It will not be a day--it will be a month.
It will not be a walk-around event--it will be virtual.
Traditionally billed as a “free, educational event for the community where visitors get to meet and talk with UC Davis scientists "and see amazing objects and organisms from the world around us,” it's a science-based event showcasing the diversity of life, according to Biodiversity Museum Day coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Over the last nine years, it took place the Saturday of Presidents' Day weekend. Last year more than 4000 attended.
The 12 museums or collections participating in the virtual program this year via Zoom webinars, Facebook programs and YouTube will be:
- Anthropology Museum
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Nematode Collection
- Marine Invertebrate Collection
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
All participating museums and collections have active education and outreach programs, Yang said, but the collections are not always accessible to the public. More information is pending on the website at http://biodiversitymuseumday.edu, and on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, @BioDivDay.
A friendly global rivalry between undergraduate biochemistry students at UC Davis and at University College Dublin, Ireland, is being launched in memory of plant biochemist Eric Conn (1923-2017), a UC Davis professor emeritus of molecular and cellular biology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
To be called the UCD vs. UCD Biochemistry Games, it will be preceded by a preliminary game, the Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes, set for 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20 to determine the UC Davis participants. Students (prospective participants) and the public can register at https://tinyurl.com/y33eyc4v. Up to 500 members of the public can register.
“Both UC Davis and UC Dublin are global research universities,” said organizer Walter Leal, a UC Davis distinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology). “However, the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered our efforts to exchange students. Meanwhile, remote learning is causing ZOOM fatigue and impairing student's ability to focus. We hope that this educational activity will promote physically distant, socially close interactions between undergraduate students and further our institutions' ties.”
Both universities maintain vibrant research programs, said Leal. More than 39,000 students attend UC Davis, a public land-grant research university and a member of the Association of American Universities, and more than 33,000 attend UC Dublin, a member institution of the National University of Ireland, and Ireland's largest university.
The number of UC Davis students selected to compete is undetermined, depending on responses from UC Dublin, Leal said. “It may be between 10 and 15 students on each team.”
“The final Games will focus on protein structures, including two proteins closely related to SARSCoV-2 inflicted COVID-19 disease,” Leal said. “Specifically, students will be asked questions about the structures of human hemoglobin--the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues (and return carbon dioxide) and the virus' spike protein-- that binds to a human receptor, known as ACE2, and starts the process of invading human cells.” The Eric Conn Quizzes will cover other topics of fundamental biochemistry.
Leal said that one of the most notorious presentations of COVID-19 is hypoxia (insufficient oxygen in the blood). “While the virus replicates and the spike proteins trigger invasion to other cells, hemoglobin cannot capture enough oxygen because the lungs' alveoli are filled with the mucus derived from the viral infection.”
Two Department of Molecular and Cell Biology emeriti professors Charles Gasser and National Academy of Sciences member J. Clark Lagarias, will ask questions and serve as judges for both the preliminary game and the final. Two UC Dublin judges also will be selected. Prizes are pending.
The event promises to be an educational and entertaining activity but at the same time honoring legendary plant biochemist Eric Conn, world-renowned in his field for his contributions to the understanding of plant metabolism. Conn served on the UC Davis faculty for 43 years.
“He is remembered as an architect and advocate of biological sciences programs at UC Davis whose leadership helped establish the academic spirit of the College of Biological Sciences as it exists today,” according to a Sept. 21, 2017 article on the College of Biological Sciences website.
Born in Berthoud, Colo., the youngest of four sons, Eric moved with his family in the early 1930s to Bellaire, Kan. He considered himself a “child of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.” Eric received a four-year scholarship to the University of Colorado, earning his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1944. He worked as an inorganic chemist with the Manhattan Project through the remainder of World War II, first as a citizen and then as a private with the U.S. Army.
Conn received his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Chicago in 1948 and served as a postdoctoral fellow there for two years before joining the faculty of UC Berkeley in 1950. Conn joined the UC Davis faculty in 1958, founding the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics with UC Davis colleague Paul Stumpf (1919-2007). The department they founded evolved into the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Described as an excellent teacher and researcher, Conn received the Academic Senate's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1974 and the Academic Senate's highest honor, the Faculty Research Lecturer Award, in 1977. He won the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement in 1989.
Conn organized the university's introductory course in biochemistry in 1959 and taught it until his retirement in 1993. The course became a requirement for numerous undergraduate majors. Conn was the third recipient of the UC Davis Prize for Teaching and Scholarly Achievement (https://youtu.be/TdwJkcjQvbw)
That's the title of the next UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar, to be presented Wednesday, Jan. 27 by assistant professor Charissa de Bekker of the University of Central Florida (UCF). The virtual seminar begins qt 4:10 p.m. Access this Google form link to join the seminar on Zoom.
"My lab studies parasites that change the behavior of their hosts," she writes on her website. "Nature harbors quite some bizarre examples of parasites that evolved the ability manipulate. These manipulations range from slightly altered existing behaviors to the establishment of completely novel ones that are not part of the host's regular repertoire."
"One of the most dramatic examples of the latter is that of the zombie ants. Here, a fungal parasite takes control of the behavior of a Carpenter ant, guiding it up the vegetation where it latches on in a final death grip. Working across various disciplines within the broad field of biology we use this parasite-host interaction as a model system to ask the question how a microbe can control an animal's brain to change the behavioral output so precisely. In addition, we know very little about how behavior in general is regulated. Our research will therefore not only inform us about the mechanisms that these parasites use to manipulate their hosts, but ultimately also give an important insight into the regulation of behavior in general."
