Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology professor, is organizing and chairing the symposium, which is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, April 2 in the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina.
“The symposium will include scientific contributions from leaders in the fields of bee ecology, conservation and pollination,” announced Williams. “All are individuals whose work and specialty have been influenced by Robbin and his research program."
The scientists speaking, in addition to emcee Williams, include:
- Claire Kremen, University of British Columbia, formerly of UC Berkeley
- James Strange, USDA's Agricultural Research Service
- Heidi Dobson, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
- Gretchen Lebuhn, San Francisco State University
- Richard Hatfield, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
- Terry Griswold, USDA's Agricultural Research Service
- Leslie Saul-Gershenz, UC Davis
- Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley
“The symposium will be followed by a social time during which hope to share our gratitude with Robbin for his lifetime of work, mentoring and friendship,” Williams said.
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, achieved emeritus status in 1994 but has continued to engage in research, teaching and public service. In his retirement, he co-authored two books Bumble Bees of North America, an Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms, A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
Thorp, a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, is known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He is an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, contribution of native bees to crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes. He is active in research projects and open houses at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Thorp received his bachelor of science degree in zoology (1955) and his master's degree in zoology (1957) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He earned his doctorate in entomology in 1964 from UC Berkeley, the same year he joined the UC Davis entomology faculty. He taught courses from 1970 to 2006 on insect classification, general entomology, natural history of insects, field entomology, California insect diversity, and pollination ecology.
Every summer since 2002, Thorp has volunteered his time and expertise to teach at The Bee Course, an annual workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The intensive 9-day workshop, considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
An authority on Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp has monitored the bumble bee population since 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He has not seen it since 2006 and it is feared extinct. In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter followed him to a meadow where Thorp last saw Franklin's bumble bee. He wrote about Thorp, then 82, in a piece he called "The Old Man and the Bee," a spinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
Thorp was instrumental in placing the bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Long active in the North America IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group, Thorp served as its regional co-chair, beginning in 2011.
Thorp was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco in 1986; recipient of the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship of UC Davis in 2010; and recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors include: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won PBESA's Team Award in 2013. In addition, he is a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and former chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
Since its inception, Thorp has been involved in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden on Bee Biology Road operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, installed in 2009. To establish a baseline, he began monitoring the site for bees in 2008. He has since detected more than 80 species of bees.
Molecular biologist Shirley Luckhart, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis School of Medicine's Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology (and soon will transition to the University of Idaho), has been named the recipient of the Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology Award.
Ant specialist Marek Borowiec, who received his doctorate in entomology in June 2016, studying with major professor Phil Ward, won the Systematics, Evolution, and Biodiversity Award. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at Arizona State University, Tempe.
Third-year graduate student Ralph Washington Jr., who studies with major professors Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and assistant professor Brian Johnson, won the Student Leadership Award.
The three will be among the 13 award recipients honored at the PBESA meeting, April 2-5 in Portland, Ore. PBESA encompasses 11 Western U.S. states, plus several U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Ralph Washington Jr.
Ralph Washington Jr., who received his bachelor of science degree in entomology at UC Davis in 2010, is known as an outstanding scholar and leader. He holds a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He has also previously received a Gates Millennium Scholarship, a Ronald E. McNair Graduate Fellowship, and a Monsanto Graduate Student Scholarship.
Washington is active in leadership roles on the UC Davis campus, UC systemwide, and in PBESA and the Entomological Society of America (ESA). He captained the UC Davis Linnaean Games team to several first place wins at the PBESA level and then led his team in winning the national championship in both 2015 and 2016. He was an integral part of the UC Davis Student Debate Team that won the ESA's 2014 national championship. In addition, he swept first place in the Natural History Trivia Competition at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Naturalists.
Washington's leadership activities include 2015-2016 co-chair of the UC Council of Student Body Presidents, and 2015-2016 Chair of the UC Davis Graduate Students' Association. He was named Graduate Student of the Year in 2015 and 2016 at the UC Davis Black Affirmation Awards. He is currently president of the University of California Student Association. He is active in social justice issues, including gender-based violence and misconduct, and institutional oppression.
