It's a celebration of (1) the accomplishments of the faculty entering a new chapter in their lives (2) the extraordinary retirement years of the late Robbin Thorp of the Department of Entomology and Nematology; and a congratulatory message by Chancellor Gary May.
The video is online at
"Summer is nearly over, and the fall quarter begins soon," said Leal, professor of biochemistry in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former professor and chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology). "Let's pause and express our gratitude to our colleagues who transitioned to emeriti status this summer."
"For decades, they strived to make UC Davis a better place, and many will remain engaged with research, teaching, and public service," he noted.
Leal said the late Distinguished Emeritus Professor Robbin Thorp (1933-2019) epitomizes how emeriti contribute to UC Davis. Thorp, a 30-year member of the entomology faculty, and a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, retired in 1994, but he continued working until several weeks before his death on June 7, 2019, at age 85. In 2014, he co-authored two books: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University,) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). He published more than 50 percent of his papers following his retirement.
- UC Davis offered COVID tests within three weeks of our nation's first known patient with community-acquired COVID-19.
- Their research led to the development of better ceramic and glass materials;
- They helped improve military retention;
- They developed innovative techniques for shoulder and wrist reconstruction;
- They generated one of the world's largest and longest-running systems for monitoring butterfly faunas;
- They led plans for the UC Davis National Cancer Institute to be designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center;
- They are film historians who authored books such as Paris in the Dark: Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930-1950;
- They helped create the world's first total-body PET scanner;
- They brought a global perspective to the table to create innovative and pragmatic approaches to sustainability;
- Their research showed how music and dance articulate ethnic, gender, regional, and national identities;
- They helped us, and more importantly, lawmakers, understand how the toxic action of pesticides may affect aquatic systems and organisms;
- Their research shed light on the psychological development of young children;
- They unraveled molecular processes leading to arthritis;
- They showed how management controls facilitate strategic alliances and supply chain partnerships;
- They integrated methods from traditional engineering, operation research, and economics to solve water and environmental management problems;
- They provided comprehensive psychiatric services to ethnic and sexual minorities, including refugees and immigrants;
- They colleagues created new approaches for using plants for the production of recombinant proteins with various applications, including medicine;
- They elucidated how natural products influence the function of ion channels in the nervous system;
- They provided emergency medical care and taught nursing, air medical, EMS, and disaster medicine courses;
- They designed programs for teachers to investigate their teaching skills and students' learning;
- They investigated how plants edit and repair DNA;
- They advanced our understanding of infectious diseases and aging in nonhuman primates; and
- Their research led to improvements in bean cultivars in California, the United States, Latin America and Africa;
The video tribute includes images of many of the emeriti, meant as a small representation of the achievements of all.
In his message, Chancellor May told the new emeriti: "You played a central role in keeping UC Davis at the forefront of excellence. Your continued engagement through teaching, research, volunteering and philanthropy is vital to our continued growth and success. So I encourage you to stay engaged with campus. The UC Davis Emeriti Association is here with resources and support for this newest chapter of your career. Please take advantage of it. Thank you for our dedication to UC Davis and congratulations on reaching this milestone."
Among its many activities, UC Davis Emeriti Association (UCDEA) interviews and records emeriti who have made "significant contributions to the development of the university." See Video Records Project.
De Grassi spotted—and videoed--a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, foraging on a prized ceanothus plant on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 8 in her backyard in Davis.
She recorded the video on her cell phone at 12:32 p.m. to win the third annual contest, sponsored by the Bohart Museum of Entomology and memorializing global bee expert Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. (See her YouTube video)
De Grassi, a former director of federal policy, livestock, animal health and welfare for the California Farm Bureau Federation, credits the storm, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and her working relationships with bee scientists, including Thorp, as having a hand in either her find and/or her interest in plants and pollinators.
The three previous winners (2022 was a tie) each photographed a bumble bee in the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum. Ironically, de Grassi bought her prized ceanothus at an Arboretum plant sale.
