In a congratulatory letter to him, Jean-Pierre Delplanque, vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies, wrote: "Your program selected you for this award due to your 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."
The nomination letter included: "What sets Louie apart are these three qualities: (1) He is honest to the unique needs and interests of each student. He knows that the diversity of ideas and perspectives fuels scientific progress. He respects each student's unique perspective and interests He gives his students opportunities to view themselves as intellectual colleagues and contributors. (2) He facilitates intellectual independence in his drive to help students transition from being consumers of knowledge to becoming producers of knowledge. (3) He learns from his students. He knows that mentorship is a two-way street."
Another excerpt from the nomination letter: "It is unusual and truly special, to find a mentor that perfectly balances generous, unwavering support with a deep appreciation for his students' independence. His supportive advising style, almost paradoxically, allows his students to develop a high degree of independence and self-motivation."
Professor Yang is one of seven faculty members from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences singled out for the award. The other recipients are:
- Cort Anastasio, Agricultural and Environmental Chemistry
- Brian Bailey, Horticulture and Agronomy
- Katrina Jessoe, Agricultural & Resource Economics
- Heather Knych, Pharmacology and Toxicology
- Alessandro Ossola, Environmental Policy and Management
- Caroline Slupsky, Nutritional Biology
The 2023 award recipients also include 14 from the College of Letters and Sciences; 5 from the College of Biological Sciences, 6 from the College of Engineering, and one from the School of Medicine. (See news story)
Yang, who received his bachelor's degree in ecology and evolution from Cornell University in 1999, and his doctorate in population biology from UC Davis in 2006, joined the UC Davis faculty in 2009.
He co-directs and mentors students in the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), a campuswide program that he and Professors Jay Rosenheim (now a UC Davis distinguished professor) and Joanna Chiu (now chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology) co-founded in 2011 to help students learn cutting-edge research through close mentoring relationships with faculty. The program crosses numerous biological fields, including population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; entomology; and cell biology. The goal: 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.
Professor Yang is the second recipient of the campuswide award from the Department of Entomology and Nematology. Last year Rosenheim, who specializes in insect ecology, received the honor.
Highly honored for his advising and mentoring, Yang earlier received the 2023 Distinction in Student Mentoring Award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA), which encompasses 11 Western states, parts of Canada and Mexico, and U.S. territories. He was praised for "being a strong advocate for his students and fostering creative and critical thinking." His other honors include the 2017 Eleanor and Harry Walker Academic Advising Award from CA&ES. In 2018, he received the regional (Pacific Region 9, California, Nevada and Hawaii) Outstanding Faculty Academic Advisor from NACADA, also known as the Global Community for Academic Advising, and then went on to win NACADA's international award for the Outstanding Faculty Academic Advising Award.
"I am pleased Joanna Chiu has been appointed as the chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology," said Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "She is an outstanding scholar and teacher with demonstrated leadership skills. I look forward to watching Professor Chiu thrive in her new role as chair and seeing the department continue to flourish.”
Other women scientists who have chaired the department: Professor Diane Ullman, 2004-05, and interim chair, Lynn Kimsey, 2008-09.
Chiu joined the Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2010 as an assistant professor, and advanced to associate professor and vice chair in 2016, and to professor and vice chair in 2021. She was named one of 10 UC Davis Chancellor's Fellows in 2019, a five-year honor awarded to associate professors who excel in research and teaching. The UC Davis Academic Senate honored her with a Distinguished Teaching Award, Graduate/Professional category, in 2022. She most recently received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research.
Chiu co-founded and co-directs (with professors Jay Rosenheim and Louie Yang) the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, launched in 2011 to provide undergraduates with a closely mentored research experience in 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.
A native of Hong Kong and a first-generation college student, Joanna received her bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, in biology and music from Mount Holyoke College, Mass., and her doctorate in molecular genetics in 2004 from New York University, New York. She trained as a postdoctoral fellow from 2004 to 2010 in molecular chronobiology at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Her postdoctoral training was funded by an NIH F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellowship and K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award.
"I grew up not knowing any scientists,” she related. “Both my parents work in the financial industry and neither went to college. However, my dad loves the outdoors and my childhood memories includes snorkeling with my dad and siblings, hiking in the very limited outdoors in my native Hong Kong, and watching a lot of National Geographic on TV. As a result, I have always been curious about biology, especially animal behavior. I really hoped to study biology in college. My parents, on the other hand, wanted me to be a doctor."