Washington was one of nine people invited to speak at TEDxUCDavis Conference (Igniting X). "All human beings are born curious, but the wrong conditions can jeopardize that curiosity," he said, speaking on “Science, Poverty and the Human Imagination.”
“Many children in poverty grow up feeling a lack of control over their circumstances, and this severely inhibits their ability to imagine a reality other than their own,” said Washington, who grew up in an impoverished family. “Targeted science education starting from a young age can inspire and help struggling children."
Marek Borowiec, who holds a master's degree in zoology from the University of Wroclaw, Poland, joined the Phil Ward lab in 2010, receiving training as a molecular phylogeneticist and computational biologist. Borowiec is now a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of evolutionary biologist/ant specialist Christian Rabeling, Arizona State University, where he studies the genomics of speciation and evolution of social parasitism in Formica ants.
One of the highlights of Borowiec's career: last year he won the coveted George C. Eickwort Student Research Award, sponsored by the North American Section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI-NAS).
“Marek is an astute and dedicated scientist, with an insightful mind, diverse interests, and trenchant drive,” wrote Phil Ward in the awards nominations packet. “Marek's Ph.D. research was motivated by a strong interest in the patterns and processes underlying the genesis of biological diversity. He explored this through a range of studies on ant systematics, phylogeny and biogeography. The principal focus was on the evolution of army ants—those charismatic and notorious creatures that have a profound ecological impact in many communities—and he showed decisively that the ‘army ant syndrome' evolved independently in the New World and Old World tropics, settling a long-standing controversy on this matter.
Borowiec has published more than 25 papers, many focusing on the phylogeny of army ants, relationships among “basal” lineages of ants, and a collaborative phylogenomic project on ants and their relatives.
He is a subject editor for ZooKeys, an innovative systematics journal, and Biodiversity Data Journal; he receives frequent requests to review manuscripts for other journals.
Shirley Luckhart was lauded for her “highly regarded expertise on molecular cell biology and biochemistry of malaria parasite transmission.” Her expertise on vector-borne diseases encompasses mosquito and black fly vectors of filarial nematodes and Lyme disease ecology as well as mosquito biology, disease pathogenesis, and transmission blocking agents for malaria.
Luckhart, who received her doctorate in entomology in 1995 from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, joined the UC Davis faculty in 2004 from Virginia Tech. Since 1997, the National Institutes of Health has continuously funded her research on host-parasite interactions in malaria.
She was named a Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2014. She and her colleagues drew international acclaim when Time Magazine, in 2010, named their work on a “malaria-proof” or genetically engineered mosquito as one of the “Top 50 Inventions of the Year,” ranking it No. 1 in the health category.
While most of her work has been lab-based, Luckhart has worked with collaborators in Kenya for the past 20 years and on highly productive field- and lab-based collaborative projects in Mali, Cameroon, and Colombia. Her career includes principal investigator on large awards to both national and international teams and co-director of multiple National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grants. She currently serves on the NIH Vector Biology study section and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Biodefense and Emerging Infections Research Resources Repository (BEI Resources).
For the past five years, Luckhart has chaired the national BEI Vectors Focus Group, which works with NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases leadership to significantly expand vector and vector-borne pathogen resources globally. These efforts also led to the development of an independent Allied Insect Biology working group to engage scientists in trans-disciplinary workshops and collaborations across plant, animal, and human vector-borne diseases. In recognition of her efforts, Luckhart was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Keystone meeting in Taos, N.M., in May 2015.
Luckhart also received $100,000 from Grand Challenges Explorations, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to advance her work in developing nutritional supplements to reverse the malaria-induced intestinal damage that contributes to the development of non-typhoidal Salmonella (NTS) bacteremia in malaria-infected children.
