But the 15 University of California, Davis, students weren't skipping class.
They were taking it.
Slipping off their backpacks, they trekked down to the sluggish Putah Creek west of campus to try their luck catching sunfish, bass and other fish. They stood on the sun-dappled banks and cast their lines in the water as life itself floated by. A tadpole surfaced and darted back to the muddy bottom; a crawfish poked through the thick algae looking for prey; and dragonflies and butterflies lurked and glided across the creek.
An errant soccer ball, now a creek trophy, bobbed like a gigantic cork. Off in the distance, a boastful rooster served as the morning D.J.
It was the second week of classroom instruction on the UC Davis campus. But this classroom has no walls, no roof, no desks and no chairs.
It's an annual animal biology class taught by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, an adjunct professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology who is known for his excellence in teaching and commitment to students. For one day of the quarter, he takes his students, in groups of 15 and teams of two, fishing.
But it's much more than that.
His unique teaching approach starts with a “fish sampling field trip” that exposes his students to “the methods and practice of sampling fishes using common techniques from fisheries biology,” Kimsey said. It's one part of the scientific method: an hypothesis, experiments to test that hypothesis, analysis of the data, conclusions, and communication of the results.
“ABI50A is a two-unit animal biology laboratory course that introduces students to the scientific method as a continuous process,” said Kimsey, the recipient of several teaching awards, including the 2006 Outstanding Educator in the College of Biological Sciences, presented by the Associated Students of UC Davis.
“Bob is one of our most outstanding instructors in the Department of Entomology,” said Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. “He is truly dedicated to the students and strives to get them to ‘think' in this and other outdoor classrooms rather than simply memorize and regurgitate facts.”
Some students had never fished before. No problem. Kimsey and his teaching assistant, Amy Morice, an entomology graduate student, showed them how, along with student and veteran angler Sarah Pereverzieu, who for the last three summers has worked as a nature guide at the Alisal Guest Ranch, Solvang, “One of my duties was to teach guests how to fish,” she said.
Expressly for the field trip, Kimsey obtained the proper permits from the California Department of Fish and Game that allowed him to use seines, wire fish traps or cages, and rods and reels. The day before the class, he paddled out in his canoe to set the fish cages. The next morning, at the edge of the creek, he discussed the history of fishing and demonstrated how to catch them. Students took turns paddling with him to check the fish traps.
All total, the 15 students caught two fish, several crawfish, a tadpole, algae, a tree branch, tree leaves and a rash. Stacy Williams of Orange, Calif., hooked a small sunfish while Shannon Kaefer of Salinas, reeled in a small largemouth bass. The seines, weighted nets that float along the top of the surface, snared the lone tadpole, while the fishing traps yielded the crawfish.
“Some inquires are deceptively simple,” he said. “For example, it may be that the literature indicates that a particular species of sunfish prefers to reside in submerged aquatic vegetation. One might predict that their prey does as well. A curious student can test this idea by comparing stomach contents of this species with samples of insect prey sampled from aquatic plants in the Delta.”
“Simple as this project may appear to be,” he said, “teams of students go through the entire process of gathering preliminary information, agreeing on a pair of mutually exclusive hypotheses that predict observations they can make from fish dissections, writing a grant proposal, gathering the data from dissections in the laboratory, data analysis, drawing conclusions, writing a paper and giving a PowerPoint presentation talk to the rest of the class on their results.”
The work is done in teams, but each student writes his or her own version of the paper and gives a portion of the PowerPoint presentation.
“The hidden agendas of this course,” he said, “include promoting writing and public speaking skills and learning to work in teams, three essential social skills of any good scientist.”
Kimsey said new questions arise in any scientific inquiry, “not only from the results of a well thought-out test of an idea, but from the process of inquiry itself. Thus the scientific method perpetually exposes our ignorance of the world around us stimulating new ideas and questions to be explored.”
And how to catch fish on a sun-dappled morning along Putah Creek while their peers are sitting in lecture halls.
Compliments of Häagen-Dazs, the wildflowers will be on a quarter-acre site adjacent to the soon-to-be-implemented Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
The Campus Buzzway, coordinated by the Department of Entomology and the California Center for Urban Horticulture, will begin blooming in the spring.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden scheduled to be planted in mid-October, is designed to serve as a year-around food source for honey bees, raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own, said entomologist Lynn Kimsey, professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
“The Campus Buzzway will be a fabulous addition to the honey bee garden already under construction at our Bee Biology facility,” Kimsey said. “Both will greatly benefit our colonies and make terrific teaching opportunities.”
