Those were two of the questions asked of the three-member team from the Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California, Davis, when they competed in the Linnaean Games at the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America's recent meeting in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
They not only answered those questions correctly but went on to win the branch championship. The UC Davis team--comprised of captain Ralph Washington, Jr., and members Jéssica Gillung, and Brendon Boudinot-- will now compete in November at the national Linnaean Games hosted by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in Minneapolis.
What's the answer to “What insect family can vector anthrax?” Tabanidae.
What caste of honey bee has the greatest number of ommatidia? The drone, the male honey bee. Ommatidia are the subunits of a compound eye.
The Linnaean Games, named for Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of modern taxonomy, are college bowl-style competitions involving insect science, including entomological facts, insect trivia and noted entomologists. The lively question-and-answer competitions are “an important and entertaining component of the ESA annual meeting,” said Richard Levine, ESA communications program manager.
The university-sponsored student teams, comprised of graduate students and occasionally undergraduate students, challenge one another at the annual ESA branch meetings for the championship and bragging rights. Each ESA branch then funds the champion team to compete in the national Linnaean Games. The runner-up team from each branch also competes in the nationals.
At the Pacific Branch meeting, UC Davis defeated Washington State University (WSU), Pullman, Wash., 125-60 in the finals to win the championship. WSU earlier defeated Utah State University, 80-40, and UC Davis defeated USU 170-30.
As an undergraduate student, Ralph Washington Jr. helped anchor the UC Davis 2010 team that competed in the nationals in San Diego. UC Davis narrowly lost to Ohio State University, which advanced to the finals and then went on to win the championship.
Washington, Gillung and Boudinot are all systematists. Washington, whose major professor is nematologist Steve Nadler, studies mosquitoes; Boudinot studies ants with major professor Phil Ward, and Gillung studies flies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, who directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Gillung is co-advised by Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Washington, a first-year doctoral student from Sacramento, Calif., and the newly elected president of the UC Davis Graduate Student Association, focuses on how mosquitoes choose to lay their eggs, and how those choices affect their evolution.
Boudinot, a second-year doctoral student from Washington state, is known for his expertise on the morphology of male ants. He is also interested in the biogeography and evolutionary history of ants.
Jessica, a second-year doctoral student from Brazil, is a prominent taxonomist of Diptera (flies), with special emphasis on the diversity and evolution of spider flies, family Acroceridae. Some Acrocerid adults are specialized pollinators, while larvae are internal parasitoids of spiders.
The trio is eagerly looking forward to making the 1900-mile trip from Davis to Minneapolis. Theme of the meeting is “Synergy in Science: Partnering for Solutions.” It will take place Nov. 15-18.
The Pacific Branch of ESA encompasses 11 U.S. states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming); several U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands; and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, not only oversees a collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, but she collects something else—something that could appear in a national stand-up comedian act.
Entomological funnies. Bug stuff.
“College students—especially under the crunch of a deadline—can write the darndest things,” says Kimsey, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and an international authority on the taxonomy of bees and wasps and insect diversity.
Kimsey, known for her keen sense of humor, collects “the best of the best” sentences from the term papers she grades from her introductory entomology class. She began collecting the gems in 1998.
“Some of these sentences are priceless,” Kimsey said. “You couldn't intentionally write something this good or bad depending on how you look at it.”
Some students misplace their modifiers, add an adverb, or drop a crucial letter from a word, turning a “threat” into a “treat,” Kimsey said.
And some of the students' thinking—perhaps from sleep or coffee deprivation--can be as fuzzy as a caterpillar.
How do honey bees find their way home? “By navigating around the sun,” one student wrote.
Why are mosquitoes excellent vectors? “Because they can ingest and then infect viruses with ease through blood feeding,” penned another student.
What are pathogens? “Pathogens cause disease(s) like viruses and bacteria.”
What is biological control? “Nature has been executing biological control on all walks of life since it began on earth.”
