Jean-Pierre Delplanque, vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies, says the program recognizes "faculty providing outstanding service in advising and mentoring at the program level."
In a letter to Professor Rosenheim, he praised his "excellent service to your graduate program, as well as your positive impact on graduate students and your colleagues. We thank you for your investment in advising and mentoring graduate students and contribution to their success."
Delplanque singled out a few excerpts from the award packet:
- “He has demonstrated his unparalleled dedication to mentoring students, and ability to cultivate an atmosphere of learning, excitement, and critical thinking in the lab, field, and classroom. He consistently makes time to support his students. Regardless of his current teaching and research demands, Jay will provide feedback, schedule meetings, and maintain his open door policy.”
- “Jay is a remarkably skillful and reassuring mentor with a natural generosity of spirit and a broad view of mentorship. He has deep knowledge in a wide range of subject areas, and also has the wisdom to offer students good advice on all stages of the research process. Jay is especially good at putting students at ease and motivating them to persist through the setbacks of research. I have often seen students go to Jay for advice when they are worried and leave feeling better about the road ahead.”
Delplanque noted that "Graduate Studies is committed to showcasing and promoting positive mentoring experiences like yours. Graduate advising and mentoring is vital for guiding students through their degrees and professional development, while also helping ensure their overall success and well-being. Your efforts exemplify outstanding service in mentorship and we hope you will join us in championing the benefits and significance of graduate student mentoring across campus. Congratulations again on your achievement."
Rosenheim, who specializes in insect ecology, integrated pest management, and biological control, and the use of farmer-generated data to enhance pest and crop management ('Ecoinformatics'), holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (1983) from UC Davis and a doctorate in entomology (1987) from UC Berkeley. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 1990. and become a UC Davis distinguished professor in 2018.
Humbled and honored to receive the award, Rosenheim says that "The job of a professor is quite diverse, and quite rewarding in different ways. Teaching in a classroom provides instant gratification, as you see the light of understanding and excitement shining in students' eyes as they explore and grasp new concepts. Research in the laboratory provides instead delayed gratification, where long periods of hard work--sometimes years--may pass before questions are answered and one feels the satisfaction of pushing forward the margins of scientific understanding."
"But, perhaps the most lasting sense of accomplishment comes from mentoring graduate students," Rosenheim says. Building relationships with graduate students, watching them grow in their skills and confidence and, finally, seeing them establish themselves in their careers, provides the kind of reward that is similar in some ways to the happiness that parents derive from their children. And the relationships never end – they are bonds that last a lifetime. I think the key to effective mentorship is to place the student's welfare at the top of one's priority list. So, drafts of papers should be returned promptly with constructive suggestions, and not allowed to languish in a long queue of manuscripts waiting for reviews--more senior colleagues can wait, if someone needs to wait.
"And, I think effective mentorship also means tailoring the kind of assistance provided to the needs and desires of each student. Mentorship is definitely not a one-size-fits-all kind of undertaking. Some students need a lot of encouragement (actually, almost everyone benefits from positive feedback, because research often produces huge servings of critiques), some students need more assistance, especially at the earliest stages of their research, but some students absolutely chafe under too much input, and instead want total independence. That's fine – it's important to adjust to each student's desires and needs. I think good mentorship also means establishing a laboratory culture of openness and collegiality. Everyone should be happy to come to the lab, learn from each other, and contribute to each other's research progress. Mentorship doesn't just come from the lab PI (principal investigator), but from everyone who makes the lab a community."
A native of Yorktown, N.Y, young Jay developed an interest in biology while exploring the vernal pools behind his Hudson River Valley home. As an undergraduate at UC Davis, he initially majored in physics. "On a lark" he enrolled in Professor Harry Kaya's Entomology 100 course in 1981. The professor inspired him, the class enthralled him, and insects captivated him.
Rosenheim's career has not only led to his being elected a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, but recipient of teaching awards from the Associated Students of UC Davis and the UC Davis Academic Senate; and the Distinguished Student Mentoring Award from ESA's Pacific Branch.
He co-founded and co-directs the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB) with Professors Joanna Chiu and Louie Yang of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The program aims to provide "undergraduates with a closely-mentored research experience in biology," according to the website. "Because insects can be used as model systems to explore virtually any area of biology (population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; cell biology), faculty in the program can provide research opportunities across the full sweep of biology. The program's goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research."
