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)
Agrawal is one of 120 newly elected members, of which 59 are women. The number of NAS members now totals 2,461, according to NAS president Marcia McNutt.
Agrawal received his doctorate in population biology in 1999 from UC Davis, working with major professor Richard "Rick" Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Anurag is an inspiration as a scientist and as a person," Karban said. "I've learned a lot from him."
At Cornell, Agrawal researches the ecology and evolution of interactions between wild plants and their insect pests, including aspects of community interactions, chemical ecology, coevolution and the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.
Agrawal authored the celebrated book, Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, a Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution, published in 2017 by Princeton University Press. He investigated "how the monarch butterfly has evolved closely alongside the milkweed—a toxic plant named for the sticky white substance emitted when its leaves are damaged—and how this inextricable and intimate relationship has been like an arms race over the millennia, a battle of exploitation and defense between two fascinating species," according to the publisher.
The book won a 2017 National Outdoor Book Award in Nature and Environment and an award of excellence in gardening and gardens from the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. It was also named one of Forbes.com's 10 best biology books of 2017.
“It's a tremendous honor and totally unexpected,” Agrawal told the Cornell Chronicle in a recent news release. “I look forward to representing Cornell and also playing a part in the NAS role of advising the U.S. government on science policy.”
"A key research focus for Agrawal's Phytophagy Lab is the generally antagonistic interactions between plants and insect herbivores," according to the news release. In an attempt to understand the complexity of communitywide interactions, questions include: What ecological factors allow the coexistence of similar species? And what evolutionary factors led to the diversification of species? Agrawal's group is currently focused on three major projects: the community and evolutionary ecology of plant-herbivore relationships; factors that make non-native plants successful invaders; and novel opportunities for pest management of potatoes. Recent work on toxin sequestration in monarch butterflies was featured on the cover of the April 20 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
Members are elected to NAS in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. Among those elected to NAS: Bruce Hammock, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was elected to NAS in 1999.
Agrawal holds two degrees from the University of Pennslvania, a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in conservation biology. He joined the Cornell faculty in 2004 as an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, with a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology. He advanced to associate professor in 2005, and to full professor in 2010. He was named the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies in 2017.
A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2012), and recipient of the American Society of Naturalist's E.O. Wilson Award in 2019, Agrawal won the Entomological Society of America's 2013 Founders' Memorial Award and delivered the lecture on Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) at ESA's 61st annual meeting, held in Austin, Texas.
Agrawal was at UC Davis in January of 2012 to present a seminar on "Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Defenses." His abstract: "In order to address coevolutionary interactions between milkweeds and their root feeding four-eyed beetles, I will present data on reciprocity, fitness tradeoffs, specialization and the genetics of adaptation. In addition to wonderful natural history, this work sheds light on long-standing theory about how antagonistic interactions proceed in ecological and evolutionary time."
Murray, who anticipates receiving her bachelor of science degree in evolution, ecology and biodiversity in June 2021, is one of 396 students selected from a national pool of 5000 sophomores and juniors to receive a scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, a federally endowed agency honoring the late senator and “designed to foster and encourage outstanding students” who are pursuing research careers in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.
The honor includes a monetary prize of $7500. “Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs,” according to a foundation spokesperson. Goldwater Scholars have received 93 Rhodes scholarships, 146 Marshall scholarships, 170 Churchill scholarships, 109 Hertz fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards, including National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.
Murray, who joined the Karban lab in 2018, is a member of the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), founded and directed by three UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty members (Jay Rosenheim, distinguished professor; Joanna Chiu, vice chair and associate professor; and Louie Yang, associate professor) to provide "academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates" with multi-year experience in biological research. The program pairs students with faculty mentors.
In the Karban lab, Murray designs and conducts independent research on plant development, flowering, and communication. She generates questions, creates protocols, collects and analyzes data.
In addition, Naomi works with UC Davis Professor Jay Stachowicz at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, where she does independent research on seagrass disease ecology, specifically herbivore-plant-pathogen interaction. She formerly worked as a full-time undergraduate researcher on seagrass ecology in the Stachowicz lab.
Native of San Diego
Naomi was born and raised in San Diego and is the first scientist in her family. Her father holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering and works as a home inspector and her mother is a newly retired lawyer.
“My interest in ecology started in high school, when I interned at the San Diego Zoo,” Naomi related. “Before the internship, I knew I loved animals and the environment, but I had no idea how I could turn those passions into a career--I thought if I liked animals, my only options were to be a zookeeper or a vet. The internship exposed me to a lot of other professionals and researchers working to protect nature, which was really my first glimpse into ecology and conservation."
"When I selected ecology, evolution, and biodiversity as my major, I intended to be primarily animal-focused, but that changed when I went to the Botanical Conservatory on UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day my freshman year. I absolutely fell in love with it, and I interned there that spring. It turned into employment and since then, my love for plants has really grown; they're the main subject of my research now!”