Vannette joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2015 after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University's biology department. As a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow from 2011 to 2015, she examined the role of nectar chemistry in community assembly of yeasts and plant-pollinator interactions.
Yang, a native of Australia, but who grew up in West Virginia, received his bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell University, magna cum laude, in 1999, and a doctorate in population biology from UC Davis in 2006. He received the University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship to train with Professor Jonathan Levine (UCSB) and Professor Mary Power (UCB). He joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology as an assistant professor in 2008, advanced to associate professor in June 2015, and to professor in July 2021. Yang is highly regarded for his research and mentoring. He received the 2017 Eleanor and Harry Walker Academic Advising Award, the 2018 NACADA international Outstanding Faculty Academic Advising Award, and the 2023 Distinction in Student Mentoring Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America.
The Department of Entomology at UC Davis began as an offshoot of the Department of Entomology and Parasitology at UC Berkeley and the two were closely entwined for more than 50 years before the UC Davis Department of Entomology became autonomous on July 1, 1963. The department now has 24 faculty, plus a lecturer.
UC Davis offered a two-year non-degree program in entomology, beginning in 1913. The first degree in entomology provided at UC Davis was in 1923-24 at which time Stanley B. Freeborn (for whom Freeborn hall was named) was transferred from UC Berkeley to UC Davis to head the program. (See https://entomology.ucdavis.edu/entomology-history)
The UC Davis Department of Nematology officially joined the Department of Entomology on May 28, 2013.
The article, “Complexity, Humility and Action: A Current Perspective on Monarchs in Western North America,” is “meant to provide a concise review of and perspective on recent western monarch research,” Yang said.
The western monarch population overwinters along the California coast. Estimated at 4.5 million in the 1980s, it has dropped significantly over the past five years, the professor related, noting an “86% single-year population decline in 2018, an overwintering population of less than 2000 butterflies in 2020, and an unexpected >100-fold increase in 2021."
Yang defined the western monarch population as occupying "a geographically distinct region of North America west of the Rocky Mountain...Ongoing climate change has made the western monarch range warmer, drier, and more prone to heatwaves, wildfires, and winter storms with complex effects on their ecology. Land development and changes in the structure of landscape mosaics have modified both the breeding and overwintering habitats of western monarch butterflies, changing the spatial distribution of resources and risks across their range. Shifts in agricultural and horticultural practice have changed the nature of potentially deleterious chemicals in the environment, including novel herbicides and insecticides."
Yang said the spread of non-native milkweed species has likely had both positive and negative consequences for western monarchs, and more research is needed.
His three suggestions:
- "First, we should continue to support both basic and applied monarch research. This includes efforts to better understand fundamental aspects of monarch biology, studies to examine the ecological factors that limit monarch populations in the West and efforts to improve more targeted adaptive management and monitoring efforts. Basic research in monarch biology and ecology improves our understanding of this complex system and can inform conservation actions in profound and unexpected ways. In turn, applied research can address recognized gaps in knowledge that would otherwise limit available strategies for conservation planning and management."
- "Second, recognizing the limits of our current understanding, we should follow the precautionary principle to minimize the risk of counterproductive action. The complexity of this system makes it difficult to anticipate or assume future changes in behavior, species interactions or population dynamics. In practice, this may mean prioritizing efforts to better understand and facilitate existing mechanisms of ecological resilience and recovery over direct actions to manipulate or augment the population with less certain consequences. More broadly, this approach would probably emphasize common sense approaches to mitigate the widely recognized upstream drivers of global change (e.g., climate change and land use change), rather than those requiring a detailed understanding of their complex, interactive effects on species-specific ecologies further downstream."
- "Third, we should work to improve, protect and maintain the resources required throughout the complex monarch life cycle. In part, this likely means prioritizing conservation efforts that target the times and places that are likely to have the greatest positive effects, building on the common ground of available science. In the case of western monarchs, this includes protecting current and future overwintering habitats, the resources required for population expansion in the early season, and the resources required for the fall migration. Recognizing the potentially widespread and pervasive effects of pesticides, this could also mean efforts to develop more ecologically realistic and relevant metrics for the regulation of environmental chemicals."
