Meineke, an assistant professor who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty in 2020, is one of 10 faculty members to receive the honor from the ESA Governing Board. She will be recognized at ESA's Aug. 6-11 meeting in Portland, Ore.
"This is one of the most prestigious awards an ecologist can receive," said nominator Rachel Vannette, community ecologist and associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“Early Career Fellows are members within eight years of completing their doctoral training (or other terminal degree) who have advanced ecological knowledge and applications and show promise of continuing to make outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA,” an ESA spokesperson announced. “They are elected for five years.”
Meineke received her bachelor of science degree in environmental science, with a minor in biology, in 2008 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She obtained her doctorate in entomology in 2016 from North Carolina State University (NCU), studying with major professors Steven Frank and Robert Dunn. She wrote her dissertation on "Understanding the Consequences of Urban Warming for Street Trees and Their Insect Pests."
At NCU, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded her with the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellowship. As an EPA STAR Fellow, Meineke pioneered research characterizing the effects of urban heat islands on insect herbivores. And, as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard University Herbaria, Meineke studied how urbanization and climate change have affected global plant–insect relationships over the past 100-plus years.
At UC Davis, the Meineke laboratory "leverages natural history collections, citywide experiments, and observations to characterize effects of recent anthropogenic change on plant–insect herbivore interactions," said Vannette. Meineke has received funding from the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (NSF-CAREER) Program; USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI); and the UC Davis Hellman Fellows Program.
Hellman Award. In 2022, Meineke was named one of 12 recipients of the UC Davis Hellman Fellows program. Her project, “Assessing Preservation of Chemical Compounds in Pressed Plants," focuses on whether herbarium specimens collected over hundreds of years harbor chemical compounds that reveal mechanisms responsible for changing insect-plant interactions.
"In particular, the project will reveal extent to which herbarium specimens that are dried and stored continue to harbor key chemicals—such as defensive chemicals against insects created by plants themselves and pesticides—in their leaves," Meineke related. "This project will inform my lab's future investigations into effects of urbanization and climate change on insect herbivores."
Meineke is also coordinating her department's seminars for the 2022-23 academic year.
ESA President Sharon Collinge noted that "This year's Fellows (7) and Early Career Fellows (10) have made tremendous scientific and societal impacts through their work and are highly regarded in their subdisciplines. Their accomplishments reflect the breadth and depth of our field, and its relevance to pressing societal concerns. I am glad that ESA is home to such a dedicated group.” (See news release)
Holly Moeller of UC Santa Barbara, a theoretical ecologist who uses mathematical and empirical approaches to understand acquired metabolism, is among the 10 Early Career Fellows, all selected for advancing the science of ecology and showing promise for continuous contributions. Others are Karen Bailey, University of Colorado, Natalie Christian, University of Louisville; Mary Donovan, Arizona State University; Meredith Holgerson, Cornell University; Allison Louthan, Kansas State University; Sparkle Malone, Yale University; and Maria Natalia Umaña, University of Michigan.
Rick Karban. UC Davis Distinguished Professor Richard "Rick" Karban of the Department of Entomology and Nematology was elected an ESA fellow in 2017 for "pivotal work in developing an ecological understanding of plant-herbivore interactions, with particularly notable contributions to the ecology of induced plant responses to herbivory and plant volatile signaling."
ESA, founded in 1915 aims to promote ecological science by improving communication among ecologists; raise the public's level of awareness of the importance of ecological science; increase the resources available for the conduct of ecological science; and ensure the appropriate use of ecological science in environmental decision making by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy-makers.
Emily Meineke Helped Spearhead Harvard Museum of Natural History's Thoreau Project (Department News, April 5, 2022)
“Our newest fellows represent the very best of UC Davis and I congratulate them,” Chancellor Gary S. May said in announcing the new fellows in a UC Davis news release. “The knowledge, expertise and excellence these faculty demonstrate across a range of disciplines positively impacts our university's mission of research, teaching and public service.”
Eleven of the 13 are associate professors and two are professors. Vannette is the only Chancellor's Fellow selected in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Of the 13, five represent the College of Letters and Science.
"An international leader in microbial ecology, she studies interactions between plants, insects and microbes," according to the news release. "Her research projects focus on the chemical an microbial ecology of plant-pollinator interactions and how microbes influence plant defense and resistance against insect pests. For example her research found that microbial species on plants contribute to floral scent and influence the attractiveness of nectar to pollinators."
