"In summary, I aim to use ecoinformatics (ecological big data, aggregated from multiple sources) to examine the impact of global change on agricultural insect populations," Lippey related. "A consistent challenge for researchers working in natural and managed ecosystems is that data available for characterizing insect responses to global change are severely limited across space and time. As a result, we know very little about how insects are responding to global change over time, and to what extent various global change drivers (e.g., climate change, land use change, pesticides) are responsible for documented changes in insect abundance. Here, I will use long-term data collected in agricultural systems for other purposes to bridge this data gap."
"Because field scouts and farmers collect data in a decentralized way, the availability, size, and accuracy of relevant agricultural data are unrivaled," she noted. "This approach will contribute to the emergence of a novel framework using big data to investigate global change questions across larger spatial and temporal axes than ever before. My results will have implications for the impact of anthropogenic pressure on food production stability, biodiversity, and ecosystem health."
Lippey, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2019, is a graduate student of agricultural entomology in the Rosenheim lab, and an urban entomology graduate student in the Meineke lab. She previously did research in the Louie Yang lab, 2018-2021, as an undergraduate research assistant in insect ecology, and as an undergraduate research assistant in ant systematics with the Philip Ward lab.
In the Yang lab, Lippey investigated the effect of stripes on aversive behavior in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), tsetse flies (Glossina), and mosquitoes (Aedes); studied the effect of size and movement constraints on ontogenetic color change (OCC) of swallowtail larvae (Papilio); and co-authored a collaborative review paper, "The Complexity of Global Change and its Effects on Insects," published in 2021 in the Current Opinion in Insect Science.
In the Ward lab, she studied the phenotypic evolution of the Big-Eyed Tree Ant (Pseudomyrmecinae: Tetraponera) and delivered a presentation on the project at the 2019 UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference.
Lippey presented a poster on "Effects of Surrounding Landscapes on the Fork-tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia furcata) in California Citrus" at the 2021 Entomological Society of America conference in Denver.
A talented illustrator, Lippey served as an illustrator and author of BuprestidID, an apolyclave identification key for more than 500 genera of Buprestidae (family of beetles known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles) in a project headed by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The ant world on Twitter is crawling with congratulatory comments and how "awesome" the work is. Wrote one: "Congratulations! Lasius is a familiar genus in Japan, so I will let the Japanese entomologists know about it."
The story behind the story? It all began in the Ward lab. "The Three Ant Men" are now scattered from Idaho to Arizona to Germany.
- Borowiec, who received his doctorate at UC Davis in 2016, is an assistant professor at the University of Idaho.
- Prebus, who received his doctorate at UC Davis in 2018, is a postdoctoral scholar at Arizona State University.
- Boudinot, who received his doctorate at UC Davis in 2020, is in Jena, Germany on a two-year Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship to research evolutionary and comparative anatomy.
"Within the Formicidae, the higher classification of nearly all subfamilies has been recently revised given the findings of molecular phylogenetics," the co-authors wrote in their abstract. "Here, we integrate morphology and molecular data to holistically address the evolution, classification, and identification of the ant genus Lasius, its tribe Lasiini, and their subfamily Formicinae. We find that the crown Lasiini originated around the end of the Cretaceous on the Eurasian continent and is divisible into four morphologically distinct clades: Cladomyrma, the Lasius genus group, the Prenolepis genus group, and a previously undetected lineage we name Metalasius gen.nov., with one extant species M. myrmidon comb. nov. and one fossil species, †M. pumilus comb. nov. " (See more.)
Looking back, Prebus and Borowiec said that they were both interested in Lasius atopus "due to its strange morphology and lack of phylogenetic data despite the amount of attention paid to the genus, and planned a collecting trip to the type locality in Mendocino County in 2013."
The collecting trip to Mendocino proved unsuccessful. "But because of Phil's extensive collections. we knew of a population of a closely related species in Gates Canyon near the city of Vacaville," Prebus said. This time the trio collected specimens from several colonies at Gates Canyon, which is located off Pleasants Valley Road.