"As a result, pest outbreaks are less likely in diverse landscapes," said Paredes, who analyzed a 13-year government database of diversified landscapes encompassing more than 1300 olive groves and vineyards in Spain. The database documented pests and pesticide applications.
The paper, “The Causes and Consequences of Pest Population Variability in Agricultural Landscapes,” appears in the Ecological Society of America journal, Ecological Applications. Co-authors are UC Davis distinguished professor Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Daniel Karp, associate professor, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. The research is online at https://bit.ly/3a64WRN.
Pest variability: an understudied but critical topic
Although population variability is often studied in natural systems, the need for long-term pest population data collected across many farms has largely prevented researchers from studying pest variability in agricultural systems, said Paredes, a postdoctoral fellow in the Karp lab.
What causes a pest population to be variable?
Having shown that more pest-population variability is more likely to cause problems for farmers, the researchers then set out to discover what farmers could do to manage variability.
One key factor that emerged was the type of landscape the crops were grown in, specifically whether the landscape was dominated by vast fields of a single crop variety or more diversified. Pest populations were both more abundant and more variable in crop monocultures.
However, while landscape type influenced both pest population sizes and variability, this was not always the case for other variables. “This research shows that the factors that promote high overall mean pest density are not necessarily the same factors that promote high variability in pest density,” Rosenheim said. “So, mean densities, which is what researchers have been studying for decades and decades, are only part of the story. Variation in density, and in particular unpredictable severe outbreaks, need to be studied separately.”
The take-away message?
“In Spain, planting multiple crops and retaining natural habitats would help stably suppress pests and prevent outbreaks,” said Paredes, a native of Spain who holds a doctorate in environmental sciences (2014) from the University of Granada. “Diversifying agricultural may be a win–win situation for conservation and farmers alike.”
"Therefore, we encourage agricultural stakeholders to increase the complexity of the landscapes surrounding their farms through conserving/restoring natural habitat and/or diversifying crops," the researchers wrote in their abstract.
Tapping into other large datasets such as this one, will be key to understanding whether diversified landscapes also help mitigate pest variability and outbreaks in other areas, they said.
This project was funded by the National Science Foundation with funds from the Belmont Forum via the European Biodiversity Partnership: BiodivERsA. It was also supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
"In summary, I aim to use ecoinformatics (ecological big data, aggregated from multiple sources) to examine the impact of global change on agricultural insect populations," Lippey related. "A consistent challenge for researchers working in natural and managed ecosystems is that data available for characterizing insect responses to global change are severely limited across space and time. As a result, we know very little about how insects are responding to global change over time, and to what extent various global change drivers (e.g., climate change, land use change, pesticides) are responsible for documented changes in insect abundance. Here, I will use long-term data collected in agricultural systems for other purposes to bridge this data gap."
"Because field scouts and farmers collect data in a decentralized way, the availability, size, and accuracy of relevant agricultural data are unrivaled," she noted. "This approach will contribute to the emergence of a novel framework using big data to investigate global change questions across larger spatial and temporal axes than ever before. My results will have implications for the impact of anthropogenic pressure on food production stability, biodiversity, and ecosystem health."
Lippey, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2019, is a graduate student of agricultural entomology in the Rosenheim lab, and an urban entomology graduate student in the Meineke lab. She previously did research in the Louie Yang lab, 2018-2021, as an undergraduate research assistant in insect ecology, and as an undergraduate research assistant in ant systematics with the Philip Ward lab.
In the Yang lab, Lippey investigated the effect of stripes on aversive behavior in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), tsetse flies (Glossina), and mosquitoes (Aedes); studied the effect of size and movement constraints on ontogenetic color change (OCC) of swallowtail larvae (Papilio); and co-authored a collaborative review paper, "The Complexity of Global Change and its Effects on Insects," published in 2021 in the Current Opinion in Insect Science.
In the Ward lab, she studied the phenotypic evolution of the Big-Eyed Tree Ant (Pseudomyrmecinae: Tetraponera) and delivered a presentation on the project at the 2019 UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference.
Lippey presented a poster on "Effects of Surrounding Landscapes on the Fork-tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia furcata) in California Citrus" at the 2021 Entomological Society of America conference in Denver.
A talented illustrator, Lippey served as an illustrator and author of BuprestidID, an apolyclave identification key for more than 500 genera of Buprestidae (family of beetles known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles) in a project headed by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Zemenick, who began work July 1, first traveled to Sagehen while in graduate school and conducted dissertation research there on how plant visitors shape floral microbial communities.
