Time's fun when you're studying flies!
Student fly researchers greeted guests and explained their work at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house held last Saturday, Jan. 12.
The event, which took place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, drew more than 150 visitors, despite competition with the televised National Football League playoffs and other activities.
The theme, "Time's Fun When You're Studying Flies," was a take-off of "Time flies when you're having fun."
"Despite the lovely weather, visitors spent a long time at the museum talking with our department's up and coming researchers," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator. "Visitors learned about various research on flies that occurs in our department from evolution to geography to circadian rhythms."
Five scientists from the Joanna Chiu lab discussed their fruit fly research. They were graduate students Christine Tabuloc, Yao Cai and Xianhui "Nitrol" Liu, and undergraduate students Cindy Truong and Christopher Ochoa.
The Joanna Chiu lab currently has 4 PhD students (3 from Entomology and 1 from Genomics and Genetics), 6 undergraduate students (3 from Underrepresented Minorities or URM) undergraduate research programs), 1 postdoc, and 1 visiting graduate student from China.
Others fly researchers participating:
- Graduate student Caroline Wright Larsen of the James R. Carey Lab; she studies non-tephrid flies, including the Mediterranean fruit fly
- Graduate students Socrates Letana and Charlotte Herbert Alberts of the Lynn Kimsey Lab; Letana studies botflies, and Alberts, assassin flies
- Graduate student Alex Dedmon of the Robert Kimsey lab and UC Davis graduate Danielle Wishon; they specialize in forensic entomology
"They all did an excellent job engaging the public with thoughtful slide shows, images, and specimens," Yang said. "They truly communicated their enthusiasm for science."
The next open house will be Saturday, Feb. 16, when the Bohart Museum will be open as part of campuswide Biodiversity Museum Day.
Upcoming open houses:
- "Eight-Legged Wonders" (spider theme, featuring the work of the Jason Bond lab) on Saturday, March 9 from 1 to 4 p.m.
- UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 13 from 10 to 3 p.m.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids. The gift shop is stocked with newly published calendars, books, jewlery, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals. UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
The Bohart is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ or contact (530) 753-0493 or email@example.com.
No, time's fun when you're studying flies!
Nearly a dozen fly researchers from throughout the UC Davis campus will greet the public and explain their research at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane. The event, themed “Time's Fun When Studying Flies," is free, open to the public, and family friendly.
The open house will showcase botflies, fruit flies, assassin flies, mosquitoes and other members of the Diptera order. Ten scientists, including undergraduate students, graduate students and a visiting scholar, are scheduled to participate. They will display specimens, photos and field equipment and chat with the public.
"Besides checking out the flies, this is also a good time for visitors to inquire about graduate school, ask about starting research projects, and to meet people working in forensics, evolution, agriculture, animal behavior, genetics, geography, and home pests, among other topics," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart's butterfly and moth section, will be on hand to open the Diptera section. "He will dust off and put on his pest industry hat to talk about those relevant flies," Yang said.
A family craft activity is also planned.
Among the fly researchers participating will be fourth-year doctoral candidate Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies assassin fly (Asilidae) systematics with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology.
She lists other interesting facts about assassin flies:
- They are venomous! Their venom both immobilizes their prey and starts extra-oral digestion.
- They have very fancy facial hair (beards and mustaches) called a mystax, thought to protect their face while they catch and eat their prey.
- Some assassin flies are very selective in their prey choice and may have specialized venom to help them overcome their prey.
- There are more than 7,500 species found all over the world!
“I am currently working on a few projects: An Asiloidea Phylogeny, Predator-Prey Dynamics of Asilidae and their kin, and a few side projects including the revision of Ablautus, and Nearctic Saropogon,” Alberts says. She is also interested in assassin fly venom and how it may have evolved to target certain prey taxa. In addition, she teaches basic entomology and art in a UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program course.