"It is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Vannette is a rising star in the biological and agricultural sciences at UC Davis," said Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The 2022-23 Chancellor's Fellows:
Marcela Cuellar, associate professor, School of Education
Melanie Gareau, associate professor, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine
J. Sebastian Gomez-Diaz, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
Rana Jaleel, associate professor, Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies, College of Letters and Science
Wilsaan Joiner, professor, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences
Xiaodong Li, associate professor, Department of Statistics, College of Letters and Science
David Olson, associate professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Letters and Science
Caitlin Patler, associate professor, Department of Sociology, College of Letters and Science
Jessica Bissett Perea, associate professor, Department of Native American Studies, College of Letters and Science
Zubair Shafiq, associate professor, Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering
Karen Shapiro, associate professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine
Aaron Tang, professor, School of Law
Rachel Vannette, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Vannette, who holds a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology (2011) from the University of Michigan, was selected a UC Davis Hellman Fellow in 2018.
"All plants are colonized by microorganisms that influence plant traits and interactions with other species, including insects that consume or pollinate plants," she says. "I am interested in the basic and applied aspects of microbial contributions to the interaction between plants and insects. I also use these systems to answer basic ecological questions, such as what mechanisms influence plant biodiversity and trait evolution."
The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects.
“Much of the work in my lab focuses on how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators,” Vannette related. “For example, we are interested in understanding the microbial drivers of soil health, which can influence plant attractiveness to herbivores and the plant's ability to tolerate or defend against damage by herbivores. In addition, we are working to examine how microorganisms modify flower attractiveness to pollinators. This may have relevance in agricultural systems to improve plant and pollinator health.”
Her recent research grants include two from the National Science Federation (NSF). One is a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award, titled “Nectar Chemistry and Ecological and Evolutionary Tradeoffs in Plant Adaptation to Microbes and Pollinators.” The other is a three-year collaborative grant, “The Brood Cell Microbiome of Solitary Bees: Origin, Diversity, Function, and Vulnerability.”
"UC Davis has named 191 faculty members as Chancellor's Fellows over the program's 23-year history, with philanthropic support from the UC Davis Annual Fund, Davis Chancellor's Club and the UC Davis Parents Fund," according to the UC Davis news story.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology earlier celebrated two Chancellor's Fellows:
2019: Molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, then associate professor and now professor and vice chair of the department
2015: Pollinator ecologist Neal Williams, then associate professor and now professor
Her seminar also will be virtual. The Zoom link:
https://ucdavis.zoom.us/j/95882849672. Host is community ecologist Rachel Vannette, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Infectious disease prevalence is among the top five drivers of global extinction, including in wild bees," the bee biologist says in her abstract. "With the global decline of wild bees, our work aims to contribute to understanding how community characteristics shape infectious disease prevalence in plant-pollinator communities. Infectious parasites can influence host immunity, physiology, and reproduction. The sharing of floral resources is a common mode of disease transmission among pollinators."
"Increasing host aggregation on floral resources can increase disease prevalence, that is, amplification," Ponisio noted. "Conversely, high host species diversity---even if accompanied by host aggregation---may dilute infection. Because bees pick up parasites from flowers, but not all flowers transmit parasites equally, flower abundance and diversity may further contribute to parasite dilution. In three systems, mass-blooming sunflower in Yolo County, CA, harvested forests in Coast Range, OR, and high elevation meadows across the Southwestern U.S., I examine how the factors that shape plant-pollinator abundance and diversity and the ramifications for parasite prevalence in wild bee communities. Across all systems, more than 40% of bees have at one parasite. Both natural (phenology) and human-induced (years post-harvest, mass-blooming crops) modification of the bee and floral communities indirectly affected parasitism by altering host community characteristics. I found a consistent amplification effect of host (bee) abundance and detected dilution through either host diversity or floral diversity in each system."
On her website, Ponisio elaborates: "We focus on understanding the mechanisms by which species interactions maintain species diversity, and how we can harness these processes to manage and restore diversity in human-modified systems. We focus on pollinators because they are critical for pollination in managed and natural plant communities, but our research is broadly applicable across ecological interactions. Our aim to discover new insights into how communities form, evolve, and persist through time and space, aiding in the prediction and prevention of community collapse. We combine modeling, synthesis and field-based work, and adhere to the principles of reproducible, open science."
