Lots of fun and educational activities revolving around insects are planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, coordinator of the activities at Briggs Hall, and Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
The Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is home to nearly 8 million insect specimens. It also features a live “petting zoo” where visitors can hold Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a rose-haired tarantula and walking sticks.
What can visitors see at the Bohart Museum? "The world is changing. See insects that have been recently discovered and insects that are threatened and extinct," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at the Bohart Museum.
At Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive, the popular events will include maggot art, termite trails, cockroach races and honey tasting, as well as displays featuring forensic, medical, aquatic, apiculture and forest entomology. Exhibits also will include such topics as fly fishing/fly-tying, insect pests of ornamentals, and pollinators of California. In addition, an exhibition of bug sampling equipment will be featured.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen is coordinating the honey tasting. He will share six varieties of honey: Almond, yellow starthistle, leatherwood, cultivated buckwheat, safflower and “wild oak.” Each person will be given six toothpicks to sample the varieties.
Visitors to Briggs can cheer for their favorite cockroach at the American cockroach races; watch a termite follow a line drawn with a Bic ink pen (they follow the line because the ink acts as a pheromone or attractant) and create a maggot art painting suitable for framing.
The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) will provide a display in front of Briggs Hall. Visitors can learn about managing pests in their homes and garden. In addition, live lady beetles (aka ladybugs) will be distributed to children.
Plans also call for a “Bug Doctor” to answer insect-related questions from the public.
Entomologists are saying "What a (buggy) ride!" the UC Davis Picnic Day promises to be.
As president, he will serve a one-year term, 2014 to 2015. He succeeds Diana Johnson of New Jersey, who served as a forensic serologist with the New Jersey State Police for seven years and now teaches forensics.
Kimsey, active in NAFEA since joining the association in 2002, will conduct the 12th annual meeting, which takes place July 14-18 in Petersburg, Fla. Kimsey hosted a NAFEA conference at Davis in 2004. He is on the conference committee for 2105 and is planning another Davis conference in 2017.
NAFE promotes the development of forensic entomology throughout North America and encourages co-operation with other similar international bodies. Its mission is to provide a cooperative arena for forensic entomologists to interact and collaborate in ways that enhance the science, moral and ethical foundation, and reputation of forensic entomology.
Kimsey, a UC Davis product who joined the faculty in 1989, received both his bachelor's degree and doctorate in entomology from UC Davis. He coordinates and serves as the master advisor of the animal biology major program at UC Davis, which includes some 400 students. He also advises the UC Davis Entomology Club.
Kimsey's research interests include public health entomology; arthropods of medical importance; zoonotic disease; biology and ecology of tick-borne pathogens; tick feeding behavior; and biochemistry. His research includes the nuisance flies on Alcatraz Island that plaque staff and tourists. A former guard at the penitentiary nicknamed him “The Fly Man of Alcatraz,” during the 2007 Alcatraz Reunion.
Kimsey was selected the outstanding educator of 2013 in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences by the Associated Students of UC Davis.
And “millipede patrol.” And “powderpost beetle patrol.”
Kimsey, whose fly research on the island led to his nickname, “The Fly Man of Alcatraz,” will be leading 16 club members Saturday on an overnight insect/arthropod collecting tour, deploying insect light traps. They also will be surveying the rat population that threatens the bird sanctuaries on the island.
The project encompasses all of Saturday and part of Sunday. “Some in our group want to get back early so as not to miss the game,” said Kimsey, a faculty member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the club’s advisor.
Kimsey knows that the Seattle team’s bird moniker is “Seahawks,” but he’s more interested in other birds--the birds in the island’s rookeries and the “The Bird Man of Alcatraz” (Robert Stroud)-- than in who’s throwing the pigskin.
“I’m not a football fan,” Kimsey acknowledged.