Graduate student Socrates Letana, who also studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey. researches the evolution and diversification of botflies (Oestridae) "in the global mammal host-space with special emphasis on the New World." Part of his research interests include Diptera systematics, biogeography and Southeast Asian biodiversity. He is a research associate with the California State Collection of Arthropods, California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The larvae of botflies are internal parasites of mammals; some species grow in the host's flesh and others within the gut. Dermatobia hominis is known as the only species of botfly known to parasitize humans routinely.
UC Davis undergraduate researcher Cindy Truong of the Joanna Chiu lab, will be showing flies in various life stages and provide coloring pages for kids. "We primarily study circadian rhythm, which is the sleep and wake cycle. More specifically we study the mechanisms in which 'clock proteins' go through in order to maintain this cycle." She will expand on "How flies tell time.”
Christine Tabuloc, graduate student researcher in the Chiu lab, will discuss her work on fruit flies. "My current focus is to investigate the effects of climatic change on gene expression of an invasive pest and determine whether there is a correlation to resistance and survival," she said. "In addition to pest management research, I am also studying a kinase of a core clock protein in Drosophila melanogaster and hoping to dissect its functional contribution to the molecular oscillator."
Others from the Chiu lab participating will be Yao Cai, a doctoral graduate student who studies genetic mechanisms underlying the regulation of organismal behavior, and undergraduate researcher Christopher Ochoa.
The presenters also will include fruit fly, forensics and mosquito experts:
- Kathlyne-Inez Soukhaseum of the Frank Zalom lab will talk about her research on the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, a major agricultural pest that invaded California in 2008.
- Danielle Wishon, a forensic entomologist who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis, will discuss how flies are used in forensics. She hopes to enroll in graduate school at Purdue University.
- Nermeen Raffat, visiting scholar in the Sharon Lawler lab, will focus on mosquito larvae. He is working on "the effect of copper sulphate and other toxicants on the development and anti-predatory behavior of the mosquitoes larvae."
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007), is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids. The gift shop is stocked with newly published calendars, books, jewlery, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals.
The Bohart Museum is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ or contact (530) 753-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
That sentence now appears in a newly published---and first-ever--Bohart Museum calendar, illustrated by talented artist Karissa Merritt, a fourth-year UC Davis entomology major.
Professor Kimsey collects strange, funny and odd answers that her students pen on their tests or essays in Entomology 100. Some of her favorite sentences, all calendared, include:
- “The infected fleas can harbor rats, ground squirrels, rabbits, and occasionally, even house cats.”
- "In addition to a food product, pollinators are also used to pollinate crops.”
- "Normally, locusts are introverted creatures; they do not socialize unless it is for reproduction.”
- "Drones are male bees that contribute only in the perm production for the queen."
- "Feigning death is also a play that stick insects will do when their other tragedies are all failed."
Merritt, a two-year Bohart associate, illustrated the entire calendar, drawing upon her creativity, humor and imagination. “Karissa is a gifted graphic artist,” Kimsey said.
The calendar, published by Tara Baumann & Associates of Vacaville, is a project of the non-profit Bohart Museum Society. The calendar sells for $12 at the Bohart Museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. Those who contribute $50 or more to the Bohart Museum Society will receive a calendar with their donation. All proceeds are earmarked for research, education and outreach projects.
"One of the outcomes of teaching a general entomology course to undergraduates is that you develop a new appreciation for science fiction-fantasy," Kimsey said. "In part, this is because every year some new scientific discovery about an insect causes you to have a head slapping moment—they do what? The other part is how little students know about insects. Most are not entomology majors, and many aren't even majors in the biological sciences, so there are a lot of misconceptions.”
“One aspect of teaching this course is the writing requirement," she explained. "Students at UC Davis are required to take a number of units in general education, science and writing. My course fulfills two of those requirements, which means that I have to require—and grade—student term papers as part of their assignments. I can say definitely that student writing abilities have not improved over the years. So, to alleviate the pain of grading these works of art, I started collecting particularly silly or otherwise awesome sentences from their papers.”