"For all of us, this was a collaborative side project, so after the study was presented, submitted, and rejected, it took the back-burner while people finished their dissertations, got jobs, got married, had kids, and so on," Prebus recalled. "Speaking personally, the pandemic put quite a few of my postdoc projects on hold after the Arizona State University campus closed, but the small upside amongst the inundation of downsides was that I was able to focus on getting some long-haul projects into shape for publication, including the Lasius study. This involved a huge amount of reanalysis of data that we had already collected, but thankfully didn't require generating any new data."
"In my opinion, one of the really cool aspects of this study is the method of evaluating the placement of fossil taxa in the phylogeny of the subfamily Formicinae," Prebus shared. "Because DNA data aren't available for fossil taxa, the assignment of fossils to ranks higher than species relies on the interpretation of their morphology, and historically that interpretation has relied heavily on expert opinion--and all of the biases that said experts hold. By collecting morphological data from all extant and fossil taxa in our dataset, we were able to unite the DNA data--from extant taxa--and the morphological data--from extant and fossil species--and formalize fossil placement, and evaluate the uncertainty of those placements, in model-based analyses. I think that this study joins a growing trend in systematics in general, in which we are increasingly moving away from expert opinion toward approaches that are testable and repeatable."
Follow the myrmecologists on Twitter:
Wilson, recognized as one of the world's most influential scientists, was known as “The Ant Man,” "The Father of Sociobiology," "The Father of Diversity" and “The Modern-Day Darwin," for his pioneering and trailblazing work that drew global admiration and won scores of scientific awards.
But among his peers, colleagues and mentees, he was known as "Ed."
Wilson's work, On Human Nature, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979. He won a second Pulitzer in 1991 with The Ants, co-authored with colleague Bert Hölldobler. In 1990, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Wilson the Crafoord Prize in biosciences, the highest scientific award in the field. In 1996, Time magazine named him one of America's 25 most influential people. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter awarded him the National Medal of Science for his contributions toward the advancement of knowledge in biology.
Wilson, according to reports, always considered himself an Alabaman who went to Harvard, rather than a Harvard professor born in Alabama. Born June 10, 1929 in Birmingham, Ed graduated from the University of Alabama in 1949 with two degrees in biology, and received his doctorate in biology from Harvard in 1955. He joined the Harvard faculty in 1956. Although officially retiring in 1996, he remained active as an emeritus professor and honorary curator until his death.
Some tributes from UC Davis faculty and students:
“E. O. Wilson was a towering figure in the study of social insects, in evolutionary biology, and in conservation biology,” said fellow ant specialist and professor Phil Ward of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who organized the 2007 E.O. Wilson Festschrift (a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar). “He made important contributions in all of these areas, but his specialty was the study of ants, those ‘little creatures that run the world.' Wilson's book, The Insect Societies (1971), introduced its readers to the fascinating world of ants and other social insects, using language that was both engaging and accessible, yet highly informative.”
“This was followed two decades later by the equally magisterial The Ants, co-authored with Bert Hölldobler,” Ward noted. “These landmark contributions inspired many budding biologists, myself included, to devote ourselves to the study of ants and other social organisms. Equally important, Wilson argued passionately and compellingly for the conservation of biological diversity in a dwindling natural world. He once said that 'destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.' Let us honor his legacy by heeding this message!”
UC Davis doctoral alumnus Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab and now a postdoctoral researcher in Germany at the Institute of Zoology and Evolutionary Research, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, says the ant world is reeling with Wilson's passing. “A big chunk of my dissertation was dedicated to testing his hypotheses for the origin and early evolution of ants!”
Boudinot met Wilson when he was visiting the Ant Room at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology in 2013. “The work I was doing was the foundation for my studies on ant males, and I was near the end of the trip, at one of the many microscopes by the window facing the yard,” he said. “Ed surprised me by coming right up to my shoulder at the scope; he asked me what I was working on. I am a bit abashed to say that I couldn't say anything because my mind went blank! Stef Cover, the pins-and-points curator told Ed what I was doing, and for the life of me I will always remember what Wilson said. He was happy that I chose to work on male ants, when this sex has been actively ignored by researchers over the past centuries, and that he himself was more apt to squash one at a light trap than to collect one. I hope that my keys and diagnoses have helped people appreciate male ants.”