What sparked Ash's interest in entomology? "I first became interested in entomology as an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. I learned how important insects are in agroecosystems, and how their intricate, overlapping interactions can have strong impacts on sustainable management and crop production."
As a youngster, "I was kind of afraid of bugs--at least when they were in the house--but once I started learning about them I was so fascinated. This was solidified when I took Bug Boot Camp (the Insect Taxonomy and Field Ecology" course taught at the Sagehen Field Station by ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) where I fell in love with parasitoid wasps."
Zemenick, a native of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., received a doctorate in ecology from UC Davis in September 2017, studying with Jay Rosenheim, distinguished professor of entomology, and with assistant professor Rachel Vannette, a Hellman fellow.
And now, in a near full-circle move, Zemenick is back home.
The Sagehen Field Station, headquartered in Truckee on a 9000-acre site on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, has focused on research and teaching since 1951. It serves as the hub of a broader network of research areas known as the Central Sierra Field Research Stations, comprised of not only the Sagehen Creek Field Station, but Central Sierra Snow Laboratory, Onion Creek Experimental Watershed, Chickering American River Reserve, and North Fork Association Lands, according to the website.
The surrounding watershed is also available to researchers and classes through an agreement with the Forest Service and includes extensive stands of yellow pine, mixed conifer, and red fir forests, as well as sagebrush fields, scattered mountain meadows, and fens (marshland).
More than 80 graduate students--including Zemenick--have worked on their projects at Sagehen, completing their degrees on such topics as behavioral studies of dark-eyed juncos, stream runoff modeling, bees/butterflies in mountain montane meadows, and GIS as a tool for reserve master planning.
In addition to managing the Sagehen Creek Field Station, Zemenick will coordinate requests to work at Chickering American River Reserve as well as North Fork Association Lands. As Chickering and the North Fork lands are privately owned, user visits are negotiated with the private land partners.
Zemenick returns to California after serving as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in the Weber lab at Michigan State University. "I studied how plant-mite interactions directly and indirectly influence leaf microbial communities and subsequent invasibility by pathogens."
"I co-created, built and directed Project Biodiversify, an online repository of teaching tools to promote diversity, inclusion and belonging in STEM classrooms," said Zemenick. The federally funded Michigan State University project "includes how biological research applies to current societal problems and highlighted what it is like to be a biologist. The materials are comprised of examples provided by biologists that self-identify as being part of underrepresented group(s) in STEM (e.g. in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, income, nationality, immigrant status, cognitive and physical ability, etc.)." The project was recently awarded a University Level Excellence in Diversity Award for work promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in biology education.
Zemenick will continue pursuing ecology and environmental science involving plants, insects, microbes, ecological networks, natural history, and discipline-based education research. Leisure time includes such interests as naturalizing, backpacking, climbing and biking. "I hiked the Nüümü Poyo (John Muir) Trail in 2009 and love the mountains," the ecologist related.
(Editor's Note: Science writer Kathleen Wong of the UC Natural Reserve System contributed to this story.)
An “About Me” poster hanging in her childhood home in Concord confirms it: “When I grow up, I want to be an entomologist.”
She did and she is.
“I have been absolutely obsessed with insects my entire life,” she acknowledges, remembering that she “reared tons of praying mantids and katydids that I'd found in the yard, and I had pretty big colonies of ladybugs and soapberry bugs at different times.” At age “three or four,” she remembers looking excitedly through a "kid-friendly microscope” at the Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley.
Now age 22 and a senior majoring in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and a student researcher in the laboratory of UC Davis Distinguished Professor Jay Rosenheim of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, RJ is making incredible strides and inroads in her research on the bizarre Strepsiptera endoparasites that attack their hosts, the Ammophila (thread-waisted) wasps.
But just as one road leads to a highway, and a highway leads to an interstate, her next destination is New York City to the American Museum of Natural History's Richard Gilder Graduate School (RGGS) for a doctoral opportunity few receive.
“Parasitoids are the love of my life,” said RJ, who is scheduled to receive her bachelor of science degree in entomology in June. “I want to focus on everything to do with parasitoid/parasite-host interactions and how these interactions affect the rest of the world.”