A UC Davis “rat patrol” in February of 2012 led to the discovery of a fluorescent millipede, a common arthropod but previously unknown to exist on the island. After National Park Service employees fed rats a bait laced with fluorescent, non-toxic dye, Kimsey and the club members began searching for fluorescent rat feces.
Had it consumed some of the rat bait? No. An experiment at the Bohart Museum of Entomology on the UC Davis campus showed that these millipedes (Xystocheir dissecta (Wood) glow under ultraviolet or black lights, just like scorpions.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, suspects that the millipedes on Alcatraz Island originated from soil transported over from the nearby Angel Island when “The Rock” was just that—rock with little or no soil.
The species is relatively abundant in the Bay Area. “This particular species of millipedes glowed all along, but nobody was paying any attention to it,” she said.
Nguyen is now doing research in the Bruce Hammock lab on the florescent millipedes. He wants to know what compound makes the millipede fluoresce under a UV light.
This will be Nguyen’s fourth overnight trip to The Rock. “I’m very excited to return,” he said.
The former maximum-security federal penitentiary once housed some of the country's most notorious inmates including not only “The Bird Man of Alcatraz” but Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Arthur “Doc” Barker.
Robert Kimsey does research on the nuisance flies that plague staff and tourists on Alcatraz. He became involved in the fly project in July 2007 when he received a call about the annoying flies from entomologist Bruce Badzik, integrated pest management coordinator with the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Since then, they have worked on a number of projects involving UC Davis Entomology Club members.
So while the 49’ers and Seahawks collect first downs, touchdowns and field goals, entomologists Robert Kimsey and Bruce Badzik and the UC Davis students will be collecting millipedes, beetles and other arthropods.
And doing “rat patrol.”
He received the honor at the annual Excellence in Education Awards, sponsored by the Associated Students of UC Davis and coordinated by the Academic Affairs Commission.
“To prepare for this event, we ask students from each college to nominate teachers they feel are excellent,” said Rahul Sachdev, a commissioner with the Academic Affairs Commission. “After receiving hundreds of nominations from each college, we select three finalists from each college to interview. After interviewing those finalists, we then select an overall winner for each college. For the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the overall winner was Dr. Kimsey.”
Kimsey received a plaque and a certificate signed by Desirae Costello, chair of the Academic Affairs Commission, and Dana Server, vice chair.
“From an early age, Professor Robert Kimsey was interested in the world of bugs and biology,” said Sachdev in presenting the award. “This early passion led Professor Kimsey to pursue a career in entomology. Currently, Professor Kimsey is not only a practicing entomologist but also a teacher. As a teacher, Professor Kimsey has taught numerous classes and has motivated and inspired a countless number of students.”
“A common sentiment expressed by those lucky enough to have taken Professor Kimsey was that Professor Kimsey goes above and beyond what is required of a teacher. For instance, Professor Kimsey frequently allows students to accompany him in the field where students are given the opportunity to apply the principles learned in class to a real-life situation.”
Sachdev also said that Kimsey “has not limited his role in the department of entomology to that of a teacher.” He serves as an advisor to graduate and undergraduate students and helps organize the department’s Picnic Day during the campuswide Picnic Day celebration.
“In turn, Dr. Kimsey’s contributions toward the department and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are significant to say the least,” Sachdev pointed out, adding that his “enthusiasm toward the subject matter, along with the dedication toward his students strengthens his reputation as an excellent professor.”
Said student Karina Snapp, following the awards presentation: "I would like to say that I am a rather shy student and did not see any of my professors outside of lecture until I met Dr. Kimsey. He is very welcoming and friendly. He really helped me come out of my shell and realize what I was capable of. He is exceptionally passionate about his field, and makes it easy and fun to learn from him. He will always be my favorite professor at UC Davis."