“I am so thankful that I met him,” Boudinot said, “and that I was able to work with so many people in his sphere. The ant world is reeling, as he was a gentle giant of myrmecology, and of course biology writ large.”
Doctoral candidate Jill Oberski of the Phil Ward lab met “The Ant Man” in 2019. “I got to meet E. O. Wilson when I traveled to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology in 2019. In addition to myself, there were several other researchers visiting the “Ant Room,” which houses a huge number of type specimens.”
“He asked me about my research on Dorymyrmex taxonomy and biogeography, although as a second-year PhD student I didn't have much to report yet. He was genuinely interested in my work and excited that I was working to resolve Dorymyrmex--which has always been a taxonomic headache. He also told me he recalled watching ants forming cone-shaped nests as a child in Alabama, which could only have been Dorymyrmex. He was exceedingly kind and encouraging.
“Finally, the Ant Room staff and visitors ate lunch together in Ed's office—lobster sandwiches, diet Dr. Pepper, and coffee, as is customary.”
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, remembers working near his office when she served as a visiting professor/lecturer (1987 to 1989) at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1989.
“His office was just down the hall from mine when I taught at Harvard. Here he was, one of the most famous biologists of his generation and I would see him sit down on the sidewalk to show a little kid the ants there. Also, saw him in the sitting on a bench Burlington Mall while his wife shopped, writing on a yellow pad of paper. Totally focused on what he was writing with shopping pandemonium all around. He was brilliant, humble and engaging.”
UC Davis doctoral alumnus Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College, and a research scientist at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, helped honor his work at a special symposium hosted at the 2005 Entomological Society of America meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"Our department of entomology helped fund my trip to Harvard,” she recalled, “and he agreed to meet me over the course of two days in May 2005. The ESA symposium took place in mid-December. I recorded our interview on a cassette tape,” she said, adding she hopes to publish it in a journal.
Wilson responded: “Everyone has an animal that reaches them or that they connect with at some level, even though you were born an entomologist, perhaps yours is the rhino.”
“After my interview with Ed, I bought the book in the MCZ, The Rarest of the Rare: Stories Behind the Treasues at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. In that book, it highlights the extinct and rare species held in the MCZ collections. One of those specimens is the last Xerces butterfly, which was caught by Harry Lange (UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology). Harry's quote in that book, ‘I didn't know it was the last one, I thought there would be more' and then my time eating lunch and then wandering the MCZ collection and chatting with Ed inspired me to create the Xerces t-shirt for the Bohart Museum of Entomology.”
One of Keller's mentors, Tom Schoener, studied with Wilson. “I worked on plant ecology and island biogeography for my undergrad research (Sacramento City College)," she said, "and continued that for awhile in grad school (UC Davis). Ed Wilson was one of the founders of island biogeography.”
As a undergraduate at Sacramento City College, Keller was part of a field trip to hear Wilson speak at his 2002 book tour on The Future of Life.
UC Davis doctoral alumnus Alex Wild, an evolutionary biologist, science photographer and curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin, wrote this on his Twitter account, @Myrmecos, which has more than 30,000 followers: “Ed Wilson was one of my science heroes. Over the years I came to admire two things in particular. One was his ability to craft technical books so compelling as to launch scores of scientific careers in their wake.”
“The other thing is how Ed Wilson handled professional disagreement," Wild tweeted. "And he had a lot of those, because Wilson was frequently wrong. About a great range of topics. For a guy known for ant research, his interpretation of ant origins was just… silly.”
"But he continued to support, both financially and professionally, the young upstarts who, over and over, proved him wrong. That's a rare trait for a field as ego-driven as evolutionary biology.”