Dave Fujino, executive director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture, said the Campus Buzzway will boast year-round blooms and vibrant colors. “The Buzzway will transform an empty field into something beautiful and functional,” he said. “Most importantly, the flower mix will have a positive impact on the health and wellness of our local pollinator populations.”
The Queen Bee Blend is an assortment of California poppy, coreopsis (also called tickseed) and wild perennial lupine. Blue and gold are the official UC Davis colors.
The blend will offer “a long blooming season that provides food for bees all year long,” said Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager of Haagen-Dazs.
Fujino said that the Campus Buzzway, spanning approximately 9000 square feet, will include wildflower liners and weed barriers to “provide a uniform, weed-free field of flowers for next spring.”
The Campus Buzzway was part of a national campaign, “A World Without Bees,” that Häagen-Dazs launched on college campuses in April. Students at 12 major colleges, including UC Davis, sampled the premier ice cream and voted on their favorite flower blend. The winner: the Queen Bee Blend.
Häagen-Dazs is in its second year of a national campaign to raise funds for honey bee research at UC Davis and Penn State University. Part of the brand's donations to UC Davis are being used to create the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the Campus Buzzway.
Honey bees are responsible for the pollination of more than 100 crops in the United States, including fruits, vegetables, nut and seeds, said Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and a member of the Häagen-Dazs scientific board. Nearly half of all Häagen-Dazs flavors depend on bee pollination.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven design is the work of a four-member Sausalito team: landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki. They won the internationally publicized competition earlier this year.
Sibbett is a principal with the Sibbett Group; Baker is a senior landscape architect with RRM Design Group; Brainard is an independent museum consultant; and Kurotaki is an exhibit designer who works for RRM Design Group.
The Sausalito team's design zeroed in on sustainability and visitor experience. The four interconnected gardens, “Honeycomb Hideout,” “Nectar Nook,” “Pollinator Patch” and “My Backyard” form the “physical and interpretive framework for our honey bee haven design,” the authors said. A series of trails connect the gardens. Trellises define the entry ways and reinforce the passage to the next space.
Incorporated into each of the four sections are gathering spaces that serve as orientation points for guided tours, facilitated programs and ‘chat time' with beekeepers and entomologists,” the team explained. Identification labels will help visitors know more about the plants, or what they can plant in their own yards.
The design also includes a “Learning Center” building and paths labeled “Orchard Alley,” “Save the Bee Sanctuary,” “Round Dance Circle” and “Waggle Dance Way.”
Häagen-Dazs ice cream committed $125,000 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology for the garden project. This encompasses site planning, preparation and the design competition.
Said design competition coordinator Melissa “Missy” Borel, program manager for the California Center for Urban Horticulture: “We'll not only be providing a pollen and nectar source for the millions of bees on Bee Biology Road, but we will also be demonstrating the beauty and value of pollinator gardens. My hope is that it will inspire everyone to plant for pollinators!”
A public opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and Campus Buzzway is tentatively scheduled in the fall of 2010.
How the Beehive Columns Went from Bee Boxes to Art
Now they are thinking inside and outside the hive.
Visitors to the grand opening celebration of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, will see two columns of bee hives or “bee boxes” gracing the entrance to the half-acre bee friendly garden, located at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis.
“They're fantastic,” said bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey. “They're beyond fantastic—the art work is awesome. Not only is the quality of artwork highly impressive, the coverage and accuracy of the honey bee life cycle and activities depicted are extremely well done.”
The colorfully painted bee hives are the work of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by Ullman and Billick. Ullman is an entomology professor and associate dean for undergraduate academic programs at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Billick is a noted artist who holds a bachelor's degree in genetics and a master's degree in fine arts.
Dalrymple (left), a UC Davis entomology graduate student who studies with major professor Rick Karban, served as the teachers' assistant for the program's Graphics and Communications Studio section.
As part of their research, the students enrolled in the class visited the Laidlaw facility, learning about bees from Cobey and staff research associate-beekeeper Elizabeth Frost.
“From my view, watching this come together has been a highlight, as the students asked their numerous questions seeking accuracy and sought the experience of opening a colony and observing bees in their numerous duties,” Cobey said. “The delight and amazement of students holding a frame of brood, watching a new bee emerge from her cell, feed larvae or pack in pollen for first time, is also is a thrill for me.”
