She is the first UC Davis-affiliated scientist to win the award. She will receive a certificate, 1250 pounds ($1,624) and an expense paid trip to London to receive the award at the Ento 19 conference, set Aug. 20-22 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The Royal Entomological Society, an international organization devoted to the study of insects, was founded in 1833 as the Entomological Society of London. Its mission is to disseminate information about insects and improve communication between entomologists.
Gillung's work on spider flies, involving genomics, phylogenetics, systematics, and comparative analyses, “has increased our understanding of the biological patterns and processes that have shaped our planet's biodiversity,” wrote her major professor and award nominator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Gillung received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in December 2018, studying with Kimsey and mentor Shaun Winterton, insect biosystematist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and a member of the Royal Entomological Society. Gillung also collaborated with ant specialist and taxonomist Phil Ward, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Gillung is now a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University in the Bryan Danforth lab, where she is researching Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
Her dissertation, “Systematics and Phylogenomics of Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae),” focused on the evolution, conservation, biology, and taxonomy of spider flies, a group of spider natural enemies,
Gillung's taxonomic work on spider flies, described as landmark, included identification keys and morphology-based diagnoses of species using modern techniques of cybertaxonomy—the application of the internet, digital technologies, and computer resources to increase and speed up the discovery and cataloging of new species, Kimsey wrote. “Using cybertaxonomic tools, Jessica described 25 new spider fly species herself, and in collaboration with fellow entomologists, three fossil species from Baltic amber, described in her first dissertation chapter. Cybertaxonomy is a powerful tool that allows researchers and citizen scientists to collaborate in real time and across great distances to increase the speed and efficiency of biodiversity discovery.”
“Jessica unraveled the functional and ecological implications of key morphological traits, as well as their distribution across the Tree of Life,” Kimsey said. “In her doctoral dissertation, she established new homologies for the wing venation of spider flies and conducted detailed and assiduous dissections of male reproductive structures (i.e., genitalia) to understand homologies, demonstrating that morphological traits are dynamically evolving systems useful for both classification and inference of evolutionary history.”
Since many insect species are threatened, geographically restricted, or relatively rare in nature, Gillung performed non-destructive DNA extraction of specimens housed in entomological collections, including the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Gillung collected molecular data from decades-old insects without damaging the specimens.
Gillung's multifaceted research on genomics, bioinformatics, phylogenetics, plant-pollinator interactions, and biodiversity discovery drew more $120,000 in grants and awards while at UC Davis.
The UC Davis alumnus is known for her “phenomenal leadership activities, her nearly straight-A academic record (3.91 grade point average), her excellence as an entomologist and teacher, her public service and outreach programs (from 2013 to 2018, she reached more than 20,000 people at UC Davis-based events) and her incredible publication record,
Kimsey said. “She published 11 refereed publications related to her thesis in very strong journals. Most entomologists do not publish nearly that much, even as a postdoctoral scholar or a junior faculty member.”
A recipient of numerous other awards, Gillung won the prestigious international award for “Best Student Presentation Award” at the ninth annual International Congress of Dipterology, held in 2018 in Windhoek, Namibia. She also won the 2019 Early Career Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) and the 2018 PBESA Student Leadership Award. PBESA encompasses 11 western states, U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Gillung was a key member of the 2015 PBESA championship Linnaean Team that went on to win the ESA national championship. The Linnaean Games are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competition on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
Gillung also collaborated on a project aimed at encouraging students to attend and participate in the Orlando, Fla., meeting of the International Congress of Entomology. She and several colleagues published a paper entitled “From the Students to the Students: Why YOU need to Attend ICE 2016.”
The Royal Entomological Society will publish her biography and photo in its Antenna magazine, on the society website, and in the Marsh Christian Trust Award brochure.
The UC Davis recipients, as announced today:
Molecular geneticist/physiologist Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the department, associate professor and Chancellor's Fellow, won the Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award. The annual award is presented to an individual who has an outstanding record of accomplishment in at least one of the entomological sub-disciplines of physiology, biochemistry, and toxicology.
Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, professor, won the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award. The annual award is given to an individual with outstanding accomplishments in the study of insect interrelationships with plants.
Doctoral candidate and ant specialist Brendon Boudinot who studies with Professor Phil Ward, won the 2019 John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award, the top graduate student award. This award is based on academic record, leadership, public service activities, participation in professional activities, and publications.
They will be honored at PBESA's 103rd annual meeting, to take place March 31 - April 3 in San Diego, California.
The University of California accounted for eight of the 12 PBESA awards, with UC Davis winning four, UC Riverside, three, and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), one.
Joanna Chiu, Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award
"Dr. Chiu not only excels in unique and cutting-edge research, both basic and applied, but has distinguished herself in mentoring, teaching and service contributions,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who nominated her for the award.
She studies how genes and proteins regulate animal physiology and behavior in response to changes in environment and resources. Her research involves molecular genetics of animal behavior, circadian rhythm biology, and posttranslational regulation of proteins. Major grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation fund her research.