When a follower asked: “Can you explain to a non-biologist bug enthusiast why his interpretation of ant origins was silly?”, Wild replied: “His arrangement of the ant subfamilies, based on subjective hunches of evolutionary relationships rather than data, bore no resemblance at all to the well-supported relationships from subsequent data-based studies, like https://www.pnas.org/content/103/48/18172. (This 2006 research article, "Evaluating Alternative Hypotheses for the Early Evolution and Diversification of Ants," is co-authored by Seán G. Brady, Ted R. Schultz, Brian L. Fisher, and Philip S. Ward and edited by Bert Hölldobler, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany)
“There are no words that adequately describe E.O. Wilson's courage in challenging dogma, his energy in documenting and sharing the wonders of our planet, or his extraordinary creativity," said Diane Ullman, UC Davis professor of entomology and former chair of the Department of Entomology. "So much of his writing touched me deeply, from his writing about the continuum between art and science (Consilience), to his collaboration with Bert Hölldobler, addressing the incredible biology and behavior of social insects (Superorganism). He wrote a wonderful, 'coming of age' novel, seemingly much inspired by his own youth (Anthill)."
"The first time I was able to hear him speak in person was in 1996 at the International Congress of Entomology in Florence, Italy, where he was the plenary speaker opening the meeting. He spoke passionately about loss of biodiversity, and was sounding the alarm on impact of humans and climate change on the planet. He continued to lead this charge up to the very end, never giving up on proposing potential solutions on a global scale. He was witty and with use of metaphor made us see so very many things."
Caleb Johnson, who teaches writing at Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C., described E.O. Wilson as “the world's forestmost authority on biodiversity” in an April 21, 2020 article in The Bitter Southerner. He referred to him as “A world-renowned scientific thinker whose vision for stopping this unprecedented environmental hemorrhaging is based on more than seven decades of careful witness, writing, and work in ecology and conservation."
Johnson wrote that Wilson lost his right eye in a fishing accident in the summer of 1936 near Paradise Beach, Fla., but he never let that stop his goals.
"In the 1940s, E.O. Wilson was an Alabama teenager who wandered the bottomland around Mobile and studied its creatures. He never stopped and became the world's foremost authority on biodiversity. He's 90 now, but still working, because he knows there's a way to undo the damage we've done to Mother Earth."
- Asian giant hornets (aka "murder hornets"): 1 to 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18, by Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Ants: 11 a.m., to noon, Saturday, Feb. 20, by Professor Phil Ward, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Bees: 12:15 to 12:45, Tuesday, Feb. 23, by Christine Casey, manager of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Botanical Conservatory (in Spanish): 1 to 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 23, by collections manager Ernesto Sandoval (postponed)
To obtain the Zoom links, click here.
About UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month
The 10th annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Month program is all virtual this year via live talks and demonstrations, and pre-recorded presentations. It's being celebrated throughout the month of February. The science-based event traditionally occurs on only one day--the Saturday of Presidents' Weekend, when families and friends gather on campus to learn first-hand about the UC Davis museums and collections. The 2020 event drew more than 4000 to the campus.
This year's biodiversity event is featuring 12 museums or collections:
- Anthropology Museum
- Arboretum and Public Garden
- Bohart Museum of Entomology
- Botanical Conservatory
- California Raptor Center
- Center for Plant Diversity
- Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven
- Nematode Collection
- Marine Invertebrate Collection
- Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology
- Paleontology Collection
- Phaff Yeast Culture Collection
For more information and the schedule, access these two formats on the UC Davis Biodiversity program website: (1) live talks and demonstrations and (2) pre-recorded talks and activities. Information on the biodiversity museum events also appear on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, @BioDivDay.
If you'd like to donate to the UC Davis Diversity Museum Program in its crowdfunding efforts--this year is the 10th annual--click here. To donate to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, click here. To donate to the California Master Beekeeper Program, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, click here. Niño also serves as the director of the haven. Crowdfunding will continue through the month of February.
Boudinot, who studied with major professor Phil Ward of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the second UC Davis-affiliated entomologist to receive the honor in its 28-year history. Jessica Gillung of the Lynn Kimsey lab, Bohart Museum of Entomology, won the award in 2019.
Snodgrass (1875-1962), a leader in insect morphology, is known for his 76 scientific articles and six books, including Insects, Their Ways and Means of Living (1930) and the book considered to be his crowning achievement, the Principles of Insect Morphology (1935).