Student Andrew Magee offered: "Dr. Kimsey has been a source of inspiration and guidance for me since I began my undergraduate career. His command of his subject matter is impressive to the point that it's intimidating. He knows his stuff and he knows how to explain it. But more important than Dr. Kimsey's ability to teach science is that he knows how to teach people how to use scientific methods to produce knowledge. He teaches us that research is accessible, and for that lesson I will always be grateful. Dr. Kimsey is a professor who really cares for his students: I know I can rely on him for help, and for good, honest advice. I can't count the number of times he's offered to help students, anything from talking about assignments to helping them get research positions. He shaped my aspirations by opening my eyes to what he thought I was capable of, which is so much more than I thought of myself. My time at UC Davis would not have been the same, and would have been a much poorer experience, were it not for Professor Kimsey."
Kimsey, who received both his bachelor's degree and doctoral degree in entomology from UC Davis, coordinates and serves as the master advisor of the animal biology major at UC Davis, which includes some 400 students.
Kimsey's research interests include public health entomology; arthropods of medical importance; zoonotic disease; biology and ecology of tick-borne pathogens; tick feeding behavior and biochemistry. His research includes the nuisance flies on Alcatraz Island that plaque staff and tourists. A former guard at the penitentiary nicknamed him “The Fly Man of Alcatraz,” during the 2007 Alcatraz Reunion.
Student Danielle Wishon, who works in his lab praised Kimsey as teaching with "contagious enthusiasm."
"I first met Bob five years ago when I joined the Entomology Club," Wishon said. "His enthusiasm for all biological disciplines and his personal interest in the success of all of his students made me quickly realize him to be an ideal mentor. During the time that I’ve been a part of his laboratory, I have gained lab and field training as well as have had the rare and special opportunity to gain hands on experience as a forensic entomologist, by accompanying him to multiple coroner’s office trips."
"Bob has used his connections with the National Park Service to help myself and a number of other students get field experience," Wishon said. "Most recently, several students from the Entomology Club were able to conduct a survey of the entirety of Alcatraz Island for beetle infestation and damage. This has already led to one student, now an alumnus, being qualified as a stored product pest consultant. An additional job on Alcatraz, a rat infestation survey, led to the discovery of fluorescing millipedes in a genus previously not known to fluoresce. The undergrad student that made the discovery is now conducting additional research and is looking to publish his work in the next year. I have personally been conducting research with Bob on the cormorant fly, a fly pest on Alcatraz, for the last couple of years."
Other student comments:
From Danielle George: “Professor Kimsey wasn't just my major adviser, he was a life mentor to me. Every time I would walk into his office with one question, I would find myself talking to him for an hour about anything. He was my professor and is now my friend.”
Mayllynne Lopez: “Dr. Kimsey is not only a brilliant professor, but an extraordinary advisor as well. He has given me advice that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Edy Campos: “I would like to say that Professor Kimsey is one of the best professors I have had here on campus and I am happy that he received this award. I really believe that he takes a lot of time and effort to be a great professor which is shown through his great lectures. One thing that I believe that sets him apart from other professors is that although he is busy he makes time to get to know his students and that he really puts a lot of effort to try to help his students whether its with classes, finding a mentor or figuring out career paths when one seems to be lost at what to do. I am glad that I have had the chance to be in a lot of classes and work with him and get great advice that I will take with me even after I graduate.”
Hannah Greenspan: “Dr. Kimsey has been one of the most helpful professors I dealt with in my 4 years at UC Davis. I took animal biology classes with him and he is also my mentor for my senior practicum. It is always helpful and fun to go meet with him. I could not have been happier with Dr. Kimsey during my time at Davis. I agree that he is an outstanding educator!”
Other winners of the 2013 Excellence in Education awards:
College of Engineering: Sean Davis
College of Biological Science: Lauren Liets
College of Letters and Science, Division of Math and Physical Sci: Eli Goldwyn
College of Letters and Science, Division of Social Sciences: Cara Chiaraluce
College of Letters and Science, Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies: Martin Weis
Educator of the year: Sean Davis
Fly Man of Alcatraz
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.