Chiu investigates the regulation of animal circadian rhythms in her laboratory by using a combination of molecular genetics, biochemical, genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic approaches. Her overall research goal: to dissect the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control the circadian clock in animals, and to investigate how this endogenous timer interacts with the environment and cellular metabolism to drive rhythms of physiology and behavior.
Neal Williams, Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award
"Dr. Williams is widely known and respected for his excellence in research, extension, outreach, teaching, leadership and mentoring," said Nadler. “He is a leading voice in the development of collaborative research on insect ecology. He has organized national and international conferences, leads scores of working groups, and guides reviews of impacts of land use and other global change drivers on insects and the services they provide.”
Williams focuses his research on the ecology and evolution of bees and other pollinator insects and their interactions with flowering plants. His work is particularly timely given concern over the global decline in bees and other pollinators.
In July, Williams will co-chair the Fourth International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy at UC Davis. The four-day conference, themed “Multidimensional Solutions to Current and Future Threats to Pollinator Health,” will highlight recent research advances in the biology and health of pollinators, and link to policy implications.
Brendon Boudinot, John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award
Brendon Boudinot was praised for his academic record, leadership, public service activities, participation in professional activities, and his 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,” Nadler wrote.
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.
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.
Jessica Gillung, Early Career Award
Jessica Gillung studied for her doctorate with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology. “Dr. Gillung has made outstanding contributions to entomology, shown commitment to extension or outreach, and excelled in entomological education,” Kimsey wrote in her letter of nomination. “In one word: she is ‘phenomenal.' Gillung most recently won the “Best Student Presentation Award” at the ninth annual International Congress of Dipterology, held in Windhoek, Namibia, and the 2018 PBESA Student Leadership Award. Her dissertation was titled: “Systematics and Phylogenomics of Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae).”
Kimsey praised her phenomenal leadership activities, her nearly straight-A academic record (3.91 grade point average), her excellence as an entomologist and teacher, and her incredible publication record. “Note that she has 11 refereed publications on her thesis organisms in very strong journals,” Kimsey wrote. “Most entomologists do not publish nearly that much, even as a postdoctoral scholar or a junior faculty member!”
As a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University in the Bryan Danforth lab, Gillung is researching Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
PBESA Award Recipients
The complete list of PBESA recipients:
- CW Woodworth: Elizabeth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Riverside.
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Teaching: Allan Felsot, Washington State University
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Extension: Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension
- PBESA Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: Silvia Rondon, Oregon State University
- PBESA Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award: Christiane Weirauch, UC Riverside
- PBESA Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award: Joanna Chiu, UC Davis
- PBESA Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award: Rebecca Maguire, Washington State University
- PBESA Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: Neal Williams, UC Davis
- PBESA Distinction in Student Mentoring Award: Gerhard Gries, Simon Frazier University, British Columbia
- PBESA Excellence in Early Career Award: Jessica Gillung, UC Davis
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award: Brendon Boudinot, UC Davis
- PBESA Student Leadership Award: Kelsey McCalla, UC Riverside
PBESA is one of six branches of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). 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.
She delivered her presentation on “Phylogenetic Relationships of Spider Flies (Acroceridae) – Discordance, Uncertainty and the Perils of Phylogenomics.” Acrocerid adults are floral visitors, and some are specialized pollinators, while the larvae are internal parasitoids of spiders.
Approximately 350 delegates attended the conference; the scientists focus on the Diptera order, which includes houseflies, mosquitoes, and gnats. Gillung was among 40 students presenting their research.
Gillung studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; mentor Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and collaborator Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology.
UC Davis doctoral students Charlotte Herbert Alberts and Socrates Letana, who both study with Kimsey, also presented their work; Alberts delivered an oral presentation on her research (she studies Asilidae (Assassin flies), and Letana displayed a poster on bot flies.
Presenting the award to Gillung was Professor Thomas Pape of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and chair of the Council for the International Congresses of Dipterology, which organizes the conferences. The next Congress takes place in 2022 in California.
In her abstract, Gillung described spider flies “as a monophyletic group of lower Brachycera currently classified into three subfamilies, 55 genera and ca 530 species.”
“The group has long been considered a rogue taxon and its placement within the Diptera tree of life remains uncertain,” she wrote. “Phylogenetic relationships among lineages of spider flies are by contrast relatively well established, with hypotheses proposed based on molecular data from both Sanger and high-throughput sequencing. Phylogenomic estimation of spider fly relationships yields different topologies, depending on whether data is coded and analyzed as nucleotides or as amino acids. The most significant difference among the two data types is in the monophyly of Panopinae; a morphologically and ecologically recognizable group, that is recovered as monophyletic only in the analyses of nucleotides. This study uses Acroceridae as a system to explore the effects of potential confounding factors in phylogenomic reconstruction. This research takes advantage of modern and powerful statistical approaches, including posterior predictive simulation, to understand the effects of conflict, uncertainty and systematic error in the estimation of evolutionary relationships using the standard phylogenomic toolkit.”
