Boudinot, who studied with major professor Phil Ward of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the second UC Davis-affiliated entomologist to receive the honor in its 28-year history. Jessica Gillung of the Lynn Kimsey lab, Bohart Museum of Entomology, won the award in 2019.
Snodgrass (1875-1962), a leader in insect morphology, is known for his 76 scientific articles and six books, including Insects, Their Ways and Means of Living (1930) and the book considered to be his crowning achievement, the Principles of Insect Morphology (1935).
Boudinot has them all. “Principles of Insect Morphology and the Anatomy of the Honey Bee were the foundation of my studies,” he said. “I have both, plus his Textbook of Arthropod Morphology and Insects, Their Ways and Means of Living on my desk in the lab.”
The Snodgrass Award, which includes a certificate and cash prize, recognizes outstanding research by a PhD student who has completed a research thesis or dissertation in arthropod morphology, systematics, taxonomy, or evolution. Nominees are scored on honors, awards, achievements and recognition; recommendations of professors and advisors; grantsmanship, publications, creativity and innovation of thesis or dissertation; and contribution to morphology.
Boudinot's dissertation: “Systematic and Evolutionary Morphology: Case Studies on Formicidae, Mesozoic Aculeata, and Hexapodan Genitalia.”
He earlier received the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship to do research on evolutionary and comparative anatomy in Jena, Germany. He will locate to Germany in early 2021 for the two-year fellowship, after completing intensive language studies.
'I Am a Morphologist Because of Robert Evans Snodgrass'
“I am a morphologist because of Robert Evans Snodgrass,” Boudinot wrote in his application. “Although I have had pressure from my earliest undergraduate to become a molecular systematist, it was my chance encounter with Snodgrass's Principles of Insect Morphology late one night in the college library that set the course of my career. I had struggled for years at that point to understand the biodiversity of insects and to untangle the deep morass of arcane terminology, but my vision was illuminated by the conceptual clarity, linguistic simplicity, and exceptional engravings of the Principles. This work continues to hold special dominion over my thinking, as it is through the principle of mechanical function for explaining comparative anatomical observations that I have come to my present understanding of systematic and evolutionary morphology.”
Boudinot wrote that his “career objective, in brief, is to resolve the morphological evolution of insects through the synthesis traditional morphology, as represented by Snodgrass, with recent trends in digital anatomy and bioinformatics. I envision a future wherein students rely not on Borror & Delong, a holdover from Comstock's 19thCentury manual, but rather learn about insect structure, function, classification, and evolution through manipulation of three- and four-dimensional digital anatomical models, substantiated via manual curation and dissection. I want students to see for themselves what I have understood through the study of Snodgrass's work, balanced by contemporary research: The origin of the Arthropoda and morphological transformation through geological time to the resplendent, and endangered, diversity of today.
“In sum, my identity as an entomologist, and as a scientist more broadly, is due to the insights on the language and phenomenology of morphological evolution I gained from the oeuvre of Snodgrass. Without these works, I would probably still be a botanist.”
Boudinot's research interests include the origin and evolution of complex phenotypic systems from the perspective of phylogenetic systematics, including molecular and paleontological evidence. Specializing on morphological identity and evolutionary transformation, the skeletomuscular system of Arthropoda, with emphasis on the male genitalia of Hexapoda and systematics of the Hymenoptera, particularly the Formicidae.
John Henry Comstock Award
Highly honored for his academics, leadership, public service activities, professional activities and publications while at UC Davis, Boudinot received the 2019 John Henry Comstock Award, the top graduate student award given by ESA's Pacific Branch. The branch encompasses 11 Western states, U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
In the Comstock award application, Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, described Boudinot as “A highly respected scientist, teacher and leader with a keen intellect, unbridled enthusiasm, and an incredible penchant for public service.” Boudinot maintained a 4.00 grade point average and published 18 peer-reviewed publications on insect systematics, some landmark or groundbreaking work.