De Bekker holds a five-year $970,000 National Science Foundation grant to study "parasitic fungi that hijack behaviors of their hosts."
A member of the UCF faculty since 2016, she received three degrees in biology from Utrecht University, The Netherlands: her bachelor's degree in 2004; her master's degree in 2006, and her doctorate in 2011. She specialized in molecular microbiology. She did postdoctoral research at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University, from April 2011 to July 2012, and then served as a postdoctoral Marie Curie Fellow and Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany, before joining UCF. (See lab website)
Agricultural Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is coordinating the weekly seminars. He may be reached at email@example.com
Media Coverage of Zombie Ant Research (Partial List):
- Five-Year Grant Will Deepen Research Into ‘Zombie Ants' (COS News, Feb. 26, 2020)
- The Science Behind Zombie Ants (UCF Today, Oct. 21, 2019)
- How a Parasitic Fungus Turns Ants Into 'Zombies' (National Geographic, April 18, 2019)
- The Science of Zombies: Will the Undead Rise? (Phys.Org, Nov. 1, 2019
Read National Public Radio's coverage of Zombie research (Oct. 31, 2019).
Further reading: How the Zombie Fungus Takes Over Ants' Bodies to Control Their Minds (The Atlantic, Nov. 14, 2017
See UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website for list of other seminar speakers for the winter quarter
Research entomologist Daniel Hasegawa of the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture, will speak on "Landscape and Molecular Approaches for Managing Thrips and Thrips-Transmitted Viruses in the Salinas Valley" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's first seminar of the winter quarter on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
"In 2019-2020, lettuce production in the Salinas Valley of California was devastated by thrips-transmitted impatiens necrotic spot virus (INSV)," Hasegawa says in his abstract. "Due to the inherent challenges in managing thrips using conventional chemical tactics, and no direct means for managing the virus, there is a strong need for new management strategies. This seminar will provide an overview of (1) the challenges in managing thrips and INSV in lettuce production, (2) what we've learned about the epidemiology of thrips and INSV, and (3) opportunities to improve cultural practices and develop biotechnology tools, such as RNAi for managing thrips and INSV in the Salinas Valley."
Hasegawa joined the Salinas USDA-ARS team in May 2019 after serving as a postdoctoral research associate (molecular biology) for three years with USDA-ARS in Charleston, S. C. He specializes in vector entomology, molecular biology and biotechnlogy. "My lab uses a variety of techniques to understand insect vector-virus relationships that impact plant health and agriculture," he says on Linked In. "We use molecular, genetic, and epidemiological concepts to understand drivers of vector-borne transmission of pathogens and utilize genetic technologies (e.g. RNAi and CRISPR), to improve agriculture productivity and sustainability."
Hasegawa received his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry in 2007 from UC Riverside and his doctorate in biology from Clemson University in 2013.
The mission of the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit is to improve germplasm of lettuce, spinach and melon, determine basic biology of viral, fungal and bacterial diseases affecting these crops, develop alternatives to methyl bromide as a soil fumigant for control of soilborne pests in strawberry and vegetables, reduce postharvest losses of lettuce, develop scientifically based organic crop production practices, and develop methods for control of weeds. See more on the Pacific West Area website./span>
All seminars will be held on Wednesdays at 4:10 PM (PST). Zoom links will be accessible via a Google form link.
Wednesday, Jan. 20
Daniel Hasegawa, Ph.D
USDA-ARS, Crop Improvement and Protection Research: Salinas, Calif.
Title: "Landscape and Molecular Approaches for Managing Thrips and Thrips-transmitted Viruses in the Salinas Valley of California."
Google form link to access the seminar
Host: Ian Grettenberger
Wednesday, Jan. 27
Charissa deBekker, Ph.D
University of Central Florida, Biology Department
Title: "What Makes a Zombie Ant Tick? Connecting Genomes with Behavioral Phenomes in Ants, Manipulated by a Fungal Parasite."
Google form link to access seminar
Host: Ian Grettenberger
Wednesday, Feb. 3
Shalene Jha, Ph.D
University of Texas, Austin, Department of Integrative Biology
Title: "Plant-Insect Interactions and Ecosystem Services in the Context of Global Change"
Host: Charlie Nicholson, postdoctoral researcher, Neal Williams lab and Elina Lastro Niño lab
Wednesday, Feb. 10
Estelí Jimenez-Soto, Ph.D
UC Santa Cruz, Environmental Studies Department
Host: Marshall McMunn, postdoctoral fellow, Rachel Vannette lab
Wednesday, Feb. 17
Brian Weiss, Ph.D
Yale University, Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases
Host: Geoff Attardo, assistant professor
Wednesday, Feb. 24
Jessica Kansman, Ph.D
Pennsylvania State University, Department of Entomology
Host: Ian Grettenberger
Wednesday, March 3
Monika Gulia-Nuss, Ph.D
University of Nevada, Reno, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Host: Geoff Attardo, assistant professor
Wednesday, March 10
Romina Rader, Ph.D
University of New England, School of Environmental and Rural Science
Host: Neal Williams, professor
For questions, contact Grettenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.