Naomi is one of two Goldwater Scholars from UC Davis; the other is Jayashri Viswanathan, who seeks a doctorate in neuroscience and plans to teach biological sciences at the college level. They are among 32 recipients statewide.
Career in Forest Ecology
Naomi is leaning toward a research career in forest ecology, studying how trees affect community function and resilience “with the goal of minimizing the impacts of climate change.” She worked three weeks as a field technician on a project monitoring tree mortality in the forests of Yosemite Valley, where she tent-camped without running water or electricity, and collected data for 10 hours a day.
She acknowledged that after a few days there, she didn't know if she could meet the challenges. “But as the days passed, I realized that even when I was at my most uncomfortable, I was asking questions about the system, proposing new hypotheses for old phenomena, and marveling at the beauty of the forest,” she wrote in her essay, part of the Goldwater Scholarship application.
“As the world changes and becomes increasingly interconnected, we are in desperate need of critical thinkers, synthesizers, and people able to approach complex problems with broad, interdisciplinary perspectives,” Murray wrote. “I am working to become one of these pioneers and intend on pursuing a career in research to monitor, track, and minimize the impacts of climate change. Specifically, I plan to focus on forest ecology and how patterns of resource allocation and carbon storage among trees affect community function and ecosystem resilience.”
After receiving her bachelor's degree, Naomi plans to pursue a doctorate in ecology. “My current major prepares me with a strong foundation in basic science, and I have taken it upon myself to seek out diverse research experiences in both field and lab settings to develop a multi-dimensional perspective on critical issues in ecology,” she noted. “My time as a field technician has prepared me for ecological field work. Living as a full-time undergraduate researcher gave me a glimpse into conducting research as a career and made me familiar with work beyond the field. Additionally, participation in the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology, a long-term pairing of undergraduates with faculty mentors to conduct research, has fostered connections instrumental in my path towards a successful research career. Perhaps most importantly, my independent design and execution of three experiments has taught me how to ask and test scientific questions.”
Murray earlier received a UC Davis Provost's Undergraduate Fellowship of $1200, a Regents Scholarship of $30,000, and a Bodega Marine Lab Undergraduate Research Fellowship of $5000, among other honors and awards.
Active in SEEDS
The Goldwater Scholar is active in Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity, and Sustainability (SEEDS), an offshoot of the Ecological Society of America, and serves as an officer of the Davis SEEDS Chapter. The group seeks to make ecology more accessible to underrepresented groups of students. The club fosters science exploration and guidance through career panels and research facility tours.
“When I attended the 2018 SEEDS National Field Trip, the student group was mainly women of color,” Murray related in her essay. “I listened to them speak about the racism that structures this nation and its higher institutions, creating foundational issues of access to opportunity, mentorship, and funding. It was a wake-up call, making me aware of my privilege and inspiring me to deconstruct the walls that exist in my academic sphere.”
“I became an officer for the UC Davis SEEDS chapter. Through the club, I work to organize graduate student and career panels, amplifying underrepresented stories and connecting students with mentors who have similar backgrounds. I plan field trips and study sessions, and promote campus opportunities. And I help apply for funding to make all our activities equal access. Moving forward in my career I will continue this work, grateful that SEEDS has pushed me to become an active participant in scientific advancement through social justice.”
Macaluso received $1000, and her research paper, “The Biological Basis for Alzheimer's Disease," will be published in eScholarship, an open-access scholarly publishing service affiliated with the University of California.
This is the first time a student enrolled in a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology class has won the universitywide competition, now in its fourth year. The award memorializes Norma J. Lang (1931-2015), professor emerita of botany.
Macaluso, who is majoring in psychology with a biological emphasis, and minoring in aging and adult development, anticipates receiving her bachelor of science degree in the fall of 2020.
Carey, an internationally recognized teacher, instructs undergraduates in his classes--which usually exceed 200 students--how to research topics, use style sheets, and structure their papers. He has produced 13 videos on how to research and write a research paper, along with a new video on the use of style sheets.
The Lang Prize recognizes undergraduate students whose research projects make extensive use of library resources, services and expertise. First, second and third-place prizes are awarded each year in two categories: science, engineering and mathematics; and arts, humanities and social sciences. Second place in the science, engineering and mathematics category went to Vincent Pan, a student doing research in the lab of ecologist Rick Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, for several years. His paper: "Recent Advances in Elucidating the Function of Zebra Stripes: Parasite Avoidance and Thermoregulation Do Not Resolve the Mystery." (See recipients at https://bit.ly/3cPPsNt.)
“Macaluso's term paper gives an in-depth synopsis of the biology of Alzheimer's disease, a prevalent form of dementia that impairs memory and cognition,” wrote the Norma J. Lang Prize judges. “Utilizing the library's databases and subject guides, Macaluso identified 20 sources from top scientific journals across multiple disciplines, including Nature and the Annual Reviews of Medicine, Neuroscience, Psychology and Public Health, to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of the science on Alzheimer's.”
