A newly installed UC Davis mural created by students enrolled in a remote-instructed class on symbolism and design is more than enough—it's considered “gorgeous, awesome and amazing.”
“The assignment was to design a symbol that was meaningful to them and that addressed a problem in the world,” said artist-entomologist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who taught the class, “The Power of Visual Language through Symbolism and Expression in Clay” with designer-lecturer Gale Okumura of the UC Davis Department of Design.
The nine-tile mural, featuring flora and fauna designs, graces the wall just outside Room 126 of the Environmental Horticulture Building, 200 Arboretum Drive. Measuring 36 x 34-inches, it's the collaborative work of students Leslie Briceno-Marquez, Jason Hu, Analiese Ignacio, Heewon Shin, Emma Storm, Anushka Vispute and Mia Xiong, and their instructors.
The mural includes a honey bee, created by Storm, an anise swallowtail butterfly by Briceno-Marquez, and an octopus by Anushka Vispute.
Students learned the history of the use of symbols and signs in visual language from ancient to contemporary times, and gained an introduction to basic design principles, including the golden ratio, rule of thirds, and the use of lines, shapes, composition and perspective, as well as color theory and Gestalt Principles. They then applied them to their designs.
The instructors billed the course as “how to use symbolic representation in design and visual narrative to enhance expression and understanding of ideas and concepts.” Each student designed a symbol and then integrated it with their classmates' symbols in an online collaborative process. The work was then printed on tiles using a screen-printing method.
“The ability of the students to absorb such diverse information and transform their learning into meaningful designs was impressive,” Ullman said. “Each of the designs is very personal, but also expressive of a world view based on hope. Transforming their work into the cohesive mural we had all imagined together was exciting and transformative for the students and for us as teachers.”
Remote instruction proved to be challenging at times. “This class was meant to be highly participatory and hands on, so leading discussions in a remote environment and not being able to have students in our classroom, also called the Labudio (Lab plus Studio) was really difficult,” Ullman said. “We overcame this obstacle by sending them the materials they needed to draw their designs and then we used their digitized designs to print the design on ceramic tiles that were sent to them for completion, along with the glazes and brushes they needed. They then sent them back to us and we fired them.”
“This meant that all the steps of screen printing they would have learned and done themselves in the Labudio—printing film positives of their designs, coating silk screens with special emulsion, burning the screens with their designs, printing their designs with underglaze on ceramic tiles, had to be done by us. In addition, we had to prepare and address the packages. Even though the class was relatively small, this was labor intensive.”
Several artists from the UC Davis and local community rushed to their aid: Sarah Rizzo, Teresa Slack, Val Jones and Heather Mechling Eckels. Some are associated with the UC Davis Art-Science Fusion Program, co-founded by Ullman and artist Donna Billick of Davis, now a retired co-director of the program.
“It was a challenge because we maintained all social distancing mandates and could not be there all at the same time,” Ullman pointed out. “Everyone wore masks when they came to help, and we disinfected the space with bleach every time we worked there. They all came at different times to help—entirely out of the goodness of their hearts. We are so grateful for their helping hands.”
The instructors credited Bay Area artist Jos Sances with “sharing his printing techniques and loaning us emulsion when we couldn't buy it due to the pandemic. Donna Billick helped install the mural and taught us how to do it for the next mural installation. We are grateful for the life-long learning opportunity this work has been for us and our opportunity to meet and learn from these great artists.”
The mural has drawn dozens of accolades on Ullman's Facebook page:
- “It's just gorgeous!”
- "That octopus is amazing. Well, in fact each square has such awesome treasures.”
- “Love this!”
- “So beautiful!
- “Wow! This is beautiful—and even more impressive given the challenges with online learning”
- “This is so cool”
The instructors are teaching the same class this quarter and look forward to more creativity.
The Environmental Horticulture Building mural is one of 36 projects either installed or exhibited by students of Ullman—who teaches Entomology 001 and first-year seminars--and her collaborators, including Billick and Okumura.
The article, “Genome-Enabled Insights into the Biology of Thrips as Crop Pests,” is published in the journal BMC Biology. It is the work of 57 scientists on five continents.
“This project represents over eight years of work by at least 17 laboratories across the globe,” said Professor Ullman, a former chair of the entomology department and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her laboratory worked closely with project leader and first author Dorith Rotenberg of North Carolina State University. Project scientist Sulley Ben-Mahmoud of the Ullman lab is the paper's third author.
The western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, causes billions of dollars a year in damage worldwide. Native to Western North America and about the size of a pinhead, the insect feeds on a wide array of food, fiber, and ornamental crops and transmits plant viruses that cause significant economic damage.
“The western flower thrips and the viruses it transmits, including tomato spotted wilt virus, is important to California agriculture, causing serious problems for tomato growers, pepper growers and growers of leafy greens,” Ullman said. The tomato spotted wilt virus infects more than 1000 plant species, ranging from tomatoes, tobacco and peanuts to pansies and chrysanthemums.
“This system has been a central element of my research program for over 30 years," Ullman said, "and I am extremely excited to see this important resource made available as a tool to help us understand and control these important pests.”
In their abstract, the authors wrote that the publication should lead to “understanding the underlying genetic mechanisms of the processes governing thrips pest and vector biology, feeding behaviors, ecology, and insecticide resistance.”
“Attaining a tool to unlock the mysteries of western flower thrips biology and interactions with plant viruses in the family Tospoviridae has been a dream of mine through over 30 years of working on this system,” Ullman commented. “The genome project enabled the discovery of salivary gland-enriched genes in this tiny insect that is now guiding work that Sulley Ben-Mahmoud and I are doing with collaborators Dorith Rotenberg, Joshua Benoit, Samuel Bailey and Priya Rajarapu to identify salivary proteins acting as effectors.”
Rotenberg launched the project in 2011 after delivering a lecture at the 5th Annual Arthropod Genomics Symposium in Kansas City, Mo. “At the time, I was very naïve about what it would take to steward a thrips genome project, but was excited about what a genome sequence could mean for those of us interested in the molecular basis of thrips vector competence and thrips pest biology.”
The team worked with the i5k initiative, an international effort to sequence and analyze 5,000 arthropod genomes. This includes insects, crustaceans, spiders and other creatures with exoskeletons, segmented bodies and pairs of jointed legs.
The Rotenberg-led thrips genome project team first developed an inbred line of thrips. Baylor College of Medicine's Human Genome Sequencing Center sequenced and assembled the genome. The Rotenberg team then verified the location of 10 percent of the nearly 17,000 genes and annotated them to better understand what they do.
The authors report that some genes are associated with the thrips' ability to develop and reproduce, to find plant hosts through taste and smell, to protect against pathogens, and to detoxify plant-produced chemicals and insecticides. The latter is of special interest because thrips are known for rapidly building up resistance to chemicals.
Said Rotenberg: “I discovered over the course of eight years that the thrips genome consortium created something much greater than the sum of its parts. I was fortunate to recruit 17 international groups with expertise in arthropod genomics, evolution and development, thrips vector biology and microbe (and virus)-insect interactions to volunteer their time not only to manually correcting and annotating gene models, but to use expression evidence to explore with me new frontiers in thrips innate immunity, lateral gene transfers of bacterial origin, thrips-plant interactions, thrips development and reproduction. These world-renowned experts helped shape the landscape for contemporary molecular and evolutionary studies of Thysanoptera and in my opinion, as important, helped shape the careers of several undergraduates, grad students and postdoctoral scholars involved in the process. I am excited and proud of what we accomplished together.”
Ben-Mahmoud described the research as “a monumental feat, and I am proud of my contributions to it. I have no doubt that the paper will inform and benefit the studies of many other international insect-vector research groups, not only those who work directly with the western flower thrips.”
And what's the canceled 105th annual UC Davis Picnic without virtual insects?
The Department of Entomology and Nematology annually hosts dozens of insect-themed Picnic Day events at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. But this year, the insects went virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic precautions.
The campuswide Picnic Day Committee hosted a virtual tour of some of the planned events, and posted this link: https://picnicday.ucdavis.edu/virtual/
The spotlight paused on the Bohart Museum, which houses nearly eight million insect specimens; the seventh largest insect collection in North America; the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity; and a live “petting zoo” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and the like. It also is the home of a gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Directed by UC Davis entomology professor Lynn Kimsey for 30 years, the museum is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007). The Bohart team includes senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths section).
If you browse the Bohart Museum site, you'll find fact sheets about insects, written by Professor Kimsey.
But if you want to see the Bohart Museum's virtual tours, be sure to watch these videos:
- Director Lynn Kimsey giving a Bohart Museum introduction
- Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, presenting an arthropod virtual tour
- Diane Ullman, professor of entomology and former chair of the department, presenting a view of the Lepidodpera section.
Also on the UC Davis Virtual Picnic Day site, you'll learn “How to Make an Insect Collection," thanks to project coordinator James R. Carey, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and "Can Plants Talk to Each Other?" a TED-Ed Talk featuring the work of ecologist Rick Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," he says. PBS featured his work in its Deep Look video, “A Tsetse Fly Births One Enormous Milk-Fed Baby,” released Jan. 28, 2020. (See its accompanying news story.)
PBS also collaborated with the Attardo lab and the Chris Barker lab, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, for a PBS Deep Look video on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue fever and Zika. The eggs are hardy; "they can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae," according to the introduction. Watch the video, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs--in Your House."
In the meantime, the UC Davis Picnic Day leaders are gearing up for the 106th annual, set for April 17, 2021. What's a picnic without insects?
Headlines on colony collapse disorder dominated the news media, as scientists declared "honey bees are in trouble."
Under the direction of interim department chair Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, a crew installed the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven (named for it major donor) on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Fast forward to the fall of 2019.
A 10th anniversary celebration will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28 in the bee garden. It will include sales of plants and native bee condos, honey tasting (honey from Sola Bee Honey, Woodland), catch-and-release bee observation and identification, and beekeeping and research displays. Several mini lectures are planned.
Visitors will see analemmatic sundial--the only one of its kind in the Sacramento area--and they can discuss the sundial with dial master and beekeeper Rick Williams, M.D. to learn how the dial was created and the links between human and bee perception of the sun. Visitors also will learn about "our research on bee use of ornamental landscape plants," said manager Chris Casey. In addition, visitors can "donate a book on insects, gardening, or nature for our Little Free Library," she announced.
- 10:30 a.m.: Donor and volunteer recognition
- 11 a.m.: Hive opening by beekeeper from the California Master Beekeepers' Association
- 11:30: Mini lecture, "Getting Started with Beekeeping"
- 12: Mini lecture, "Plants for Bees"
- 12:30: Mini lecture, "Using Solitary Bee Houses
- 1 p.m.: Hive opening by beekeeper from the California Master Beekeepers' Association
History of the Bee Garden
Häagen-Dazs wanted the funds to benefit sustainable pollination research, target colony collapse disorder, and support a postdoctoral researcher. It was decided to install an educational garden, conduct a design contest, and award a research postdoctoral fellowship to Michelle Flenniken (now with the Montana State University).
A Sausalito team--landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition. The garden was installed in the fall of 2009 under the direction of interim department chair Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology.
An eight-member panel selected the winner of the design competition: Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture; David Fujino, executive director, California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Others who had a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, founded and directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
"The Honey Bee Haven will be a pollinator paradise," Kimsey related in December 2008. "It will provide a much needed, year-round food source for our bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. We anticipate it also will be a gathering place to inform and educate the public about bees. We are grateful to Haagen-Dazs for its continued efforts to ensure bee health."
The garden, Kimsey said, would include a seasonal variety of blooming plants that will provide a year-round food source for honey bees. It would be a living laboratory supporting research into the nutritional needs and natural feeding behaviors of honey bees and other insect pollinators.
Visitors to the garden, she said, would able to glean ideas on how to establish their own bee-friendly gardens and help to improve the nutrition of bees in their own backyards.
Feb. 19, 2008
Häagen-Dazs Donation to UC Davis
Dec. 8, 2008
Häagen-Dazs Launches Bee Garden Design Contest
Feb. 26, 2009
Sausalito Team Wins Design Competition
Aug. 6, 2009
Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Site Preparation
Aug. 13, 2009
Bee Biology Website to Be Launched
Aug. 13, 2009
Thinking Outside the Box
Sept. 15, 2009
Campus Buzzway: Wildflowers
Dec. 15, 2009
Bee Biology Website Lauded
June 6, 2010
Grand Opening Celebration of Honey Bee Garden
July 30, 2010
More Than 50 Bee Species Found in Haven: Robbin Thorp (Now there's more than 80 and counting!)
Aug. 25, 2010
Donna Billick: Miss Bee Haven
April 11, 2012
Brian Fishback: Spreading the Word about Honey Bees
Aug. 26, 2013
Eagle Scout Project: Fence Around the Bee Garden
Sept. 11 2012
A Fence to Behold
List of Donors Who Helped Launch the Garden (2009 through July 2014)
Missy Borel, then manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture (and now Missy Borel Gable, director of the California Master Gardener Program) served as the founding manager, a part-time position. Nineteen volunteers assisted her.
Today Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, serves as the faculty director of the bee garden. Christine Casey is the academic program manager.
UC Davis entomology professor Diane Ullman is off to France in November but it's not a dream vacation. It's a dream opportunity: a Fulbright-funded scholarship to research plant virus-insect interactions. She will be studying plant viruses and the insects that transmit them.
Her sabbatical will take her to Montpellier, France, to work with renowned vector biologists Stéphane Blanc and Marilyne Uzest at the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) on the Campus International de Baillarguet near Montpellier. The Biologie et Génetique des Interactions Plante-Parasite (UMR-BGPI, CIRAD-INRA-SupAgro) focuses on plant pathogens and their interactions with arthropod vector in agroecosystems. She will be studying plant viruses in the genus Orthotospovirus (family Tospoviridae). This family holds the only plant infecting members in the order Bunyaviriales. The other viruses in this order infect animals and humans and are transmitted primarily by mosquitoes and ticks.
"New evidence suggests the bunyavirus, Rift valley fever virus (an animal infecting member of the Bunyavirales), uses a multicomponent system in which individual virions do not co-package all segments and infection requires virion populations, a possibility with profound implications for virus evolution and antiviral target discovery,” said Ullman, an international authority on orthotospoviruses. “I will test the hypothesis that orthotospoviruses use multicomponent genome organization and segment copy regulation occurs in their hosts.”
The UC Davis professor has researched insect-transmitted plant pathogens for 37 years, targeting numerous insect vector species--from thrips, whiteflies, and leafhoppers to mealybugs--and the plant pathogens they transmit, including viruses, phytoplasma and bacteria.
“Sustainable management of insect-transmitted pathogens is a key concern for food production in France and the United States,” Ullman wrote in her Fulbright application. “Both countries grow many of the same crops and growers face similar challenges from insect-transmitted plant viruses. Current management strategies rely heavily on pesticides that may cause significant health and environmental concerns, including damage to bees and other pollinators, as shown with neonicotinoid pesticides. Clearly, better knowledge about these insect-transmitted viral systems…has potential to reduce pesticide use by providing novel and innovative technologies to manage tospoviruses and thrips in France and the United States.”
Ullman, former chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and a former associate dean with the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, expects the project will build strong research relationships between UC Davis and Montpellier that will lead to grant applications for international research and scholarly exchange opportunities for scientists, students and post-doctoral scholars.