“I was doing clean-up in my backyard after Saturday night's rain and a 50-plus mile-per-hour windstorm,” said de Grassi, now an agricultural policy consultant. “The wind had subsided to a breeze by then. As I walked past my Ray Hartman ceanothus—which I purchased from a UC Davis Arboretum plant sale years ago when I did a garden makeover to be pollinator-friendly—I noticed some extra-long ceanothus branches that needed to be pruned, including some with super-early blooming flowers.”
De Grassi returned with her pole trimmer and started cutting. It was then she noticed a bumble bee foraging on her ceanothus--and when she remembered the “friendly Bohart Museum contest” inviting folks to find and photograph the first bumble bee in the two-county area of Solano and Yolo.
De Grassi knew Thorp from her professional work with the California Farm Bureau Federation and from her friendship with bee scientists Timothy Lawrence and Susan Cobey, formerly of UC Davis. “Tim and Sue were active in the California Farm Bureau's statewide Bee Advisory Committee that I managed,” she said. Lawrence is now a Washington State University Extension county director (Island County) and Cobey, a WSU bee breeder geneticist.
“(The late Extension apiculturist) Eric Mussen was the UC Cooperative Extension liaison to that same committee,” de Grassi remembered, “so as native pollinator topics would arise during committee work, Robbin's name and research naturally became relevant to the discussion. A fond memory I have of Robbin is from a Bohart Museum open house (2017) when I told him about seeing a 1/2 black and 1/2 gold carpenter bee in my front yard. I'd never heard of a gynandromorph until he told me that that's what I saw. He asked me to capture one if I ever saw another.”
“I love documenting nature's cool stuff and especially the surprises we uncover when we pause long enough to notice,” de Grassi commented. The caterpillars she discovered eating her coral fountain (aka “firecracker plant,” Russelia equisetiiformis) led to UC Davis distinguished professor Art Shapiro documenting it as a butterfly larval host.
“Gardening for pollinators has become my passion pastime. I like to give native and managed bees pesticide-free forage.”
As her prizes, de Grassi will receive a coffee cup decorated with a the Franklin's bumble bee, and handmade bee gifts (including a zippered bee-motif bag and bee-motif soaps) from Teresa Hickman of Vacaville, owner of "Handmade by Teresa."
De Grassi holds two degrees from UC Davis: a bachelor's degree in agricultural science and management and a master's degree in animal science. She is a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Animal Science Development Board, and a former member of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association Board and the UC Davis Foundation Board of Trustees.
Postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of the Neal Williams lab and the Elina Lastro Niño lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won the 2021 contest by photographing a B. melanopygus at 3:10 p.m., Jan. 14 in a manzanita patch in the Arboretum.
UC Davis doctoral candidate Maureen Page of the Neal Williams lab and horticulturist Ellen Zagory, retired director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, tied for first in the 2022 contest by each photographing a bumble bee foraging on manzanita (Arctostaphylos) in the Arboretum at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 1.
Page, who now holds a doctorate in entomology, photographed a B. melanopygus, while Zagory captured an image of the yellow-faced bumble bee, B. vosnesenskii.
Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis faculty, and a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, retired in 1994, but he continued working until several weeks before his death on June 7, 2019 at age 85. In 2014, he co-authored two books: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University,) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Every year he looked forward to finding or seeing the first bumble bee in the area.
The second annual Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble Bee-of-the-Year Contest is over.
On two separate expeditions, but at exactly 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 1, UC Davis doctoral candidate Maureen Page of the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and horticulturist Ellen Zagory, retired director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, co-won the contest by each photographing a bumble bee foraging on manzanita (Arctostaphylos) in the 100-acre Arboretum.
Fittingly, they both knew and worked with Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), a global authority on bees and a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology.