Yang opined that "In the broader context, many of the drivers that are contributing to western monarch population declines are likely to also be affecting other species. In turn, many of the strategies that would support monarch conservation would likely benefit other species, and many of the strategies that would benefit other species are likely to also support monarch conservation. As we build on currently available science to better understand and protect the western monarch population, it is imperative that we continue to grapple with the inherent complexity of this system and respond with appropriate humility and necessary action."
Among the 54 scientific publications that Yang referenced was a research article co-authored by UC Davis Distinguished Professor Art Shapiro, who has studied butterfly populations in Central California since 1972. The article, "Fewer Butterflies Seen by Community Scientists across the Warming and Drying Landscapes of the American West," published in Science in March 2021, covered data from the Shapiro transect, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) community count data and the iNaturalist community observation data. The study observed widespread declines across 450 butterfly species, including the monarch butterfly, in the American West. The authors estimated a 1.6 percent decrease in overall butterfly abundance each year over a 42-year period from 1977 to 2018.
Editors of the journal, Current Opinion in Insect Science, describe it as "a new systematic review journal that aims to provide specialists with a unique and educational platform to keep up–to–date with the expanding volume of information published in the field of insect science."
Of the 14 awards, UC Riverside scored four; UC Davis, three; Washington State University, two; University of Arizona, two; Arizona State University, one; and USDA-ARS, two.
UC Davis-affiliated awards include two in the professional category, and one in the student category.
- Honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr. won the top award, the C. W. Woodworth Award. (See news story). He is the 12th UC Davis entomologist to win the award, first presented in 1969. Previous UC Davis recipients:
1978: William Harry Lange Jr. (1912-2004)
1981: Harry Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003)
1987: Robert Washino
1991: Thomas Leigh (1923-1993)
1998: Harry Kaya
2009: Charles Summers (1941-2021)
2010: Walter Leal
2011: Frank Zalom
2014: James R. Carey
2015: Thomas Scott
2020: Lynn Kimsey
- Community ecologist Louie Yang won the Distinction in Student Mentoring Award, an award first presented in 2012. (See news story) He is the third UC Davis faculty member to receive the award. Previous UC Davis recipients:
2018: Jay Rosenheim
2020: Robert Kimsey
- Research scholar Gary Ge of the UC Davis Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, won the second annual Dr. Stephen Garczynski Undergraduate Research Scholarship. (See news story) Previous UC Davis recipient:
2022: Gwen Erdosh
In the United States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai'i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
U.S. Territories: American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Johnston Atoll, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Islands, Wake Island
In Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Yukon
In Mexico: Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Sonora
The complete list of winners is posted here.
Ge, who studies with Professor Louie Yang of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and UC Davis Distinguished Professor Art Shapiro of the Department of Evolution and Ecology, researches the American Apollo butterfly (Parnassius clodius) as a model to study how microclimatic conditions affect cold-adapted insects.
Ge will be honored at the annual PBESA meeting, April 2-5 in Seattle, which encompasses 11 Western states, plus Canada and Mexico and U.S. territories. Ge will receive a $1000 award for travel expenses and a waived registration fee. Last year UC Davis student Gwen Erdosh, also of RSPIP and a research scholar with the Yang lab, won the inaugural Garczynski scholarship.
Ge serves as a research assistant with Shapiro's Central California Butterfly Population and Diversity Trends Study. He works with Yang as a project manager and a research assistant on his Milkweed Phenology Study.
“Gary is a remarkable student with an excellent understanding of the butterflies he is studying," said Yang, who researches monarch butterflies and milkweed phenology and nominated Ge for the award. "Over the years, he has applied his longstanding enthusiasm for these butterflies to ask insightful questions about the thermal ecology of cold-adapted organisms under global warming. Gary has also demonstrated the determination and resilience required to overcome unexpected barriers and to see his research through to completion. He is a skilled and thoughtful scientist with the ability to make valuable contributions to ecology, and I've been happy to have had a chance to work with him.”
Ge just finished writing a National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) grant proposal. The results are expected to be announced in April.