Each sculpture is stacked with seven real bee hives, so real that curious Laidlaw bees try to enter them. One column depicts life inside the hive, and the other column, life outside the hive. Among the images: a queen bee laying eggs, nurse maids caring for the brood, and foragers collecting nectar, pollen, propolis and water.
As the teacher's assistant of the Graphics and Communications Studio, Dalrymple led students through painting exercises
Dalrymple provided feedback on the designs and offered suggestions for making them more scientifically accurate or aesthetically pleasing. In addition, she painted one side of a box in the "Life Inside the Hive" column and made final design decisions, such as what order the boxes should be in the column.
“Diane Ullman and Donna Billick were incredibly helpful, offering invaluable suggestions along the way, and ultimately installing the pieces in the Honey Bee Haven,” Dalrymple said. Local artist Melissa Chandon also led the students through a painting exercise during one studio session.
“I couldn't have gotten through the quarter without each of their help,” Dalrymple said, adding that she is “incredibly proud of the work” the students did.
“The outcome is simultaneously educational and beautiful,” she said. “The artwork depicts the intricate division of labor among different honey bee castes and the pollination services that honey bees provide to important crops and wildflowers. I hope it will serve as a focal point and source of information about honey bees for garden visitors.”
Although visitors to the haven wouldn't know it, only a handful of the students came in with a lot of painting experience. “Most of them had done very little painting or none at all prior to this class,” she said. “This project was very empowering and made the students feel a real connection to the UC Davis campus. I think those are some of the most positive outcomes of the public art projects created in Entomology 1.”
Entomology 1, “Art, Science and the World of Insects,” is the centerpiece course of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
The half-acre bee friendly garden, open year around, includes a 6-foot-long honey bee, created by Billick and funded by Wells Fargo. Ceramic tiles on the bench below the bee were created by undergraduate students in a freshmen seminar for Davis Honors Challenge students; community members; and sixth grade students at Korematsu Elementary School.
The Laidlaw facility is located on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road, on the western end of the campus. To reach the grounds, go west on Hutchinson Drive for about a mile, turn left on Hopkins Road, and then a left on Bee Biology Road.
More information on the grand opening is at http://beebiology.ucdavis.edu/HAVEN/havenopening.html
DAVIS—A newly launched University of California Web site promises to be a one-stop site for information about honey bees and native bees, UC Davis officials said today.
The bee biology site, the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility Web site, is online at http://beebiology.ucdavis.edu. The facility is located on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
“Our new Web site will allow us to provide information to the public about bees, answer questions, and highlight our studies and discoveries about bees and their importance in the environment,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology who is coordinating activities at the Laidlaw facility. She also directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology on campus.
The Web site includes sections on research, outreach, publications, news, events, faculty and researchers, honey bees, native bees, pollination, instruction and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It also includes a photo gallery, kids' zone and links to bee sources throughout the world. A special FAQ section is devoted to commonly asked questions.
The honey bee expert team includes Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility; bee breeder-geneticist M. Kim Fondrk; and Häagen-Dazs postdoctoral scholar Michelle Flenniken, an insect virus researcher
The native bee team includes pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology, and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology.
“The Web site will be content rich,” said communication specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey, editor, photographer and Web developer. “We'll be expanding the content to offer the most informative, up-to-date information about honey bees and other bees.”
The site includes videos on honey bees and bumble bees. Of special interest is the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden east of the Laidlaw Facility on Bee Biology Road. To open to the public Oct. 16, it will provide a year-around food source for bees and other pollinators, and an educational experience for visitors who can glean information on how to plant a bee friendly garden.
Bee biologist Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003) was known as “the father of honey genetics.” He grew up in the southeastern United States and worked as a beekeeper with his grandfather, Charles Quinn. They experimented with mating queen bees and controlled breeding and developed what became known as the Quinn-Laidlaw hand-mating method.
Laidlaw completed his master's degree in entomology in 1934 from Louisiana State University and received his doctorate in genetics and entomology form the University of Wisconsin in 1939.
Laidlaw retired as a professor of entomology in 1974 but continued his research and outreach efforts. He published his last scientific paper at age 87 and his last book at 90. In 2001, the UC Davis Bee Biology Laboratory was renamed the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
(Editor's note: The grand opening celebration took place Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. The garden, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the UC Davis central campus, is open year around, dawn to dusk.
Here are some site preparation photos taken Aug. 6, 2009. See more about the haven.