The event also marked the second consecutive year that a member of the Williams lab scored a win. Last year postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of the Williams lab and the lab of Elina Lastro Niño, claimed the prize by photographing a B. melanopygus at 3:10 p.m., Jan. 14 in a manzanita patch in the Arboretum.
Contest coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, sought the first bumble bee of the year in the two-county area of Yolo and Solano in memory of Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis faculty. Thorp retired in 1994 but continued his work until several weeks before his death at age 85 at his home in Davis. Every year he looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee.
Page began looking for the bumble bee in the Arboretum on Dec. 31. “I went on a walk through the UC Davis Arboretum at 3 p.m. on New Year's Eve and stopped by a manzanita tree hoping to see a bumble bee,” recounted Page. “After less than a few minutes, I spotted a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus! However, it was not yet 2022 so I planned to return the following day at 2 p.m. and was similarly lucky--I spotted a bee within minutes of arriving. It was sunny and about 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I observed the bumble bee." Bombus melanopygus is the earliest bumble bee species to emerge in this area.
"Although I saw the bee within a few minutes of arriving, I spent an hour trying to get a good photograph," Page said. "In the process of trying to photograph the bee, I saw at least one other Bombus melanopygus visiting manzanita flowers!" She captured the image with her cell phone.
Professor and pollinator ecologist Neal Williams identified the bee image that Zagory took as a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, but indicated it is way early for this bumble bee to emerge in this area.
Both Zagory and Page and worked with Robbin Thorp, a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation and the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
“I indeed knew Robbin Thorp, one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met,” Zagory said. “Dr. Thorp invited me to do a page for their book (California Bees And Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists) about the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars (pages 230 -232) and he edited a publication we created at the UC Davis Arboretum called Ten Bees and Ten Plants they Love that can be downloaded from the web site at https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/pollinator-gardening.
Both Page and Nicholson are alumni of The Bee Course, which Thorp co-taught from 2002-2018. Page took the course in 2018, and Nicholson in 2015. The nine-day intensive workshop, geared for conservation biologists and pollination ecologists and considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, takes place annually in Portal, Ariz. at the Southwestern Research Station, part of the American Museum of Natural History, N.Y.
Page said she was “also lucky enough to participate in a "Bumble Bee Blitz" organized by Thorp and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in July 2016 on Mt. Ashland, where we searched for Bombus franklini and Bombus occidentalis-- two very rare west coast bee species. We unfortunately did not find Bombus franklini, which is now recognized as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.”
“Robbin was a brilliant scientist and a dedicated advocate for bumble bee conservation,” Page said. “His death was a great loss and I wish more of my career could have overlapped with his time in Davis.”
As a doctoral candidate in entomology, Page researches and investigates “whether European honey bees compete with native bees for floral resources and how we can use well-planned floral enhancements to mitigate negative effects of competition."
She and Nicholson are the co-leading authors of "A Meta-Analysis of Single Visit Pollination Effectiveness Comparing Honeybees and Other Floral Visitors," the Nov. 30th cover story in the American Journal of Botany. Citing the importance of native bees, Page said: "Native bees provide irreplaceable pollination services. I'm glad to see that flower plantings, like those found in the UC Davis Arboretum, provide food for diverse native bee communities as early as Jan. 1.”
Participants are to capture an image of a bumble bee in the wild in either of the two counties and email the image to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the details of time, date and place. The image must be recognizable as a bumble bee, said contest coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology.
The winner will receive a coffee cup designed with the endangered bumble bee that the late Robbin Thorp closely monitored—Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, known to exist in a small area by the California-Oregon border. UC Davis doctoral alumnus Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College and a Bohart Museum scientist, designed the cup. Bohart scientist Brennen Dyer photographed the specimen.
Thorp, a global authority on bees and a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, always looked forward to finding or seeing the first bumble bee of the year in the area.
The native black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, is the first bumble bee to emerge in the area, according to Thorp. It forages on manzanitas, wild lilacs, wild buckwheats, lupines, penstemons, clovers, and sages, among others.