And the definition of classical biological control? “Basically, classical biological control seeks to relieve pestering insects by establishing a predator in a new environment.”
Locusts drew two choice comments:
“Other countries will also face losses (due to locusts) although at a rate of loss much less due to exhaustion from travel.”
“Normally, locusts are introverted creatures; they do not socialize unless it is for reproduction.”
Those traveling dragonflies: “These dragonflies are able to use the best of Mother Nature to assist travel.”
Secrete themselves? “After arriving at the popular, the sexuparae aphids move towards the trunk of the tree where they secrete themselves in order to reproduce.”
Major pests on what? “There have been instances in the Southeastern United States where several species of mole crickets have been accidentally introduced and have become major pests on turd (sic) and pasture grasses.”
Fast forward to adults: “In late winter the overwintering adults come out of diapause and migrate back to their main host population where they lay the first generation of summer adults.”
Wild vertebrae? “People living in high endemic areas also tend to live in close proximity not only to the vector of the disease but to reservoir hosts like dog, cats, and other wild vertebrae.”
Outreach activities? “Since either traps or insecticides can get access to perfect, out-reach activities and novel ideas related to D. suzukii management always come out.”
Recommended fumigation? “Fumigation has proven to be highly effective however, time consuming and the recommended process is aerosol spraying avian vehicles.”
Honey bees, too, yield interesting comments, said Kimsey, who served as president of the International Society of Hymenopterists from 2002 to 2004 and kept bees in her backyard for 10 years.
On mating and semen storage: “This is the only time (honey bee) queens mate in their lifetime since the sperm can be stored longer than her lifetime.”
On the “beeping” industry: “This, similar bans, and a decrease in demand of packages and queens from the United States has hurt the commercial beeping industry.”
On the role of drones: “Because the males in the Hymenoptera social structure do no work, they are considered a waste of the colony's energy, and as such, they are only laid when the colony can stand the strain.”
For the record, UC Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen, who just completed a 38-year career in June, explained that a honey bee queen usually takes a single mating flight during her lifetime and will mate with a dozen to twenty drones. “She stores the semen in her spermatheca and that's enough to last her entire lifetime, usually about two years. During the busy season, she will lay up to 2000 eggs a day.”
“If the drones don't mate, they will die of old age in about 35 days or they will get kicked out of the hive by their sisters in the fall,” Mussen said. “They are not needed when there are no virgin queens with which to mate and the drones are just extra mouths to feed.”
Other sentences in Kimsey's “best of the best” collection include:
- "For every problem, there is a pest.”
- "Damage ranges from minor weakened plants to serious plant death.”
- "The arousal of nest mates by booty-laden foragers has been attributed to a conspicuous mechanical action caused by antennae and forelegs and supported by the scent of the trail substance…”
- "Although caterpillars are vulnerable and young, their ability to protect against predators has helped them become successful predators.”
- "Humans have been using and digesting insects for centuries, despite the wide array of chemicals they produce.”
- "Another way of penetrating the navel orange worm is with biological control.”
- "The actions of these (reproductive) workers can be reprimanded if they are a treat to the others in the colony.”
- "(Fire ant) mounds that are near plants are usually uprooted and overturned by the ants as the mound grows.”
- "The most important upgrade that some insects have acquired is the co-evolution with angiosperms.”
- "The illness has come out of a twenty-five year remission and has begun to infect many tropical islands.”
Kimsey, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1979 and joined the faculty in 1989, says there's “a possibility” she may write a book and include the classic answers.
“Maybe,” she said, “but I'm not sure where to go with these from here.”
Preto, a former foster care youth, is an incredible success story who hurdled the obstacles heaved in her path and lets nothing—absolutely nothing--block her education, enthusiasm, research or goals.
She turned a disadvantaged childhood into a college diploma, and a college diploma into graduate school.
“I'm the first in my family to graduate from college and to attend graduate school,” said Preto, who calls Los Angeles “home.”
