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.
“You're never too far away from a spider; a spider is always watching you," Professor Jason Bond told the crowd at his town-hall presentation at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on arachnids.
“If you look at the statistics, you have a 60 to 75 percent chance there's a spider in your bathroom and a slightly higher percent chance there are spiders in your bedroom," said Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. "They are always there. There are lots of them on the planet. They're absolutely everywhere."
Bond presented a 10-minute, family-friendly talk on spiders, enthralling the crowd. They ranged in age from toddlers to senior citizens.
“Folks are always surprised to hear that there are over 48,000 species of spiders that have been described, and there are probably 250,000 actual species on our planet,” said Bond, who researches terrestrial arthropod systematics, evolution and diversity. "So there's this amazing amount of diversity that's out there. The amazing thing is that there's so much left to discover.”
Bond mentioned a new tarantula species discovered in California in 2015 near Folsom Prison and named for country singer Johnny Cash: Aphonopelma johnnycashi. (One of Cash's signature hits is “Folsom Prison Blues.")
“Spiders are found on every continent on our planet except maybe Antarctica,” Bond related. “But if you go into one of the field stations in Antarctica, you'll probably find a spider there that's been brought in on a ship. Spiders can exist in incredibly harsh environments, including some of the driest places on the planet."
It's interesting to compare the numbers, he said. "Compare the 48,000 species to our planet's 9500 species of birds, 5400 species of mammals and 250 species of primates."
“And spiders are incredibly old, that is, the lineage has been around a long time," Bond said. "Fossil evidence shows that the common ancestor of the spider goes back to somewhere around 350 million years ago."
A spider's relatives include such arachnids as scorpions, whip spiders, ticks, mites, sun spiders and harvestmen, the UC Davis professor said, but what makes “spiders really special are their spinnerets. Spiders have the ability to produce silk from these abdominally placed appendages.”
Folks commonly ask if spiders have superpowers. "If you Google that (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zc472hv), you'll learn that silk as thick as a pencil can stop a passenger jet airline, like a Boeing 747. Silk is incredibly strong.”
Among the "superpowers": spiders can fly, leap and carry heavy weights. Through ballooning, "they can travel thousands of feet in air and travel hundreds, if that not thousands of miles, on air currents," Bond said. "They can leap 50 times their body length. They can carry up to 170 times their weight walking across the ceiling."
"They really are superpowers," Bond told the crowd. "But what really makes them superpowers are the webs they build, the silk they weave. They use silk for all sorts of things--to line their burrows, build trap doors, make things like sheet webs, and entangle prey."
A common misnomer is to call a spider "poisonous." Bond said that "spiders are venomous, not poisonous. Do you know what the difference is? Poisonous is what you eat it make you sick. Venomous means it takes toxin and it injects it into you." Almost all species use venom when they attack and kill their prey.
"Of the 48,000 described species, only about 30 or so are known to be harmful to humans," he said. "There are probably more out there, but most spiders aren't harmful."
Turning to the spider population, Bond estimated that the world spider population weighs 29 million tons. "That's equivalent to 478 Titanics if you were to weigh all these. And the neatest thing about this is they're eating somewhere between 400 to 800 million tons of insect biomass a year. If you took all seven million human adults, and weighed them, that's about 285 million tons. And there's about 70 million tons of children on the planet. So the total weight of humans is about 350 million. If spiders were to consume exclusively humans--they don't consume humans--there would be only enough biomass to sustain spiders for one year."
"Bottom line: Here on planet earth, there are lots of spiders and they're eating lots of things and there's always a spider watching you."
Bohart associates and entomology students Wade Spencer and Lohit Garikipati displayed Spencer's scorpions. Medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, set up a virtual reality station. Participants marveled at the 40-foot-tall spiders.
Three members of the Brownie Girl Scout Troop 30477 of Vacaville--Kendl Macklin, 7, Jayda Navarette, 8, and Keira Yu, 8--delighted in participating in all the activities. They especially liked the virtual reality station, gleefully holding onto one another for comfort as they viewed the spiders. One Brownie declined to "eat like a spider"--even though fellow participants assured her "It's just applesauce." Mikah Jarvis, 2, of Davis loved "eating like a spider." Said his parents: "He loves applesauce."
Logan Loss, 6, of Rocklin, who attends John Adams Academy, amazed Spencer with his knowledge of scorpions, gained from watching nature documentaries.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, also houses a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas. The museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. It is open to the public (free admission) on Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m.
Co-chairing the event are Will Crites (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Arnold Menke (email@example.com).
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will keynote the banquet on Tuesday, April 2 in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. He is known as "The Fly Man of Alcatraz" for his entomological research on the island. (See news story.) Tours of several campus facilities are planned.
Reservations must be made by Sunday, March 24 with Carrie Cloud, director of programs and events, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-2120.