Thorp served on the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964 to 1994. Although he achieved emeritus status in 1994, he continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death on June 7, 2019 at age 85 at his home in Davis.
Nicholson, a researcher in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology labs of Professor Neal Williams, a pollination ecologist, and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, is a 2015 alumnus of The Bee Course, where Thorp taught from 2002 through 2018. The nine-day intensive workshop, geared for conservation biologists and pollination ecologists and considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, takes place annually in Portal, Ariz., at the Southwestern Research Station, part of the American Museum of Natural History, N.Y.
Kimsey praised Thorp for his expertise, generosity and kindness. Kimsey, who first met Thorp when she was a graduate student at UC Davis, said that although he wasn't her major professor, “my project was on bees and he was incredibly helpful and supportive. His enthusiasm about pollinators and bees in particular actually grew after he retired, and he continued helping students and researchers and was the backbone of so much research. His support and kindness was matched by his undemanding assistance and expertise.”
In 2014, Thorp co-authored two books, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday).
Thorp, the last known person to see Franklin's bumble bee in its native habitat, spotted it in 2006 near Mt. Ashland. The bee inhabits--or did--a 13,300-square-mile area within the five-county area of Siskiyou and Trinity in California; and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine in Oregon.
Thorp sighted 94 Franklin's bumble bees in that area in 1998, but by 2003, the tally had dropped to three. Thorp saw none in 2004 and 2005; one in 2006; and none since. Thorp's determined hunt for the bumble bee resulted in the CNN publication of "The Old Man and the Bee," a spin-off of Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
In memory of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, the Bohart Museum of Entomology is sponsoring the inaugural Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble-Bee-of-the-Year Contest.
Professor Thorp, 85, who died June 7, 2019, was a global authority on bumble bees, and always looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee of the year. He launched an impromptu contest several years ago with a small group of bumble bee enthusiasts/photographers from Yolo and Solano counties.
Now the Bohart Museum, where Thorp spent much of his time identifying bees and helping others, is sponsoring the contest. Participants are to capture an image of a bumble bee in the wild in either Yolo or Solano counties and email the image to email@example.com, with the details of time, date and place. The image must be recognizable as a bumble bee. The winner receives bragging rights and a special gift from the Bohart Museum, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology. Plans call for a Bohart coffee mug with a bumble bee image.
The first bumble bee to emerge in this area is the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. Native to western North America and found from California to British Columbia and as far east as Idaho, it forages on manzanitas, wild lilacs, wild buckwheats, lupines, penstemons, clovers, and sages, among others.
Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis entomology faculty, from 1964-1994, 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). He achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death.
A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, he was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
Thorp co-taught The Bee Course from 2002 to 2019, an intensive nine-day workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.
Kimsey, who first met Thorp when she was a graduate student at UC Davis, said that although he wasn't her major professor, “my project was on bees and he was incredibly helpful and supportive. His enthusiasm about pollinators and bees in particular actually grew after he retired, and he continued helping students and researchers and was the backbone of so much research. His support and kindness was matched by his undemanding assistance and expertise. What a terrible loss to his family and to the research and conservation communities."
An authority on the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp began monitoring the bumble bee population in 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He had not seen it since 2006 and was instrumental in placing Franklin's 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.
In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to a meadow where he last saw Franklin's bumble bee. Sutter wrote about Dr. Thorp, then 82, in a piece he titled "The Old Man and the Bee," aspinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." (See "Will Franklin's Bumble Bee Ever Be Seen Again?"on YouTube by EarthFixMedia.)
Highly honored by his peers, 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 included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the Team Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) in 2013. In addition, he was 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.
UC Davis professor and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, who organized a special symposium in Thorp's honor at the 2019 PBESA meeting in San Diego, praised his “tireless efforts in research, advocacy and education” and how he “inspired a new generation of bee researchers.”