In June, UC Davis awarded her a bachelor's degree in viticulture and enology with an entomology minor in agricultural pest management. Now she's studying for her master's degree in entomology with major professor and integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“I first met Cindy in my Entomology 110 class, Arthropod Pest Management,” Zalom recalled. “She was usually the last student to leave the diagnostic labs each week, and one time she apologized to me for staying so long. She said that she had been out of school and working for a while so she wanted to get the most out of her classes.”
“She was a viticulture and enology major,” Zalom said. “We discussed having her do an undergrad research project on grapes, so she applied for and received a MURALS (Mentorship for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters and Science) scholarship which allowed her to conduct a project in my lab.”
Her project? The development of the invasive European grapevine moth. Preto conducted her research in the Contained Research Facility on campus with co-advisors Spencer Walse and Dave Bellamy of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Like Zalom, they praised her “excellent work ethic and enthusiasm.”
On Saturday, Sept. 27 Preto will represent the Zalom lab at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on “How To Be an Entomologist” from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.” She'll show visitors what leafhoppers and parasitized eggs look like.
“I am currently doing a biological survey of Virginia Creeper leafhopper in vineyards, looking at the population dynamics of all life stages, egg, nymphs, and adults,” Preto said.
The Virginia Creeper is one of three leafhoppers that she's studying in her population dynamics research. The others are the Western grape leafhopper and the Variegated leafhopper. They're all about the same size: 2 millimeters. In rearing eggs from nymphs to adults, she knows the distinguishing characteristics of each.
Zalom admires her enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism. “I was not seeking another grad student, but I couldn't help but accept Cindy into my lab when she decided that she would like to pursue a master's degree,” Zalom recalled. “Her project on leafhoppers associated with grapes fits her goals of working again in the grape industry when she completes her degree. Her enthusiasm for learning hasn't changed, and her research has been proceeding very well.”
Indeed it has. She's also drawing widespread attention as a scholar. She received a Peter J. Shields Scholarship in September 2011; a Wine Spectator scholarship in September 2012; the MURALS research scholarship in November 2012; a Syngenta Scholarship, June 2013; a Wine Spectator Scholarship in October 2013; and an Orange County Wine Society Scholarship in October 2013.
Preto also participates in the new UC Davis program, Guardian Professions Program or GPP, which is open to Masters/Ph.D students who are former foster care youth. And, she continues to participate in the Guardian Scholars Program or GSP, open to all UC Davis students who were cared for in foster homes. GSP students offer support for one another and also to current and former foster care youth in local high schools and community colleges by offering UC Davis campus tours, outreach, interactive activities, and speaking on panels to share their story in hopes of encouraging former foster care youth to seek higher education.
A world traveler, she has journeyed to all seven continents, all 50 states, and to 59 countries. "It can be inexpensive," she said. Along the way, she's taken scores of images of insects.
Preto takes a multi-disciplinary approach to not only her research but life in general, eager to know, learn and share. She figuratively skips to work, excitedly looking forward to new entomological finds. She's recorded and photographed not only leafhoppers, but assassin bugs, minute pirate bugs, stink bugs, lace bugs, mites, thrips, damselflies, dragonflies, moths, bees, wasps, spiders (jumping spiders and black widows), whiteflies and praying mantids.
When Preto is not out in the field monitoring insects, you'll usually find her reading about them or studying them in the lab—weekends included. “It's extremely fascinating,” she said.
Her career goal? To work for a vineyard in a pest and disease management position, preferably in an organic grape or sustainable vineyard. Another goal: to receive her Pest Control Adviser license.
“I love it,” she said.
"The average grocery store must dispose of more than 600 pounds of meats and produce every day when the products pass their sell-by date," Lewis says. "Where does it go? Currently, most waste food from groceries ends up in landfills. This costs grocery stores significantly, and wastes food and energy."