The itinerary (updated as of March 29)
Noon-5 p.m.: Meet & Greet room open, including refreshments and snacks
5 - 6 p.m.: Cocktail Hour in University Park Inn and Suites
6 p.m.: Dinner on your own; Dining suggestions provided
Monday, April 1, 2019
6 -8:30 a.m.: Breakfast included with room reservation
8:30 a.m.: Load bus for campus tour
8:45-10:00 a.m.: Bus departs for the Horse Barn tour with Kelli Davis
10:15-10:30 a.m. Travel to the West Village
10:30-11:00 a.m.: Break, food and beverages available
11:00-11:45 a.m: Tour West Village and the Honda Smart Home and Visitor Center with Katherine Bannor
11:45-12 noon: Travel to Lunch
12:00-1:00 p.m.: Lunch at Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center, Moss Patio
1:00-1:45 p.m. Presentation by Amina Harris, UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center, AGR
1:45-2:00 p.m.: Walk to Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
2:00-3:15 p.m.: Guided Tour of Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts by Tour Committee, Friends of the Mondavi Center
3:15-3:30 p.m.: Load bus and travel back to University Park Inn and Suites
3:30-5:45 p.m.: Meet & greet room opened for refreshments, rest prior to banquet
5:00 p.m.: Cocktail hour, meet & greet room in hotel
5:45 p.m.: Load bus and travel to dinner
6:00 p.m.: Dinner, with presentation from Robert Kimsey and Bruce Badzik on Flies and Beetles, Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center, AGR
8:00 p.m.: Bus return to University Park Inn and Suites
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
6:00-8:15 a.m.: Breakfast included with room reservation
8:15 a.m.: Load bus for Bohart Museum of Entomology
8:30 a.m.: Bus departs for Bohart Museum of Entomology
8:45-9:45 a.m.: Tour Bohart Museum with Lynn Kimsey, Steve Heydon
9:45 a.m.: Load bus and travel to Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
10:15 a.m.: Arrive Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, food and beverages available
10:15-11:00 a.m.: Entomology Club students present on their work at Alcatraz
11:00-11:45 a.m.: Presentation on Africanized Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder with Brian Johnson
11:45-12:30 p.m.: Tour Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven with Christine Casey
12:30-1:15 p.m.: Box lunches, picnic tables available
1:15-1:30 p.m.: Load bus and travel to Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art
1:30-2:30 p.m.: Optional Self-Guided Tour of Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art – drop off attendees who want to tour the museum, drive to hotel and drop off others
2:30-2:45 p.m.: Attendees who toured museum, load bus and travel back to hotel
2:45 p.m.: Arrive University Park Inn and Suites
4:00-5:00 p.m.: Cocktail hour
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
The 2019 Entomology Reunion at UC Davis ends
Bond will showcase spiders and other arachnids at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house, “Eight-Legged Wonders,” from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 9, a free and family friendly event. He will present a slide show at 1, and then visitors can participate in interactive activities, including “How to Eat Like a Spider” and “How to Assemble an Arachnid.”
The five good reasons to like spiders?
- “ Spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey, mostly insects, each year. Humans consume somewhere around 400 million tons of meat and fish each year.
- Spider silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring materials. Spider silk is stronger than steel, stronger and more stretchy than Kevlar; a pencil thick strand of spider silk could be used to stop a Boeing 747 in flight.
- Some spiders are incredibly fast – able to run up to 70 body lengths per second (10X faster than Usain Bolt).
- Athough nearly all 47,000-plus spider species have venom used to kill their insect prey, very few actually have venom that is harmful to humans.
- Some spiders are really good parents –wolf spider moms carry their young on their backs until they are ready to strike out on their own; female trapdoor spiders keep their broods safe inside their burrows often longer than one year, and some female jumping spiders even nurse their spiderlings with a protein rich substance comparable to milk.
Bond, who is the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will present a 10-minute slide show at 1 p.m. in the Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology classroom, located on the first floor of the Academic Surge Building, next to the Bohart Museum.
Following his presentation, activity stations will be open in the Bohart Museum where visitors can “Assemble an Arachnid,” “Create a Chelicerate,” “Cribellate vs. Ecribellate Silk,” “Catch a Moth,” “Eat Like a Spider,” and learn about "Spider Senses" and “Trapdoor Specifics.”
Visitors will see live specimens and specimens in alcohol. They'll learn the differences between woolly silk and sticky silk. They'll see the Bohart arachnids--tarantulas--and hold some of the non-arachnids, including walking sticks and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
“Spiders are an incredibly diverse group with more than 50,000 species described with probably another 200,000 remaining to yet be discovered,” says Bond, who joined the department last July from Auburn University, Alabama. “They are quite ancient, with fossils dating back well over 300 million years and are known to be exclusively predatory.”
Bond joined the UC Davis faculty after a seven-year academic career at Auburn University, Ala. He served as professor of biology and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from January 2016 to July 2018, and as curator of arachnids and myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, and related animals) at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, from August 2011 to July 2018.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses nearly eight million insect specimens collected from all over the world. It also includes a gift shop and a live “petting zoo,” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
A newly crafted hooded sweatshirt, the work of artist Charlotte Herbert Alberts and designer Fran Keller, features tardigrades, also known as the water bears.
Available in red, gray and black, from sizes extra small to extra extra large, they'll be offered in the Bohart Museum gift shop during the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 16. Proceeds from the sales benefit the insect museum's educational activities.
Alberts is an entomology doctoral candidate who studies Asilidae (Assassin flies) with her major professor, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology. Alberts' work is a take-off of the California Bear Flag, except hers features an entomologist, insect net in hand, riding a huge tardigrade.
The front features a tardigrade face inside a Bohart logo, a design by Fran Keller, an assistant professor at Folsom Lake College. She received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, studying with Kimsey and designed many of the shirts, sweatshirts and posters in the Bohart Museum's gift shop.
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 email@example.com.