His most recent publications: one on Cretaceous Strepsiptera in Cladistics and the other on the iron maiden ants in Myrmecological News ("Two New Iron Maiden Ants from Burmese Amber (Hymenoptera:
Boudinot received multiple “President's Prize” awards for his research presentations at national ESA meetings. He organized the ESA symposium, “Evolutionary and Phylogenetic Morphology,” at the 2018 meeting in Vancouver, B.C. , and delivered a presentation on “Male Ants: Past, Present and Prospects” at the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Boudinot served on—and anchored—three of the UC Davis Linnaean Games teams that won national or international ESA championships. The Linnaean Games, now known as the Entomology Games, are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
Brendon served as president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association from 2006 to 2019, and co-chaired the department's UC Davis Picnic Day celebration (with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey) for three years.
Before enrolling in graduate school program at UC Davis in 2014, Brendon received his bachelor's degree in entomology in 2012 from The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash. Professor John T. Longino served as his mentor.
Boudinot will return to the United States in 2023.
While at UC Davis, Boudinot excelled in academics, leadership, public service activities, professional activities, and publications. “A highly respected scientist, teacher and leader with a keen intellect, unbridled enthusiasm, and an incredible penchant for public service, Brendon maintains a 4.00 grade point average; has published 12 outstanding publications on insect systematics (some are landmarks or ground-breaking publications); and engages in exceptional academic, student and professional activities,” wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Update: As of June 14, Boudinot has now published 16 peer-reviewed papers.)
Despite being at an early stage of his academic career, Boudinot had already published several landmark papers on insect systematics, wrote Phil Ward in 2019. "This includes a remarkable article, just published in Arthropod Structure & Development, in which Brendon presents a comprehensive theory of genital homologies across all Hexapoda (Boudinot 2018). Based on careful comparative morphological study and conducted within a phylogenetic framework, this paper is a major contribution to the field and is destined to become a “classic." This could have been a decade-long study by any investigator, and yet it is just one chapter of Brendon's thesis!"
His exit seminar on March 4 drew a standing room-only crowd in 122 Briggs. His abstract: "It is widely yet loosely agreed that the study of morphology--body form, structure and function--is undergoing a post-genomic revival, cautiously labeled 'phenomics' among active practitioners. I argue that the full reality of phenomics has yet to be realized, and that functional anatomy is the linchpin for the meaningful use of morphological data to understand evolution. In this seminar, I will present two case studies from my dissertation. The first will focus on reproductive anatomy in the context of the major transitions of insects from a marine, crustacean ancestor to the epically abundant diversity of wing-bearing species. The second and ongoing study combines more than 300,000 point-observations of morphology for 431 extinct and extant species with genomic sequence data to reconstruct the sequence of evolution leading to the living ants. I will introduce the audience to several extinct lineages of ants, including a new family of wasp-ant intermediates, and present functional morphological reconstructions of the ancestors of all ants, living and extinct." (Listen to the exit seminar here; access is free.)
Active in PBESA and ESA, Boudinot received multiple “President's Prize” awards for his research presentations at national ESA meetings. He organized the ESA symposium, “Evolutionary and Phylogenetic Morphology,” at the 2018 meeting in Vancouver, B.C. , and delivered a presentation on “Male Ants: Past, Present and Prospects” at the 2016 International Congress of Entomology meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Boudinot served on—and anchored—three of the UC Davis Linnaean Games teams that won national or international ESA championships. The Linnaean Games, now known as the Entomology Games, are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
Boudinot served as president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association from 2006 to 2019, and co-chaired the department's Picnic Day celebration (with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey) for three years.
- Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, whose expertise includes wasps. She is the "go-to" person in the department when the public requests general insect information.
- Neal Williams, professor and pollination ecologist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, whose expertise includes native bees.
- Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, who has been monitoring the butterfly population of central California since 1972; and
- Brendon Boudinot, doctoral candidate and ant specialist, Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The society is inviting the public to "explore the world of insects as we bring together law and science to combat biodiversity decline and the sixth mass extinction," the co-chairs said. The all-day event, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the School of Law will take place in Room 1001. Registration is under way; see Facebook page.
The California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-1 on June 12, 2019 to place these four bumble bees on the proposed endangered species list, as petitioned by the Xerces Society, Center for Food Safety, and Defenders of Wildlife.
- Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini
- Suckley cuckoo bumble bee, Bombus suckleyi
- Western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis
- Crotch bumble bee, Bombus crotchi
An insect fair will take place during lunch time. Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum will showcase pinned specimens and a live petting zoo. Also planned: research projects from the graduate students; sale of insect-themed t-shirts by the Entomology Graduate Student Association; and honey tasting from the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. Cricket protein bars will be handed out to all those interested.
"It should be a lot of fun for everybody," she said.
Sponsors, in addition to ELS, include the California Environmental Law and Policy Center; UC Davis John Muir Institute of the Environment and the UC Davis School of Law.
See agenda on the Facebook page.
When UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal delivered the Founders' Memorial Lecture at the recent Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in St. Louis, Mo., he repeatedly asked that question as he honored the legendary Tom Eisner (1929-2011), known as “the father of chemical ecology” and “the world's best scientist.”
Speaking on “Tom Eisner: an Incorrigible Entomophile and Innovator Par Excellence,” Leal, a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, chronicled Eisner's rejections, acceptances and accomplishments. His lecture drew smiles, laughter and tears and a live tweet from former ESA president May Berenbaum: “Brilliant Founders' Memorial Lecture by Walter Leal honoring the legendary Tom Eisner! Informative, inspiring, insightful – incredible!”
Leal, a chemical ecologist whose own exemplary career spans three decades and includes major discoveries and national and international honors, said he built his career on Eisner's work.
Tom, born to chemist Hans Eisner and artist Margarete Heil-Eisner, fled Nazi Germany in April 1933 with his family and lived in Spain and Uruguay before settling in the United States in 1947. Insects always fascinated him. At age 11, Tom's mother sketched him pinning insects, an inkling of what was to come. On his 12th birthday, his parents gave him a book on butterflies, his first insect book. He would become a world-renowned field biologist whose discoveries repeatedly landed on the covers of Science. He would receive the National Medical of Science (1994). His research on the defensive bombardier beetle spray and his nine books, including For Love of Insects and Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions and Many Other Legged Creatures, would drew international acclaim.
At age 17, Tom emerged as a budding scientist, accomplished pianist, and multilingual in German, French, Spanish, and English. He worked with bee biologist Charles Michener of the American Museum of Natural History, who encouraged him to study entomology. But when Tom applied to Cornell University, hoping to begin his undergraduate studies, he received a crushing rejection letter.
Leal showcased the letter on his PowerPoint presentation, paused for effect, and then quipped “OK, boomer!” as the audience roared.
Leal compared the rejection to what basketball legend Michael Jordan experienced in failing to gain a spot on his high school team. “Michael Jordan was the Tom Eisner of NBA,” Leal told the crowd.
Determined to succeed, Tom went on to attend community college, and obtain his bachelor's degree (1951) and his doctorate (1955) in biology from Harvard. In 1952, he married Maria Löbell, an accomplished scientist and pianist (they played duets on their Steinway pianos). They were wed 58 years. The marriage produced three daughters.
Ironically, 10 years after Cornell officials sent him the “Dear Tom” letter, they hired him as an assistant professor. He advanced to associate professor in 1962, full professor in 1966, and then the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Chemical Ecology in 1976. He retired in 2006 but worked many years past retirement. All the while, Eisner kept Cornell's rejection letter prominently displayed on his office wall.
Eisner was not only a renowned scientist and an accomplished classical pianist but a masterful photographer and videographer known for capturing the images of the explosive defensive discharge of the bombardier beetle.
Eisner and his close friend and collaborator Cornell chemical professor Jerry Meinwald (1927-2018), made music and science discoveries together. Photos show Eisner playing the piano, and Meinwald, the flute. And together, Leal related, “The Tom and Jerry of the Scientific World” co-authored more than 150 papers.
Laughter erupted when Leal pointed out that for many academicians, the student online commentary, “Rate My Professor” often turns out to be “Hate My Professor.”
But not for Tom Eisner. Typical of the unsolicited student comments: “This guy is a living legend. He has over 500 published papers, and has been the pioneer for the field of chemical ecology His story-telling is fantastic, and all of the stuff he talks about is just so interesting. One of my favorite professors that I have ever had, I stand in awe of his accomplishment as a researcher and a teacher.”