"A start-up company in this area, California Safe Soils LLC, is developing a novel solution to this problem by turning this wasted food into an agricultural product for soil nutrition. Nutrient management is a serious challenge to agriculture in California. Coupled with the need for providing the necessary nutrients to grow crops is the increasing concern of nitrate contamination of ground and surface water that comes from agricultural uses. A new product, called Harvest to Harvest, is in the testing phase as a soil amendment that aids in nutrient management."
"In this seminar, I'll describe the manufacturing of the material, the business plan of the company and the role of agricultural and ecological research in the research and development of this new product."
Of his research, Lewis says on his website: "My research program is wide-ranging in the scope of the questions asked and in the taxa that are studied. There is, however, a common thread to the work that takes place in my laboratory; we seek to understand why and how organisms find, recognize, assess and exploit resources. We ask questions about how insects and nematodes make decisions about resource utilization and what the fitness outcomes of the decisions are. To answer these kinds of questions, we engage in studies of behavior, population ecology, community ecology and evolutionary biology with several groups of insects, nematodes and bacteria. There are also intentional links to more practical pursuits including biological control of crop pests, predicting the impact of crop management on pest and beneficial organisms and restoration ecology. I see no difference between what is traditionally called 'basic' and 'applied' research, thus the links of nearly all of the work in the laboratory to agricultural or environmental concerns is explicit."
Lewis, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 2004, received his doctorate in entomology from Auburn University, Auburn, Ala.; his master's degree in entomology from the University of Missouri, Columbia; and his bachelor's degree in natural resources from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
He served as a post-doctoral research associate for the UC Davis Department of Entomology, Rutgers University, from 1991 to 1994; assistant research professor at Rutgers from 1994 to 1995. He joined the Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, in 1995 as a research associate and then served as an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech, from 1998 to 2004 before joining the UC Davis faculty.
A past president of the former UC Davis Department of Nematology, Lewis is active in the Entomological Society of America, Ecological Society of America, Society of Invertebrate Pathology and the Society of Nematologists. His professional service includes editor-in-chief of Biological Control; North American editor of Biopesticides International; and trustee of the Society of Invertebrate Pathology.
Lewis' seminar is the second in a series of spring-quarter seminars hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs and are coordinated by assistant professor Brian Johnson. The seminars are video-recorded for later viewing on UCTV.
Nov. 5, 2012
The awards went to Jenny Carlson, avian malaria research, and Sandra "Sandy" Olkowski and Kelly Liebman, dengue research. Hazeltine's three sons, Craig of Scottsdale, Ariz; Jeff of Los Angeles; and Lee of Woodland recently visited the UC Davis campus to congratulate the winners and learn more about their research.
Carlson studies avian malaria with UC Davis associate professor/medical entomologist Anthony “Anton” Cornel, headquartered at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier. Olkowski studies dengue with major professor/medical entomologist Thomas Scott. Liebman, also a graduate student of Thomas Scott's, now has her doctorate in entomology and is working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.
Carlson received $2000; Olkowski, $1000' and Liebman, $580.
Carlson's research, titled “Culicine Vectorial Capacity and Its Implications for Transmission of Avian Malaria in Western United States,” involves host-feeding preferences, vector abundance and vectorial competence.
Carlson described malaria as “one of the most devastating diseases to humans” but it “also affects a wide range of other mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds.”
Carlson, who received a Hazeltine Memorial Research Fellowship in 2010 and 2011, earned her bachelor of science degree in zoology from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, and her master's degree biology from San Francisco State University.
Olkowski's proposal is titled Association Between Preexisting DENV Immunity and Severe Disease Due to DENV-2 Infection in Iquitos, Peru.”
“Dengue fever is the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral disease in the world, with an estimated 50 to 100 million cases each year and 2.6 billion people at risk,“ Olkowski said. Illness is caused by infection with any of the four distinct viral serotypes (DENV-1, 2, 3 and 4).
“Severe severe disease was largely absent until introduction of a novel genotype of DENV-2 in 2010-11,” Olkowski said. Her research involves identifying “cohort participants who were infected with DENV-2 during the outbreak.”