Lauren, who grew up in Fresno, holds a bachelor's degree in biology, with honors, in ecology and evolution (2010) from Stanford University, and her master's degree in biology (2011) from Stanford. She received her doctorate from the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, in 2016.
She conducted postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley and served on the faculty at UC Riverside before accepting her current position. She received graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, as well as a postdoctoral fellowship from the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. She was named among the Global Food Initiative's “30 Under 30” in Food Systems in 2016.
Ponisio says one of her most difficult field work experiences occurred in Yosemite National Park, according to her People Behind the Science podcast. "Their study on the effects of fires on pollinators required them to backpack out to remote sites where there had been natural fires. Lauren started working months ahead of time to get ready for the trip and prepare dehydrated meals for the lab to eat. One day, they opened the large canister where they had been storing their food to protect it from bears, and they discovered the food was gone. All that was left was a handwritten note from someone thanking them for leaving out food."
"The next day, the lab's field assistant tripped over a log and sprained her ankle. Then they accidentally left their sampling gear at a site and had to hike all the way back to retrieve it. Later, a bear came into their campsite and destroyed many of the traps they needed to collect pollinators for their study. At this point, Lauren and her colleagues were exhausted, surviving on snacks, their field assistant could barely walk, and much of the equipment they needed had been destroyed. In the face of all of these challenges, Lauren stayed calm. These kinds of things happen in field research, and everyone made it back to share the story."
Ponisio was featured on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" in January of 2021 when she discussed "Wildfires Open Forests for Wildlife and Research."
Ponisio is the lead author of a recently submitted journal paper, "Mass-Flowering Crops Attract Bees, Amplifying Parasitism," co-authored by G. P. Smith, H. Sardinas, J. Zorn, Q. S. McFrederick and S. H.Woodard. (See CV)
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's winter seminars are held on Wednesdays at 4:10 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. All are virtual. They are coordinated by urban landscape entomologist Emily Meineke, assistant professor. (See schedule.) She may be reached at email@example.com for technical issues.
Among previous recipients: Shawn Christensen of the Rachel Vannette lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, for research on how nectar microbes induce pollen germination to access scarce nutrients. (See Bug Squad blog)
Three to five grants of up to $2000 will be awarded for field-oriented botany projects in taxonomy, evolutionary biology, ecology, and/or floristics; or research projects related to the cultivation and propagation of succulents (or horticultural materials of these groups).
As part of the requirement of the funded projects, it is expected that plant voucher specimens and/or population samples will be obtained during the field component of the project and deposited in the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity Herbarium or the UC Davis Conservatory as a return contribution, said Kate Mawdsley, chair of the Davis Botanical Society Student Grants Committee.
Grant recipients need to contact herbarium staff for information on the proper collection, preparation, and documentation of voucher specimens. Grant proposals must include the following information:
- Cover page. This page should include the project title, applicant's name, applicant's current position, UC Davis campus address, telephone number, and e-mail address. The applicant should also include the name of their faculty advisor and provide contact information. Collaborators, if any, should be identified on the cover page and their roles in the project briefly described.
- Proposed project description. The project description should include a statement of significance of the research, objectives, hypotheses to be tested, materials and methods, anticipated results, expected completion date, and plans for collection and disposition of voucher specimens. The project description should be no longer than three typewritten pages, single-spaced (12-point font size, one-inch margins).
- Applicant's qualifications to carry out the proposed research. Briefly explain why you are well-prepared to complete this project with a good chance of success. If the applicant has received a previous award from the Davis Botanical Society, a one-page summary of the results and an accounting of the funds are required.
- Proposed budget. Grant funds are intended only for travel expenses, appropriate and necessary equipment, and expendable supplies. The funds are not for salaries. Please include name and e-mail address of the accounts manager in the applicant's home department so the funds can be distributed properly.
- Letter of recommendation. If the project is being carried out under the guidance of a faculty advisor, the advisor should be identified and asked to submit a letter of recommendation directly to the selection committee at the e-mail address below. Otherwise, a letter of recommendation should be sought from a researcher familiar with the applicant's abilities and proposed research, and submitted by the letter writer to the e-mail below.
Application materials (except for the letter of recommendation) must be submitted electronically as a single PDF document titled with the Applicant's Last Name and DBS Proposal 2023 by 5 p.m., Monday, March 6, 2023. Please send to the chair of the Davis Botanical Society Student Grants Committee, Kate Mawdsley, as an e-mail attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants will be notified by early April if they are a grant recipient.