Where is Tom's entomology kit? Does anybody know?
Leal said that Eisner carried his burlap kit in the field for decades, performing insect research on four continents and producing important discoveries. It contained collecting jars, tweezers, toothpicks, dissecting tools and entomology books. Using the kit, he dissected insects, milked venom, and analyzed the results.
With suspense building, Leal finally revealed the whereabouts of the kit.
Who inherited the kit? A 14-year-old bug enthusiast named Katherine Angier, daughter of celebrated New York Times writer Natalie Angier. Eisner also gifted her with his first insect book.
Eisner, who met Katherine at age 5, marveled at her childhood fascination with insects, similar to his perpetual childlike wonder of insects. They kept in touch for a decade.
“She has now graduated from Princeton summa cum laude in biology,” Leal told the crowd, “and she's here in the audience.”
Tears flowed as Angier walked on stage shouldering Eisner's familiar burlap bag, lettered simply with “Tom Eisner.”
The renowned scientist and the inquisitive kindergartner connected. “We went to his house in Ithaca and we just wandered around a field looking for bugs together. And even my kindergartner brain knew it was something I would never forget.”
So for the next decade, young Katherine would write him letters “describing cool bugs that I would see and their behaviors and he was always so encouraging with his replies. He even sent me a dissecting scope that I could use to examine them.”
“Eventually I couldn't read his replies because his Parkinson's disease--it was getting worse. And when I was 14, he did send me this kit, which at first I was really happy about because it had all these really cool things in it, but then when he died (at age 81) shortly thereafter, I realized it was kind of a goodbye kit.”
During her senior year in college, “I started this senior thesis research on an ant plant mutualism in Panama and I decided it was time (to use the kit),” Angier said. “I felt like I was finally going to join the world of entomologists so I brought it with me and I thought it was kind of a good-luck charm.”
“So thank you, Tom, for being there with me and I just want to say that I hope he'd be proud that I (evolved) from a kid hardly able to pronounce the word entomology to now applying for a PhD.”
The thundering applause drowned out the rest of the comments.
The seminar culminated with Leal donating his $1000 honorarium to the ESA Chrysalis Fund, which supports and enhances insect education for kindergarten-12th grade students.
Accolades on the memorable lecture continue to stream in.
Cornell alumnus May Berenbaum, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois, and a close friend of Eisner's, recommends that all entomology students watch Leal's seminar. (See her biography on Eisner).
Doctoral candidate and ant specialist Brendon Boudinot of the UC Davis Department of Entomology agrees. “Honestly, I didn't know what to expect for Walter's talk. It was a really personal and emphatic portrait of Thomas Eisner. I've known Eisner's work even before I knew I was going to be an entomologist—in fact, upon reading his book For Love of Insects, I knew that entomology was a direction I should go. Walter's talk walked the audience through Eisner's early life and included numerous video clips of researchers relating their experiences and thoughts about him. The whole talk was engaging, but it is true: We, the audience, were in physical tears for the sadness of his loss. Because there is a recording, I can only recommend watching that. Again, I didn't know what to expect, but I was very glad I came. It was one of the most remarkable talks I have ever been to.”
Noted chemical ecologist Wendell Roelofs of Cornell University, who watched the seminar on YouTube, described the lecture as “so fantastic and compelling that I could not turn it off.”
Christina Grozinger, distinguished professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research at Pennsylvania State University, commented: “This was a truly amazing and inspiring lecture, which gave a wonderfully holistic view of how Eisner's personal and professional experiences, love of insects, and intense curiosity lead to such remarkable achievements. The videos from diverse entomologists sharing their personal memories of Eisner eloquently captured his profound influence on the community and the field of chemical ecology."
Chemical ecologist Anne Jones of Pennsylvania State University said she particularly “enjoyed all the video clips of so many other important chemical ecologists (some of whom I've had the honor to meet) sharing their memories and stories about Dr. Eisner. It was very special to hear from and meet Katherine Angier as well.”