“This currently incurable disease is caused by significant neuronal death in the brain due to of the accumulation of two neurodegenerative proteins: intercellular amyloid-beta plaques and intracellular tau tangles,” she wrote. “The interaction of these two proteins creates a feedback loop that facilitates the continual destruction of nerve cells in the brain. Because the destruction of nerve cells disrupts the neuronal connections in the brain, Alzheimer's disease results in significant memory deficits as well as impaired cognition. Moreover, with the use of human models and transgenic mouse models, researchers have been able to analyze the role of biology, genetics, and physiology in Alzheimer's disease. For example, mutations in the presenilin 1 (PSEN1) gene or the amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene predispose an individual to acquire early-onset Alzheimer's disease.”
“Likewise, an individual can have an increased likelihood of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease if they carry the ApoE4 variant of the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene. In summary, researchers are amply investigating Alzheimer's disease from a variety of biological faucets in an effort to treat or even cure this form of dementia.”
Macaluso went on to discuss three major risk factors affiliated with Alzheimer's disease: age, gender, and genetics.
Macaluso penned “The Biological Basis for Alzheimer's Disease” as her term paper for Human Development-Aging 117 (Longevity) in the fall of 2019. “The purpose of this assignment was to utilize the library databases for research, improve both my writing and editing skills, and broaden my understanding of longevity with a topic of my choice," she wrote in her Norma J. Lang Prize application. "Moreover, this research paper served to expand my communication skills and bolster my intellectual confidence. A key requirement for this paper was to use at least ten sources, seven of which needed to be primary sources such as a research article or a review paper. Initially, I was quite daunted by the prospect of this assignment because I had only modest experience reading research papers or using the online library databases. I distinctly recall reading about this assignment on the syllabus and questioning if I was capable of such an onerous task. To my surprise, by the end of this quarter and after countless hours exploring the online library reserves, I completed my assignment and felt confident in my ability to utilize the UC Davis library resources.”
A 2019-2020 McNair Scholar, Macaluso has worked as an undergraduate research assistant for the Dynamic Memory Lab (Charan Ranganath Lab) since 2017. She serves on the Animal Care Staff at Young Hall; as a genetics tutor for the Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers; and as president of the America Red Cross Club at UC Davis.
The UC Davis student, a native of Santa Barbara but raised in nearby Buellton, plans to enroll in graduate school in the fall of 2021 to study cognitive neuroscience or cognitive psychology. Her career plans? "I'm thinking academia right now," she said. "I hope to finish my PhD, work as a postdoctoral fellow for a few years, and then pursue a professorship position."
Carey, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty since 1980, is considered the preeminent global authority on arthropod demography. He directed the multidisciplinary, 11-institution, 20-scientist program, “Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan,” which garnered more than $10 million in funding from the National Institute on Aging from 2003 to 2013.
Highly honored by his peers for his teaching expertise, Carey received the Entomological Society of America's 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award; a 2018 Robert Foster Cherry Award from Baylor University, which presents international teaching awards; and the UC Davis Academic Senate's 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award, an honor given to internationally recognized professors who excel at teaching.
(Undergraduate students can apply for the annual Norma J. Lang Prize here.)
And what's the canceled 105th annual UC Davis Picnic without virtual insects?
The Department of Entomology and Nematology annually hosts dozens of insect-themed Picnic Day events at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. But this year, the insects went virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic precautions.
The campuswide Picnic Day Committee hosted a virtual tour of some of the planned events, and posted this link: https://picnicday.ucdavis.edu/virtual/
The spotlight paused on the Bohart Museum, which houses nearly eight million insect specimens; the seventh largest insect collection in North America; the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity; and a live “petting zoo” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and the like. It also is the home of a gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Directed by UC Davis entomology professor Lynn Kimsey for 30 years, the museum is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007). The Bohart team includes senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths section).
If you browse the Bohart Museum site, you'll find fact sheets about insects, written by Professor Kimsey.
But if you want to see the Bohart Museum's virtual tours, be sure to watch these videos:
- Director Lynn Kimsey giving a Bohart Museum introduction
- Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, presenting an arthropod virtual tour
- Diane Ullman, professor of entomology and former chair of the department, presenting a view of the Lepidodpera section.
Also on the UC Davis Virtual Picnic Day site, you'll learn “How to Make an Insect Collection," thanks to project coordinator James R. Carey, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and "Can Plants Talk to Each Other?" a TED-Ed Talk featuring the work of ecologist Rick Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," he says. PBS featured his work in its Deep Look video, “A Tsetse Fly Births One Enormous Milk-Fed Baby,” released Jan. 28, 2020. (See its accompanying news story.)
PBS also collaborated with the Attardo lab and the Chris Barker lab, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, for a PBS Deep Look video on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue fever and Zika. The eggs are hardy; "they can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae," according to the introduction. Watch the video, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs--in Your House."
In the meantime, the UC Davis Picnic Day leaders are gearing up for the 106th annual, set for April 17, 2021. What's a picnic without insects?