At UC Davis, she served as interim co-director of the Center for Vector-borne Diseases from 2014-15 and chaired the graduate level Designated Emphasis in the Biology of Vector-borne Diseases from 2012 to just recently, when she stepped down from these duties. She also directs a large collaborative insectary facility at UC Davis, providing support to vector-borne disease research programs in the School of Medicine, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the School of Veterinary Medicine.
Luckhart has published 93 peer-reviewed articles, with more than 2500 citations, and five book chapters. Throughout her career, she has taught and mentored nine doctoral students, who have gone on to successful careers at the state, national or international level. In recognition of her work, she received mentoring awards from the UC Davis Consortium for Women and Research (2012) and the UC Davis Graduate Student Association (2016).
Luckhart will transition to the University of Idaho, effective May 15. She and her husband, Edwin Lewis, associate dean for Agricultural Sciences in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and former vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will expand their research programs and also co-direct the new Center for Health in the Human Ecosystem, which will focus on how the impacts of land use, including agriculture, urbanization and deforestation, interact to impact transmission and control of disease agents of people, animals and plants.
Luckhart's primary appointment is in the Department of Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences (PSES) in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and her secondary appointment is in the Department of Biological Sciences. Lewis' appointment is in PSES.
Lewis won the PBESA's Integrated Pest Management Excellence Award in 2016,
Other 2017 PBESA award recipients to be honored at the PBESA meeting in Oregon:
- Pacific Branch C.W. Woodworth Award- Gerhard and Regine Gries, Simon Fraser University, Canada
- Award for Excellence in Teaching- Helen Spafford, University of Hawaii, Manoa
- Award for Excellence in Extension- Carol Black, Washington State University (WSU), Pullman
- Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management- Elizabeth Beers, WSU
- Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Award- Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University, Corvallis
- Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award- David Crowder, WSU
- Distinction in Student Mentoring- James Strange, USDA, Logan, Utah
- Excellence in Early Career- Sarah Woodard, UC Riverside
- John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award- Amelia Lindsey, UC Riverside
- Entomology Team Award-- Lisa Neven, Wee Yee and Sunil Kumar, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins--for their project “Pest Risk Analyses for Temperate Fruit Flies in Exported Fruits Team”
DAVIS--UC Davis undergraduate entomology researcher Jadrian Ejercito of the Shirley Luckhart lab won second place in the highly competitive student poster competition at the 99th annual meeting of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA), held recently in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
His poster, on a malaria mosquito, was titled “Effects of Abscisic Acid on the Lifespan and Fecundity of Anopheles stephensi.” Ejercito was the only UC Davis entomology student to win a poster award.
For the project, he collaborated with his mentor, Shirley Luckhart, a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunity and co-director of the Center for Vectorborne Diseases; and doctoral candidate Elizabeth Glennon of the Luckhart lab.
Judges scored the poster on 12 criteria, including abstract, presentation, introduction, objectives, results and discussion, and significance of the results.
Ejercito, a senior scheduled to receive his bachelor's degree in entomology in June, works in the Luckhart main lab as well as the Contained Research Facility.
A graduate of Nathaniel A. Narbonne High School in Harbor City, Los Angeles County, Ejercito joined the Luckhart lab as a MURALS scholar, a program dedicated to supporting undergraduate researchers. MURALS is an acronym for “Mentorship for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters an Science.” Formed in the spring of 1988, under the sponsorship of the Office of Student Affairs and the academic leadership of the College of Letters and Science, MURALS now includes students from all academic disciplines. Its mission is to encourage students to further their education beyond the baccalaureate.
Scott is the recipient of the C. W. Woodworth Award, the highest honor given by PBESA. He will present a 20-minute seminar at the meeting.
In addition, the department's Linnaean team will compete at the PBESA meeting for a chance to participate in the national ESA's Linnaean Games. In the Linnaean Games, university teams--primarily comprised of graduate students--answer randomly selected questions about insects, entomologists, and entomological facts. It's a fun-filled competition with friendly rivalries. Further details on the Linnaean game will be announced later.
The ESA meeting is set Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis.