Jones added: “I grew up hearing about his and Jerry Meinwald's collaborations and discoveries (my dad is Tappey Jones) and read Dr. Eisner's book, For Love of Insects, when it was published…I know that my career path has very much been shaped by the research and inspiration by all of you who were so integral as pioneers in that field.”
One of the videos depicts an interview with honey bee geneticist Robert Page Jr., UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology and Arizona State University emeritus university provost.
Page recalled that as a graduate student at UC Davis, he remembered reading Eisner's papers in Science. “I was always waiting for the next great exciting discovery he would do with all the intricate clever stories.”
- Walter Leal's Founder's Memorial Lecture on YouTube
- Paths of Discovery, Lighted by a Bug Man's Insights, by Natalie Angier, New York Times
- May Berenbaum's Biography of Tom Eisner
The team was eliminated in the first round. Some logistics issues--microphone mishaps and difficulty hearing the questions (issues later resolved)--complicated the session.
Previously the UC team won three national championships. This year the University of Florida team triumphed.
The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts and played by winners of the ESA branch competitions. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions.
The 2019 UC team, captained by Ralph Washington Jr., a UC Berkeley public policy graduate student who received his bachelor's degree in entomology at UC Davis, included five UC Davis doctoral students in entomology: Brendon Boudinot, Zachary Griebenow and Jill Oberski, all of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and alternates Miles Dakin of the Christian Nansen lab and Hanna Kahl of the Jay Rosenheim lab.
Washington captained all four recent teams, and Boudinot helped anchor all of them.
- 2018: UC won the national championship (link to news story) in Vancouver, B.C., defeating Texas A&M Graduates, with Washington captaining the team and joined by Boudinot, Oberski and Griebenow, and Emily Bick (who received her doctorate this year) of the Christian Nansen lab. (No video of the championship round)
- 2017: The UC team did not compete. (Texas A&M won the national championship; see championship round on YouTube)
- 2016: UC won the national and international championships at the University of Florida, at the joint and international meeting of ESA and the International Congress of Entomology (ICE), defeating the University of Georgia. (See championship round on YouTube)
- 2015: UC won the national championship at the games held in Minneapolis, Minn., defeating the University of Florida. (See championship round on YouTube)
Some of the previous questions asked of the UC team during the championship rounds:
Question: What is the smallest insect that is not a parasite or parasitoid?
Answer: Beetles in the family Ptiliidae.
Question:Some species of mosquitoes lay eggs that can undergo diapause or aestivation. Give at least three cues that trigger the aquatic eggs to hatch.
Answer: Temperature, immersion in water, concentration of ions or dissolved solutes.
Question: Chikungunya is an emerging vector-borne disease in the Americas. Chikungunya is derived from the African Language Makonde. What means Chikungunya in Makonde?
Answer: Bending up.
Question: A Gilson's gland can be found in what insect order?
Question: The first lepidopteran sex pheromone identified was bombykol. What was the first dipteran sex pheromone identified? Give the trade or chemical name.
Answer: Muscalure, Z-9-Tricosene. It is also one of the chemicals released by bees during the waggle dance.
Question: What famous recessive gene was the first sex-linked mutation demonstrated in Drosophila by T.H. Morgan?
Question: Cecidomyiidae are known as the gall flies. What is unique about the species Mayetiola destructor, and what is its common name?
Answer: Mayetiola destructor is the Hessian Fly, a tremendous pest of wheat. It does not form galls.
Question: Nicrophorus americanus is listed under what legislative act?
Answer: The Endangered Species Act
Question: In what insect order would you find hemelytra?
Answer: The order Hemiptera.
Question: A 2006 Science article by Glenner et al. on the origin of insects summarized evidence that Hexapods are nothing more than land-dwelling crustaceans, which is to say that the former group Crustacea is paraphyletic with respect to the Hexapoda. What hierarchical name has been used to refer to this clade?
Question: What are the three primary conditions that define eusociality?
Answer: Cooperative brood care, overlapping generations, and reproductive division of labor
Founded in 1889, ESA is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. It is comprised of more than 7000 members, who are affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, pest management professionals, and hobbyists.