The Davis Botanical Society is the support organization for two UC Davis botanical collections that benefit all Californians: the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity and the Botanical Conservatory. Membership benefits include a subscription to the semi-annual newsletter, Lasthenia (name relates to the goldfields in the botanical family Asteraceae). Membership benefits also include invitations to talks, field trips, and other events, as well as a substantial discount on the price of field trips and classes.
Unlike honey bees, carpenter bees do not live in hives, they have no queen and they do not produce honey.
The work, published in the journal Molecular Ecology, focused on two species of carpenter bees, the Valley carpenter bee or Xylocopa sonorina, and the mountain carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis, from multiple geographic sites in their range, said corresponding author and community ecologist Rachel Vannette, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The research suggests that “sociality may not be the main driver of microbiome structure in bees as is often assumed,” Vannette said.
Co-first author Madeline Handy, an undergraduate student and research intern in the Vannette laboratory and a member of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), originated the research. Co-first author and microbiologist Dino Sbardellati of the Vannette lab and a graduate student in the UC Davis Microbiology Graduate Group, contributed bioinformatics and statistical analysis.
The researchers sequenced the microbial communities “using technology that produces longer reads from microbial DNA and allows us to get a better picture of the microbes that are found in the crop and gut, as well as their relatedness to each other,” Vannette said.
The significance of the research? “Social bees have a gut microbiome that's a model for human gut microbiomes—microbes contribute to digestion in the gut, affect host immunity and physiology in both bees and humans,” Vannette said. “But a key question is how do these types of microbiomes form and what maintains them? Social interactions has been posed as a major driver but this study suggests that advanced sociality is not required for the maintenance of this type of microbiome. Second, we show that long-read amplicon sequencing can be used in novel ways to generate hypotheses about how microbes are transmitted and maintained within insects.”
Next Steps. The next steps? “We would love to know what are these bacteria doing and if they are beneficial to bees. Our lab is excited to explore how bacterial and fungal communities in bee GI tract, stored food and other insect life stages like larvae or pupae may contribute to bee nutrition and health.”
The six-member team also included co-authors Michael Yu, UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Nicholas Saleh, Department of Entomology and Nematology Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Davie; and Madeleine M. Ostwald, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe.
Their paper is titled “Incipiently Social Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa) Host Distinctive Gut Bacterial Communities and Display Geographical Structure as Revealed by Full-Length PacBio 16S rRNA Sequencing.”
“The gut microbiota of bees affects nutrition, immunity and host fitness, yet the roles of diet, sociality and geographical variation in determining microbiome structure, including variant-level diversity and relatedness, remain poorly understood. Here, we use full-length 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing to compare the crop and gut microbiomes of two incipiently social carpenter bee species, Xylocopa sonorina and Xylocopa tabaniformis, from multiple geographical sites within each species' range. We found that Xylocopa species share a set of core taxa consisting of Bombilactobacillus, Bombiscardovia and Lactobacillus, found in >95% of all individual bees sampled, and Gilliamella and Apibacter were also detected in the gut of both species with high frequency. The crop bacterial community of X. sonorina comprised nearly entirely Apilactobacillus with occasionally abundant nectar bacteria. Despite sharing core taxa, Xylocopa species' microbiomes were distinguished by multiple bacterial lineages, including species-specific variants of core taxa. The use of long-read amplicons revealed otherwise cryptic species and population-level differentiation in core microbiome members, which was masked when a shorter fragment of the 16S rRNA (V4) was considered. Of the core taxa, Bombilactobacillus and Bombiscardovia exhibited differentiation in amplicon sequence variants among bee populations, but this was lacking in Lactobacillus, suggesting that some bacterial genera in the gut may be structured by different processes. We conclude that these Xylocopa species host a distinctive microbiome, similar to that of previously characterized social corbiculate apids, which suggests that further investigation to understand the evolution of the bee microbiome and its drivers is warranted.”
Handy, who is pursuing her master's degree in public health, says her interest is “in all things microbiome, but I'm particularly interested in women's health and nutrition when it comes to the microbes living in our bodies.”
Sbardellati is interested in understanding how microbial ecology shapes macroscale ecology. In the Vannette lab, he studies bacteriophage (viruses which target bacteria) communities associated with the bumble bee gut and how phages shape gut microbial communities.
The Vannette lab is a team of entomologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, and community ecologists trying to understand how microbial communities affect plants and insects, and sometimes other organisms as well.