published Nov. 10, 2018. “The remaining 5 percent of buildings are barely standing. I felt like I was living in a bad dream. It was unrecognizable. I had to keep asking, ‘Where are we?' All the landmarks are gone. Block by block, nothing. Anybody who had a house in Paradise probably doesn't anymore.”
Love of Science. Dyer today credits his “love of science” with helping him overcome life's hardships. “And now in return, he inspires others to love science,” wrote his three nominators Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey described him as “bright, gifted and personable. It doesn't matter what needs to be done in the museum, curation, insect identification, live colony care, computer or software issues, and working with student volunteers, he takes care of it. It is so rare to find someone who can do some of these tasks so well, much less all of them like he can.”
Another faculty member added this to the nomination packet: “(Brennen) is what I would generally characterize as a servant leader, defined by a philosophy and practice that aims to enrich the lives of the people. He works to build a better organization, and create a more caring environment for everyone. He is an exceptionally hard worker who is always available to assist students, staff, volunteers alike.”
An alumnus: “(Brennen) is incredible. He is intelligent, meticulous and proactive, and goes above and beyond to assist peers and colleagues. For example, when I was finishing my PhD thesis, I needed photos of insect specimens to add to my last chapter, but I had neither the time nor the skills to utilize our modern microscope to photograph specimens. He generously offered to help, and did so perfectly and quickly. If he hadn't been so reliable and proactive, I wouldn't have been able to finish my PhD in time.”
Accolades. Other comments from faculty and colleagues:
- “Frankly, we do not know what we would do without him. He is that exemplary. He is always kind, courteous, respectful, reliable, flexible, and eager to help with any project. When you ask for a favor or task from him, you can count on it being done promptly and correctly.”
- “(Brennen) steps up to difficult tasks, such as taking the lead in a landmark, three-year, federally funded project of surveying and databasing insects from three counties in the Sacramento River Delta (to date, 700 species, including 30 new species). He does it all, from organizing collections, coordinating field trips, and training interns, to helping graduate students, faculty and peers with equipment, including the GIGAmacro system and freeze freeze dryer; and assisting them with their projects and publications, such as imaging holotypes and photographing specimens for their publications. With BioQuip closed and supplies scarce, he even designs collecting equipment!”
- “He also serves as the unofficial IT specialist. (Brennen), who learned to dismantle and resassemble computers as a child, troubleshoots the office computers and printers, and assists with the website.
- “He volunteers to drive hundreds of miles to bring back collections, donations or other materials. He eagerly supports UC Davis Picnic Day, (Bohart) open houses, and UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day. He engages with visitors, showing them displays, answering their questions, and encouraging them to ask more!”
- “(Brennen) strongly supports diversity, equity and inclusion. When a colleague's developmentally disabled aunt arrived for a tour, he noticed her limitless enthusiasm and curiosity for insects, so he headed to the Arboretum to bring back a male Valley carpenter bee (a blond, green-eyed bee known as a ‘teddy bear bee') and let the aunt hold it (note that ‘boy bees don't sting') before releasing it. Her joy, glee and excitement were as unforgettable as (Brennen's) kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity.”
- “(Brennen) has been an anchor to the museum, especially these last COVID years. We are a small team who tries to do big things. (Brennen) is the glue that holds everything together and gets the job done. He supports all aspects of the (workplace) from research to outreach and education. He is tireless and very deserving of recognition. He is not someone who likes to step into the limelight, but is definitely behind the scenes making everything happen smoothly. He is also just a caring and kind co-worker and sensitive to inclusivity and equity.”
In summary, the nominators wrote that (Brennen) “epitomizes the excellence of our UC Davis workforce.”
Dyer said he is humbled and honored to be singled out for the award.
The judging criteria in the service award category included
- Provides exemplary services to students, staff, faculty and/or general campus
- Makes notable contributions to the department and/or campus
- Creates and maintains high morale
- Embodies the Principles of Community
In all, the UC Davis Staff Assembly awarded individual honors in five categories: innovation, mentorship, service, supervision, and teaching, as well as a team award and a faculty and staff partnership award. The judges also awarded scholarships to staff and staff dependents. (See award winners)
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 and located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses a global collection of eight million insects. It also maintains a live “petting zoo” (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas) and an insect-themed gift shop.