Gillung, to receive her doctorate this month, will present her exit seminar on “Evolution of Fossil and Living Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae): A Tale of Conflict and Uncertainty” at 2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14 in 122 Briggs Hall.
"Parasitoid flies," Gillung wrote in her abstract for her Dec. 14 seminar, "are some of the most remarkable, yet poorly known groups of insects. Represented by over 10,000 species distributed in 21 families, dipteran parasitoids comprise over 100 independent lineages, offering an unparalleled system to understanding the origin, evolution and diversification of the parasitoid life history. My dissertation research unraveled the systematics, evolution and biology of a lineage of dipteran parasitoids specialized in spiders, Acroceridae, commonly known as spider flies. My research resulted in a monograph of fossil spider flies, and a robust hypothesis for the pattern and timing of spider fly evolution based on high throughput sequencing. Through the combination of DNA sequence data obtained via Sanger sequencing with morphological characters, I also estimated their relationships among spider fly genera using an extensive taxon sampling which culminated in a new taxonomic classification for the family.”
Gillung has accepted a postdoctoral position at Cornell University, Ithaca, beginning Jan. 2. She will be working with Bryan Danforth on Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
She recently was named the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Student Leadership Award, presented by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), which represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
A native of Brazil, Jessica holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil and a master's degree in zoology from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She speaks four languages fluently: Portuguese, Spanish, English and German.
(Editor's Note: An indepth story on the UC Davis award winners is pending.)
Rosenheim won the Distinction in Student Mentoring Award, and Gillung, the Student Leadership Award.
They will be honored at the PBESA meeting, themed "Practical Solutions Through Science and Industry Partnerships," set June 10-13 at the Atlantis Casino Resort, Reno.
PBESA President Brad Higbee reported that the branch received 31 nomination packets for 13 different awards. Nominees represented nine different institutions across six U.S. states and two other countries. Winners were selected by a diverse group of 36 anonymous judges from PBESA, he said.
The other recipients:
- Pacific Branch C. W. Woodworth Award: Roger Vargas, USDA ARS, Hilo, Hawaii
- Award for Excellence in Teaching: William Walton, University of California, Riverside
- Award for Excellence in Extension: David Haviland, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management: Alan Knight, USDA ARS, Wapato, Wash.
- Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award: No awardee this year
- Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Award: Jeffrey Fabrick, USDA ARS, Maricopa, Ariz.
- Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology Award: Alec Gerry, University of California, Riverside
- Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award: Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA ARS, Logan, Utah
- Excellence in Early Career: Amber Tripodi, USDA ARS, Logan, Utah
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award: Adekunle Adesanya, Washington State University
- Entomology Team Work Award: led by Doug Walsh of Washington State University and including Sally O'Neal, Erik Johansen, Shane Johnson, Mark Waggoner, Harvey Yoshida, Jamey Thomas, and Mike Lees. "Pest and Pollinator Management Team"
PBESA represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
The event, free and open to the public and family friendly, is an annual open house focusing on parasitoids.
"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of an insect host, often eating it from the inside out," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator of the Bohart Museum. "It is part of their life cycle and the host generally dies."
Among the presentations or topics:
- Bohart Museum senior museum scientist Steve Heydon, a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a group of tiny parasitoids.
- Entomology PhD student Jessica Gillung who researches the Acroceridae family "a remarkable group of endoparasitoids of spiders."
- Diagnostic parasitologist Lauren Camp of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, is an authority on nematodes.
- Family craft activity is a pop-up card, featuring a monarch chrysalis and a fly, suitable for mailing to friends and family during the holiday season.
There are some 3,450 described species of Pteromalids, found throughout the world and in virtually all habitats. Many are important as biological control agents.
Members of the Acroceridae are "rare and elusive flies lay the eggs on the ground or vegetation, and the little larva is in charge of finding itself a suitable host," Gillung said. "Upon finding the host, the larva enters its body and feeds inside until it's mature to come outside and pupate. They eat everything from the spider; nothing is wasted."
Lauren Camp, who received her doctorate from UC Davis, studying with major professor Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will display a variety of nematodes amd answer questions.
She describes nematodes in one word as "worms" and in expanding, “Nematodes are an amazing phylum of organisms--they exist in almost every known environment on the planet, and different species eat everything from bacteria and fungi to plant and animal tissue."
Tachinid flies, which lay their eggs in caterpillars and chrysalids, will be on display, along with the remains of its hosts. It is used as a biological control agent for some pests. But those who rear monarch butterflies consider it their enemy when it lays eggs in their caterpillars and chrysalids.
The late UC Davis entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) researched Strepsiptera, or twisted-wing parasites, for his doctorate in 1938. Both the Bohart Museum and an entire family of Strepsiptera, the Bohartillidae, are named in honor of Professor Bohart.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold some of the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum holds special open houses throughout the academic year. Its regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
More information on the Bohart Museum is available by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing email@example.com or Tabatha Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org.