The PBESA meeting, to be held in in the Coeur d'Alene Resort, is themed “Celebrating Entomological Discoveries in the Pacific Branch.”
The opening plenary speaker is Bethany Marshall of Washington State University who will discuss "Natureas Teacher, Insect as Muse." See the official announcement.
Links (read about their work)
This is the third consecutive year that a UC Davis graduate student has won the prestigious award, the highest student award given by PBESA. Kelly Hamby of the Frank Zalom lab, won it in 2013; and Matan Shelomi, a graduate student in the Lynn Kimsey lab, Bohart Museum of Entomology, won it in 2012.
Aghaee, a fifth year Ph.D. candidate working on rice water weevil management in California rice, will receive the award at PBESA's 99th annual meeting, set April 12-15 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and will present a talk on the rice water weevil, Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus. He will be among the six Comstock recipients, all winners from their individual branches, honored at the national ESA meeting, Nov. 15-18, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Pacific Branch of ESA encompasses 11 U.S. states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming); several U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands; and parts of Canada and Mexico.
“Mohammad took on a very difficult project for his dissertation research,” said Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey, who nominated Aghaee for the award. “His project deals with the most important invertebrate pest of rice in California, the rice water weevil. The challenges arose not only from working in the rice system--wading through mud for hours--but also from working with this insect that cannot be reared in the laboratory and which has one generation per year. Therefore, all the field studies had to be conducted within the short window of time each year.”
Aghaee received his bachelor's degree in environmental sciences, genetics and plant biology in 2010 from UC Berkeley, with high distinction. He obtained his master's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2012, and expects to receive his doctorate in December 2015.
Aghaee fostered his interest in entomology through his employment as an undergraduate research assistant at UC Berkeley in the lab of aquatic entomologist Vincent Resh. Aghaee also traces his interest in entomology and pest management to his family's large garden, where they grew vegetables and fruits.
When he joined the Godfrey lab, Aghaee was awarded the competitive UC Davis Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship. His other honors include the William and Kathleen Golden International Agriculture Fellowship, and vegetation management award and a field studies scholarship. He teaches or serves as a teaching assistant for entomology classes and is a past president of the Entomology Graduate Student Association.
“Mohammad has a passion for public speaking and debating stemming from his involvement in the Berkeley Model Nations Alumni Association, starting in 2006, which organized crisis simulations for high school students around important political events,” Godfrey said.
Aghaee and Godfrey recently published an open-access article appearing in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management that discusses the rice water weevil's life history and invasion biology, as well as management strategies and future directions of research. They told the story of the weevil since it was first identified as a pest in 1881 by C. V. Riley and L. O. Howard. They then discussed reasons why it has been able to spread so rapidly — up to 36 kilometers per year in some cases — which is partly because of its ability to reproduce asexually.
“This invasive ability is aided by a particular and peculiar aspect of this weevil's biology, the fact that a small percentage of the population in its native range reproduces by parthenogenesis,” they wrote.
The most harmful insect pest of rice in the United States, it causes yield losses of up to 25 percent. Adults inflict damage by consuming leaf tissue, and the larvae feed on the roots of rice plants. A native of the southeastern U.S., the rice water weevil invaded Japan in 1976, Korea in 1980, China in 1988, and Italy in 2004.
Aghaee maintains secondary interests in post-Renaissance European history and contemporary Middle Eastern politics. He explores some of these themes in his freshman seminar titled "Bugs, Germs, and Steel: A History of Entomology in Warfare" where he and his colleagues teach students how basic scientific research and ecology has influenced human conflicts and technological progress. Outside of entomology, his leisure activities include oil painting, language acquisition, and culinary specialization in Persian and Indo-Pakistani cuisines.
The Comstock award memorializes John Henry Comstock (1849-1931), an American entomologist, researcher and educator known for his studies of scale insects and butterflies and moths, which provided the basis for systematic classification. Comstock was a member of the faculty of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., for most of his career, except for his service as a chief entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1879-81).
Zeroing in on the Rice Water Weevil
UC Davis Debate Team Wins ESA Championship