Boudinot has them all. “Principles of Insect Morphology and the Anatomy of the Honey Bee were the foundation of my studies,” he said. “I have both, plus his Textbook of Arthropod Morphology and Insects, Their Ways and Means of Living on my desk in the lab.”
The Snodgrass Award, which includes a certificate and cash prize, recognizes outstanding research by a PhD student who has completed a research thesis or dissertation in arthropod morphology, systematics, taxonomy, or evolution. Nominees are scored on honors, awards, achievements and recognition; recommendations of professors and advisors; grantsmanship, publications, creativity and innovation of thesis or dissertation; and contribution to morphology.
Boudinot's dissertation: “Systematic and Evolutionary Morphology: Case Studies on Formicidae, Mesozoic Aculeata, and Hexapodan Genitalia.”
He earlier received the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship to do research on evolutionary and comparative anatomy in Jena, Germany. He will locate to Germany in early 2021 for the two-year fellowship, after completing intensive language studies.
'I Am a Morphologist Because of Robert Evans Snodgrass'
“I am a morphologist because of Robert Evans Snodgrass,” Boudinot wrote in his application. “Although I have had pressure from my earliest undergraduate to become a molecular systematist, it was my chance encounter with Snodgrass's Principles of Insect Morphology late one night in the college library that set the course of my career. I had struggled for years at that point to understand the biodiversity of insects and to untangle the deep morass of arcane terminology, but my vision was illuminated by the conceptual clarity, linguistic simplicity, and exceptional engravings of the Principles. This work continues to hold special dominion over my thinking, as it is through the principle of mechanical function for explaining comparative anatomical observations that I have come to my present understanding of systematic and evolutionary morphology.”
Boudinot wrote that his “career objective, in brief, is to resolve the morphological evolution of insects through the synthesis traditional morphology, as represented by Snodgrass, with recent trends in digital anatomy and bioinformatics. I envision a future wherein students rely not on Borror & Delong, a holdover from Comstock's 19thCentury manual, but rather learn about insect structure, function, classification, and evolution through manipulation of three- and four-dimensional digital anatomical models, substantiated via manual curation and dissection. I want students to see for themselves what I have understood through the study of Snodgrass's work, balanced by contemporary research: The origin of the Arthropoda and morphological transformation through geological time to the resplendent, and endangered, diversity of today.
“In sum, my identity as an entomologist, and as a scientist more broadly, is due to the insights on the language and phenomenology of morphological evolution I gained from the oeuvre of Snodgrass. Without these works, I would probably still be a botanist.”
Boudinot's research interests include the origin and evolution of complex phenotypic systems from the perspective of phylogenetic systematics, including molecular and paleontological evidence. Specializing on morphological identity and evolutionary transformation, the skeletomuscular system of Arthropoda, with emphasis on the male genitalia of Hexapoda and systematics of the Hymenoptera, particularly the Formicidae.
John Henry Comstock Award
Highly honored for his academics, leadership, public service activities, professional activities and publications while at UC Davis, Boudinot received the 2019 John Henry Comstock Award, the top graduate student award given by ESA's Pacific Branch. The branch encompasses 11 Western states, U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
In the Comstock award application, Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, described Boudinot as “A highly respected scientist, teacher and leader with a keen intellect, unbridled enthusiasm, and an incredible penchant for public service.” Boudinot maintained a 4.00 grade point average and published 18 peer-reviewed publications on insect systematics, some landmark or groundbreaking work.
His most recent publications: one on Cretaceous Strepsiptera in Cladistics and the other on the iron maiden ants in Myrmecological News ("Two New Iron Maiden Ants from Burmese Amber (Hymenoptera:
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, now known as the Entomology Games, are a lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams.
Brendon served as president of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association from 2006 to 2019, and co-chaired the department's UC Davis Picnic Day celebration (with forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey) for three years.
Before enrolling in graduate school program at UC Davis in 2014, Brendon received his bachelor's degree in entomology in 2012 from The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash. Professor John T. Longino served as his mentor.