Karissa Merritt not only enjoys drawing insects but teaching others how to do so. Last January, the Bohart Museum featured her as an “artist in residence” at its open house on insects and art. She offered tips on how to draw insects and took requests from youths. “It was touching to see how something like mundane doodling could bring smiles to kids' faces,” she said. “In fact, many ended up going home with original art work!"
What especially fascinates her the most about insects? “How alien their biology and morphology as compared to vertebrates,” Merritt said. “But working in the Bohart, I find many specimens that just amaze me with their beauty. Insects are just so diverse and it's amazing what nature produces!"
Merritt's favorite insect order is Hymenoptera, which includes bees, ants and wasps. “But I like all insects,” she acknowledged. She learned beekeeping when she volunteered in the lab of Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
Merritt is also an alumnus of “Bug Boot Camp,' a five-week insect taxonomy and field ecology course taught by Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology and held at the Sagehen Creek Field Station, in California's northern Sierra Nevada. That course enabled her to sharpen her taxonomy skills.
The Bohart Museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, and is the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of insect biodiversity. The facility also includes a gift shop and a live "petting zoo" of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, and tarantulas.
The Bohart Museum is open to the public (free admission) from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. More information on the Bohart Museum is available on the website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu or by contacting (530) 752-0493 or emailing email@example.com.
A new display, designed and coordinated by Bohart associate and UC Davis biological sciences graduate Emma Cluff, showcases stick insects and insect digestion. A research grant donated by Brian Johnson, associate professor of entomology, funded the project.
“I have always thought stick insects were pretty amazing,” said Cluff, who worked on the project over a six-month period. “I loved making the display visually catching as well as informative. I spent a lot of time reading papers and communicating with graduate students who worked with Brian Johnson, and I enjoyed figuring out how to translate their science into terms that the public would find accessible.” The Johnson lab studies the genetics, behavior, evolution, and health of honey bees and currently focuses on the evolution and genetic basis of social behavior using comparative and functional genomics.
Stick insects, most abundant in the tropics and subtropics, belong to the order Phasmatodea and are found on all continents except Antarctica. They derive their name from the ancient Greek “Phasma,” meaning an apparition or phantom, referring to their resemblance to sticks or leaves.
The finished project, mounted on a wall, includes a wood sculpture of a stick insect by Leo Huitt of Woodland, and illustrations by UC Davis entomology student Karissa Merritt, who drew the anterior midgut, Malpighian tubules, crop and hindgut. The display also includes stick insect facts, with lift off tabs.
“People seem surprised that we know so much about stick insect digestion,” Cluff commented. “Visitors have also commented on how incredible it is that a fairly complex digestive system can fit in such a slender organism.”
In her display, Cluff explains cellulose and why it is difficult to digest. She defines cellulose as “a molecule made of linked sugars. It is found in plants and forms plant cell walls. This moleculre provides the rigid structure in plants, like stems and wood (this means that wood is made mostly of sugar!)”
Why is it difficult to digest? “Cellulose has a very stable structure and forms strong fibrous strands. Because of this, animals need enzymes (proteins which enable chemical reactions) to break the cellulose apart into sugars.”
This was her first experience designing an exhibit. “It was a really wonderful experience,” she said.
“Emma is very talented and I would really like to see her continue doing science outreach,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Cluff, from Turlock, plans to attend graduate school and become a marine biologist. “I love marine bio and I am also passionate about education so I would like to somehow combine the two. I always loved marine science as a kid, and taking a research course at Bodega Bay re-inspired me. I think marine science is so important for the future of our planet, and I also fell in love with research and the creativity of it.”
The Bohart Museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo” that includes stick insects, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, tarantulas and praying mantids; and a year-around gift shop.
Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007), former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology), founded the insect museum in 1946.
The Bohart Museum is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. The next weekend open house is from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 18 and centers around urban entomology..