“I will then use statistical models to evaluate the relationship between their serological history—by number of infections and serotype sequence—and clinical outcomes. Of particular interest are severe outcomes in persons with a single type of prior antibody, to determine if there was a spike in severity with second infection, as predicted by dengue epidemiology theory.”
Olkowski, who is seeking her doctorate in entomology with a major interest in medical entomology and public health, received a President's Undergraduate Fellowship in May 2011.
Liebman joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta following her exit seminar on “Implications of Heterogeneities in Mosquito and Human Populations on Dengue Virus Transmission in Iquitos, Peru.” She lived in Iquitos for a year while doing her research.
“Over the past three decades, dengue virus (DENV) as emerged as one of the most important arthropod-borne viral infections of humans, causing as many as 50 million infections worldwide each year,” Liebman wrote in her application. “The mosquito vector of DENV, Aedes aegypti, is exceedingly efficient because it feeds frequently and almost exclusively on humans.”
“An improved understanding of the distribution of the bites among people in Iquitos will allow me to estimate differential risk of infection based on exposure to mosquito bites and significantly improve understanding of local DENV transmission dynamics,” she wrote.
Liebman, who received Hazeltine Memorial Fellowship Awards in 2009 and 2011, obtained her her master's degree in public health from Yale University and her bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
The Hazeltine Memorial Fellowship Awards memorialize William “Bill” Hazeltine (1926-1994), who managed the Lake County Mosquito Abatement District from 1961-64 and the Butte County Mosquito Abatement District from 1966-1992. He was an ardent supporter of the judicious use of public health pesticides to protect public health. He continued work on related projects until his death in 1994.
Hazeltine studied entomology in the UC Berkeley graduate program from 1950-53, and received his doctorate in entomology from Purdue University in 1962.
He maintained close ties with UC Davis entomologists. UC Davis medical entomologist Bruce Eldridge eulogized him at the 2005 American Mosquito Control Association conference “as a man who made a difference.” His talk, illustrated with photos, was published in the 2006 edition of the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. (See PDF)
"He was a medical entomologist who had a varied career in the field of mosquito biology and control, but he will forever be remembered as a man who fought in the trenches of the pesticide controversy from 1960 until the end of his life, and who made the safe and efficient use of pesticides in public health a personal crusade," Eldridge said.
Eldridge noted that Hazeltine "was an advocate for the use of mosquito control to protect people from mosquitoes and the disease agents they transmit, and he believed chemical control to be a necessary part of the means to accomplish this. He also considered himself an environmentalist, and billed himself as such on his business cards and on his signature block. He had a vast knowledge of pesticides and pesticide legislation, and a strong belief in the scientific basis for public policy issues related to the safe and effective use of pesticides. Because the federal Endangered Species Act influenced mosquito control, he became an authority on this as well."
Eldridge described him as "an effective manager and leader at Butte County. Those who took the trouble to get to know him developed a strong allegiance to him. Most appreciated his absolute honesty and fairness. Not only was Bill honest to a fault, he expected it of people who work for him as well."
Hazeltine, born Sept. 4, 1926 in San Jose, was the youngest of six children born to Karl Snyder Hazeltine and Rachel Josephine Crawford Hazeltine. Karl, a graduate of the University of California, served on the faculty of San Jose State University, where he taught agricultural and natural science. Rachel, a graduate of San Jose State, was a teacher.
2011: Brittany Nelms Mills, Kelly Liebman and Jenny Carlson (see story)
2010: Tara Thiemann and Jenny Carlson (see story)
2009: Kelly Liebman and Wei Xu (See story)
2008: Ashley Horton and Tara Thiemann (See story)
2007: Lisa Reimer and Jacklyn Wong (See story)
2006: Christopher Barker and Tania Morgan (See story)
2005: Nicole Mans
2004: Sharon Minnick
2003: Hannah Burrack
2002: Holly Ganz and Andradi Villalobos
2001: Laura Goddard and Linda Styer
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology