“The field is interdisciplinary and the authors have done a magnificent job integrating biology, mathematics, and demography,” said Robert Peterson, professor of entomology at Montana State University, and a past president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America.
The 480-page book, Biodemography: An Introduction to Concepts and Methods, published Jan. 7 by the Princeton University Press, is described as “an authoritative overview of the concepts and applications of biological demography.”
The interdisciplinary field unites the natural science of biology with the social science of human demography, said Carey, a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology who is known as one of the founding fathers of biodemography and a global authority on arthropod demography.
Carey and Roach “provide a comprehensive introduction to biodemography, an exciting interdisciplinary field that unites the natural science of biology with the social science of human demography,” said Matt Taylor of Princeton University Press.
In the foreword, J. W. Vaupel, founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany, calls the book “impressive,” and noted that the authors both enlighten and inspire with their “important and innovative ideas, mode of explanation, and the graphic illustrations,” all of which make the book “sparkle.”
Topics range from kinship theory and family demography to reliability engineering and tort law, and also demographic disasters such as the Titanic and the destruction of Napoleon's Grande Armée. It also includes an analysis of the Donner Party tragedy.
The book, according to the publishers, is pathbreaking in that it:
- provides the first synthesis of demography and biology
- covers baseline demographic models and concepts such as Lexis diagrams, mortality, fecundity, and population theory
- features in-depth discussions of biodemographic applications like harvesting theory and mark-recapture
- draws from data sets on species ranging from fruit flies and plants to elephants and humans
- uses a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to demography, bringing together a diverse range of concepts, models, and applications
- includes informative “biodemographic shorts,” appendixes on data visualization and management, and more than 150 illustrations of models and equations
Said Professor Tim Coulson of Oxford University: "Ecology and evolution are driven by who lives and reproduces and who doesn't. In recent years, the field of biodemography has developed a rich corpus of concepts and methods to analyze and predict patterns of birth and death. This excellent book provides a much-needed overview of ideas and approaches that will aid researchers, from students immersing themselves in the subject for the very first time to seasoned professors wishing to learn modern approaches."
Carey, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley and studied population biology for a year at Harvard while working on his doctorate, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 1980. He served as the principal investigator of a 10-year, $10 million federal grant on “Aging in the Wild,” encompassing 14 scientists at 11 universities.
Highly honored for his research, teaching and public service, Carey is a fellow of four organizations; American Association for the Advancement of Science, Entomological Society of America, California Academy of Science and the Gerontological Society of America.
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
Jill Oberski, who studies with professor and ant specialist Phil Ward, submitted an infographic titled “Discovery and Diversity: The Importance of Systematic Entomology in Today's World in the Systems,” in the Evolution and Biodiversity (SysEB) Section and won a second-place award.
Oberski also won a second-place award for her dissertation research “Unraveling the Phylogeny and Biogeography of Dorymyrmex, a New World Amphitropical Disjunct” in the category SysEB: Phylogenetics 2.
The research presentations are highly competitive. "Entomology 2019 was an exciting four days filled with 236 scientific sessions featuring 2,205 oral and 680 poster presentations with 3,653 attendees from 61 different countries," an ESA spokesman said. "This year was a record setting event with 1,150 students attending!"
Those in the (SysEB) Section study insect anatomy, classification, and history. The section focuses on systematics, evolution, and biodiversity, but it also includes morphology, ecology, population dynamics, genetics, phylogeny, nomenclature, biogeography, zoology, and other specialties.
Those in the PI-E section deal with insect interactions with plants. Topics include behavioral, ecological, and evolutionary relationships in natural landscapes, as well as integrated pest management (IPM) in agriculture, horticulture, forests, and lawn and garden. This includes such aspects as crop protection, host-plant response, plant pathology/vectors, pollination, biological control and microbial control.
Both Oberski and Kahl also served as members of the UC Linnaean Games Team, comprised of UC Davis and UC Berkeley graduate students, that competed with other university teams throughout the nation. The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions.
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.
Doctoral candidate and ant specialist Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab received the prestigious John Henry Comstock Award at the Entomological Society of America's recent annual meeting, held in St. Louis, Mo.
Each branch of ESA singles out one graduate student for the coveted award. The Pacific Branch of ESA (PBESA), earlier announced the award, its highest graduate student award. PBESA encompasses 11 Western states, U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
ESA president Robert Peterson, a professor at Montana State University, presented the award to Boudinot.
Boudinot excels 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.
Despite being at an early stage of his academic career, Boudinot has already published several landmark papers on insect systematics, wrote Phil Ward. "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!"
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 are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. He also participated on the UC Linnaean Games Team this year in St. Louis.
Boudinot has served as president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association since 2006, and is active in the campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day; he has co-chaired the department's Picnic Day Committee since 2017.
Other UC Davis recipients of PBESA's John Henry Comstock Award:
- 2015: Mohammad-Amir Aghaee (major professor the late Larry Godfrey). He is now a research entomologist with Bayer Crop Science, Union City, Tenn.
- 2014: Kelly Hamby (major professor Frank Zalom). She is now on the faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park.
- 2013: Matan Shelomi (major professor Lynn Kimsey). He is now on the faculty of the National Taiwan University, Tapei.
- 2008: Christopher Barker (major professor William Reisen). He is now on the faculty of the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
- 1983: Elaine Backus (major professor the late Donald McLean). She is research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Parlier
The award memorializes John Henry Comstock (1849-1931), an American entomologist, researcher and educator known for his studies of scale insects and butterflies and moths, which provided the basis for systematic classification. Comstock was a member of the faculty of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., for most of his career, except for his service as a chief entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1879-81).