Visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Sunday afternoon, July 9 not only engaged in maggot art but conversed one-on-one with members of the North American Forensic Entomology Association (NAFEA), on campus July 7-12 for their annual conference. Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is a past president of the group.
Maggot art involves dipping a maggot into non-toxic, water-based paint and guiding it--or letting it crawl--on a piece of paper. It's suitable for framing or for refrigerator art.
Forensic entomologist Rebecca O'Flaherty, a former graduate student of Kimsey's, coined the educational teaching curriculum, "Maggot Art," back in 2001 when she was studying at the University of Hawaii. She was rearing blowflies for her forensic research and wanted an activity to draw the interest of elementary school students. She also wanted to generate interest and respect for forensic entomology.
Her Maggot Art quickly drew national interest. The CSI television show featured one of her works, “Ancient Offering,” which hung on the permanent set in Gil Grissom's office. O'Flaherty also exhibited her work at art shows, including a two-month exhibition at the Capital Athletic Club, Sacramento, in 2007.
Neel Fulde, 7, of Davis, attending with his mother, Shama Mesiwala, created an obstacle-course drawing. "I'd like a faster maggot," he told NAFEA member Royce Cumming of Salinas Valley.
"As soon as I give it a bath," Cumming told him.
"I hope that one is faster than the one I have," Neel said. "I want a fast one."
Olivia Storms, 6, of Davis, attending with her father, David Storms, embellished her art with a colorful signature and whirls and swirls.
Adults tried their hand at it, too, including Jered Bell of Vacaville, aerospace engineering student at UC Davis and Alejandra Wilson of Fairfield, a biotechnology major at Solano Community College. "We've never done this before," Bell said. Maggot art is popular at the annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day, when the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology offers the activity at Briggs Hall.
NAFEA member Greg Nigoghosian of Purdue University wore a T-shirt, the work of Purdue students, that read "Crime Scene: Do Not Cross," that included a body outline and the words "Our day begins when your day ends."
The goal of NAFEA is to promote the development of forensic entomology throughout North America and to encourage co-operation with other similar international bodies. NAFEA defines its mission as “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.”
The July 9th open house is the first of three open houses during the summer. All are free and open to the public.
Saturday, July 22, Moth Night from 8 to 11 p.m.: Moth Night, held in conjunction with National Moth Week, will enable visitors to explore nighttime nature through a blacklighting setup, enabling the collection of moths and other insects. The event takes place in the courtyard in back of the Bohart Museum. The museum will be open throughout Moth Night.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity. Noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them.
The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
For more information contact the Bohart Museum at (530) 752-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is planning scores of insect-related activities for the 103rd annual campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 22.
What's new this year in the department's line-up will be an insect scavenger hunt, replacing the Pollinator Pavillion, said Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, chair of the department's Picnic Day Committee.
The campuswide Picnic Day gets underway at 9:30 a.m. with an opening ceremony by the grandstands on North Quad Ave., across from Wickson Hall. The parade starts at 10 a.m. from the same site. Announcement locations are at 2nd and D streets in downtown Davis; F Street in front of PDQ Fingerprinting, and 3rd and C streets in downtown Davis. The UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey, will enter its popular black widow float.
The Briggs Hall activities will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the cockroach races will close at 2 p.m.
The list of activities at Briggs:
- Honey Tasting (You can sample varietals of honey)
- Bug Doctor (The doctor is in!)
- Cockroach Races (Pick a winner)
- Scavenger Hunt (Do you know your insects?)
- Dr. Death (Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey will answer your questions)
- Insect Face Painting (Get a bee, lady beetle or another insect painted on your face)
- Little Swimmers and Fly Tying (Watch and identify aquatic insects, a project from the Sharon Lawler lab, and learn "how to tie a fly" from the Fly Fishers of Davis
- Maggot Art (Dip a maggot into a water-based, non-toxic paint and create a painting suitable for framing)
- UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) (See their many publications and ask questions; youngsters can receive a vial of free lady beetles, aka ladybugs)
- T-shirt sales by the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Students' Association (popular t-shirts include beetles and honey bees)
- Social insects, insect forestry, medical entomology, and more (See a honey bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and ants from the Phil Ward lab; and also learn about forest insects and mosquitoes. The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District will staff a booth)
The Bohart Museum of Entomology in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building will swing open its doors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The theme: "Bigger, Better and Buglier: Impressive Science at the Bohart." This will be an opportunity to see some of the nearly eight million specimens, visit the live petting zoo (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and taranatulas) and ask questions of the scientists.
The nematology collection will be on display in the Sciences Laboratory Building, across from Briggs.
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.