Her two-year research project entails studying the Ammophila specimens in the Bohart Museum of Entomology. As larvae, members of the order Strepsiptera, known as “twisted wings,” enter their hosts, including wasps and bees, through joints or sutures.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million specimens, houses “about 30,000 specimens of Ammophila from multiple continents,” said director Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology. “The majority of the New World ones, which is the bulk, were identified by Arnold Menke.”
Menke, a global wasp authority who received his doctorate from UC Davis in 1965, studying with Professor Richard Bohart (for whom the museum is named), is the author of "The Ammophila of North and Central America (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae),” considered the bible of Ammophila research. (His book may be purchased in the Bohart Museum's gift shop.)
Menke's work generated “a massive data set on comparative parasitism levels,” Rosenheim noted.
“RJ has shown that this one feature explains something like 90 percent of the total variation across Ammophila species in the risk of parasitism,” Rosenheim said. “Ecology virtually never works in such a predictable way; this is one truly exceptional counterexample of nature being highly predictable. Anyway, RJ's work shows that sometimes parental care can be a double-edged sword; we usually think of parental care as providing enhanced protection of offspring from predators and parasites. In this case, it proves to be the reverse.”
Said Kimsey: “RJ is one of those rare students that is focused, task-oriented and simultaneously creative. She was great fun to have working in the museum.”
RJ said she “applied to UC LEADS without knowing for sure that I wanted to go to graduate school, since it still felt out of reach for me at the time, but I got in and started my undergraduate research career for real. UC LEADS was what prepared me for applying to graduate school and helped me understand my potential as a scientist.”
In the beginning, June through September 2019, her work with the Bohart Museum specimens amounted to a full-time job. “During the academic year, it was more like a part-time job where I fit in 10-12 hours working on it as my schedule allowed.”
A dean's honor student with multiple interests, she plays French horn and trumpet in the UC Davis Video Game Orchestra, and for two years performed with the California Aggie Marching Band-Uh. In her home, she tends to a colony of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a scorpion, tarantula, tailless whip scorpion, and African cat-eye mantis. In her four years at UC Davis, “I've had a colony of millipedes, two other tarantulas, a giant Vietnamese centipede, and five other assorted mantis species. The five-year-old me would also be thrilled about that.”
RJ says that “being able to work with Jay on this project investigating the host-parasite relationship between Ammophila wasps and Strepsiptera was what made me fall in love with this super weird order of endoparasites, and I'm extremely excited to keep learning about them through my own work at the American Museum of Natural History!”
The UC Davis student researcher is now geared toward publishing her work. “Hopefully I can get it submitted for review before I graduate—I've worked out a timeline with Jay, and we're sticking to it. I will be lead author on the paper, which is super neat.”
RJ is the first entomologist in her family but not the first in STEM. Her father, Raul, a BART engineer in Oakland and a UC Davis alumnus, is in STEM. Her mother, Lea, a full-time homemaker, “was a bachelor of arts-English major in the Philippines and won writing awards while there.“ Her sister, Rachel Lee, a UCLA graduate, is a theater stage manager. Her uncles and aunts include three engineers, a biochemist, a dentist and a nurse. Her grandparents pursued occupations ranging from a metallurgist and engineer to an accountant and teacher.
“So I'm the first entomologist in the family, which is fun,” she said, “and I come from a family of STEM and humanities/education combined.”
Enrolling at UC Davis as an entomology major, RJ recalled, “was a natural choice and a dream come true for me. It was also here at Davis where I started really learning about the things I want to study for the rest of my life--parasites and parasitoids--through courses like Entomology (ENT) 10 and ENT 100. The enthusiasm of my teaching assistants during those courses (Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward ant lab and Jessica Gillung of the Bohart Museum, respectively) and their willingness to spend valuable time answering my questions and discussing parasites with me was what really made me fall in love with these organisms as a study system.”
Another highlight: her UC LEADS poster, “Parental Care and the Risk of Maternally Vectored Pathogens: Ammophila Transmit Strepsipteran Parasites to Their Young,” won top honors in the March 2021 Koret UC LEADS Symposium poster competition.
Remember the five-year-old who vowed to become an entomologist in her “About Me” poster? Now UC Davis entomologist and RGGS-bound Rebecca Jean Millena can say “This is me.”
And in a few years, “this is me” may be a museum curator. “I am a huge fan of museums,” RJ said, “and have wanted to work at the California Academy of Sciences for ages because my family and I spent a lot of time there when I was younger.”