His hypothesis: "that mid-elevation populations of P. clodius have the best cold tolerance as overwintering eggs. The main factor behind this is snow cover. Snow cover is known to provide significant insulation to whatever is underneath, usually creating higher microclimatic temperatures under the snow than above. At mid-elevations, the winter temperatures are lower than at low elevations, and the snow cover is supposedly less and more unstable compared to higher elevations. This means the mid-elevation populations are likely exposed to the coldest winter temperature, and have locally adapted to it.”
Ge said he is testing his hypothesis “partly by looking at the supercooling points (SCPs) of diapausing eggs in different populations. The SCP indicates the freezing temperature of the egg, so it should be close to the lower lethal temperature. So, the population with the lowest average SCP would be the most cold-tolerant. I got some preliminary results recently indicating the SCP of the mid-elevation eggs is around -30 °C, which is pretty cold! On the side I am also testing the egg SCP of a Parnassius behrii population. This is a California endemic. It would be cool to see how their thermal tolerance differ from that of P. clodius as P. behrii is only found in high-elevation habitats (mostly around and above 9,000 feet).”
“The genus Parnassius is prone to global warming due to its affinity for alpine and arctic habitats, and several species are considered to be threatened," Ge said.
Shapiro, who has monitored butterfly populations across central California for the last 50 years, says that “Parnassians are a group of cold-adapted Northern Hemisphere butterflies that are becoming increasingly important as objects of physiological, ecological and evolutionary study. They are only likely to grow more important in the context of climate change. Thus, Gary's study is very timely and should attract plenty of attention! It is demanding given the rigorous conditions in which they breed and develop, and he is likely to learn a lot that will facilitate future lab and field studies.”
On his research website, Art's Shapiro's Butterfly site, Shapiro says that P. clodius is “common to abundant Lang Crossing up to Castle Peak; not at Sierra Valley. Common at Washington, near the lower elevational limit of its range. Higher-altitude specimens are consistently smaller than at Washington and Lang. The male of this species generates a large waxy vaginal plug (the sphragis) that prevents the female from mating again (though other males do try). It does not, of course, interfere with egg-laying! Both sexes visit Yerba Santa, Coyotemint, and a wide variety of other flowers. At lower elevations this is a typical species of cool, mesic mixed forest, often along streamsides and at the bases of cliffs. At higher elevations it occurs in moist conifer forest and along streams and the edges of meadows. It does not hilltop. One brood, May-June (low) and June-August (rarely later) (high). Larval host plant Bleeding Heart, genus Dicentra (Fumariaceae, now put in Papaveraceae). Larvae are crepuscular-nocturnal except on cloudy, cool days and mimic poisonous millipedes.”
Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB). Co-founded and directed by Professors Jay Rosenheim, Joanna Chiu and Yang, RSPIB helps students learn cutting-edge research through close mentoring relationships with faculty. The program, launched in 2011, crosses numerous biological fields, including population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; entomology; and cell biology. The goal: 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.
Ge, born in Beijing, China, attended elementary school in New York City, middle school in Singapore, and high school in Hawaii, and now California for college. “This allowed me to have experience with a range oflepidopterans and ants and termites as well—social insects are my other favorite group.” He anticipates receiving his bachelor of science degree at UC Davis this year and hopes to enroll in graduate school at UC Davis.
He developed his passion for Parnassius during middle school. “When I was visiting my extended family in Tibet, I saw this small white butterfly flying through the seemingly lifeless alpine scree habitat at an elevation of around 1,5000 feet. I later found out that it was a Parnassius species and got immediately intrigued by the fact that they are mostly specialist of alpine and arctic habitats, living in some of the world's coldest and most hostile environments. Since many of the genus members have habitats restricted to mountain tops above the tree line, our P. behrii is an example, climate change--rising tree lines-would leave them nowhere to go. This makes better understanding the ecology of this genus utterly important.”
The scholarship memorializes Stephen Garczynski (1960-2019), a research geneticist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Wapato, Wash.,"who had an unmatched passion for mentoring undergraduate students in their research," according to the PBESA website. "Steve helped students by serving as a role model with his contagious energy and drive, his ability to teach and convey his scientific knowledge, and by encouraging students to be creative and innovative in their work. The purpose of this merit-based award is to honor students for their accomplishments in research, and to support and encourage them to present their work at a branch or national ESA meeting."