That's the philosophy of Bita Rostami, who received her bachelor's degree in animal biology (ABI) from the University of California, Davis, in June 2022, and then in a unique accomplishment, saw her practicum thesis published as a review article in a prestigious research journal.
“A key element in the ABI major, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the practicum project--an opportunity for students to engage with research labs,” said her mentor, agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen, professor in the department.
The journal, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, published her practicum report, “Application of Active Acoustic Transducers in Monitoring and Assessment of Terrestrial Ecosystem Health—A Review” in its Oct. 14th edition. “She pitched the basic and highly innovative idea of using active acoustic transducers in monitoring and assessments of terrestrial ecosystem health,” Nansen said.
“ABI practicum projects represent a unique opportunity for us instructors and lab team leaders to open our doors to students and allow them to challenge themselves and be inspired,” Nansen said. “And in some cases, it us that receive more from the student than what we offer--Bita is an example of such a student with an enormous academic potential.”
“Setting aside Bita's terrific academic background and qualifications, I have found her to be the ideal collaborator, very cooperative, consistently cheerful, perfectly dependable, stable and delightful to work with," Kimsey said. "Competition may or may not select for exceptional humans, but often selects for difficult characters. Bita almost uniquely combines high productivity and intense curiosity with a delightful personality, an ideal combination to have in a research program.”
In the journal article, Rostami reviewed and discussed possible applications—and also constraints—of active acoustic transducers in monitoring and assessment of terrestrial ecosystem health.
“Specifically, this article includes a brief introduction to the basic principles of sound and types of active acoustic transducers,” Rostami and Nansen wrote in their abstract. “Moreover, we provide reviews of common uses of active acoustic transducers in assessing plant structures and plant functional traits.”
How did Bita Rostami conceive the idea of using acoustic transducers in monitoring and assessing terrestrial ecosystem health?
“I learned in one of my classes that playing recordings of healthy oceans could aid in restoring marine communities,” Rostami said. “From there, I wanted to find out if sound could be used similarly to help restore terrestrial ecosystems. Through my initial research, I found that although sound and sound recordings have been used to monitor and rehabilitate wildlife in terrestrial ecosystems, more research needs to be done on applying sound in assessing terrestrial plant health. I was familiar with multiple types of acoustic transducers commonly used in precision agriculture and urban forestry, so I wanted to see if we could apply pre-existing technology to perform monitoring and assessments on a broader scale in rough terrestrial terrains.”
Rostami, who received her associate of arts degree in natural sciences and mathematics from Irvine Valley College in June 2020, credits a research retreat in Palm Springs with sparking her interest in environmental sciences. As a community college student participating in the retreat, the flora and fauna of the desert fascinated her.
“That convinced me that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said. She then gained experience as an undergraduate research assistant with the UC Irvine School of Biological Sciences. Her work, with principal investigator Peter Bryant from January to May of 2020, involved researching and analyzing the diversity and life cycle of Pacific Ocean zooplanktons.
Next project: for several months in early 2021, she served as a researcher, advised by paleoecologist Renske Kirchholtes of UC Santa Cruz, in the California Ecology and Conservation (CEC), part of the University of California's Natural Reserve System (CNRS). “CEC is an undergrad field program that takes students from different UCs across multiple UC nature reserves to learn about Californian ecology and do research,” she explained.
Experience as a research assistant in the UC Davis laboratory of conservation ecologist Susan Harrison in the Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin Natural Reserve, a 7,050-acre CNRS reserve in Napa and Lake counties followed. Working with primary investigator Rebecca Nelson from March 2021 to February 2022, she conducted daily visual encounter surveys of field sites or pollinator species, maintained daily data entry (time/date, weather, GPS coordinates, pollinator species, number of visitations and lower species visited), and collected soil samples from study sites to measure chemical makeup. She also collected seeds from specific flower species to analyze genetic diversity and test for seed viability.
Rostami, now 23 and a resident of Newport Beach, is taking an academic break before applying for graduate school. She is working full-time teaching math and biology as a private academic tutor in grades K-12. “I plan to eventually apply for an environmental science master's program and get certified through the Society of American Foresters.”
Rostami, who speaks Farsi (Persian), English and Spanish, already has accomplished two “firsts” in her family: She is the first to attend college in the United States “since we immigrated here from Iran around ten years ago. Most of my family are engineers, so I'm also the first one going into environmental studies.”
“If you are struggling to figure out your passion, learn to enjoy stepping out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised by how much you can learn about yourself when trying out something new.”
The museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, is gearing up for the holiday season with online sales from the gift shop, which is stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, posters, books, insect-collecting equipment and other items. (See gift shop inventory)
“Your support enables us to fulfill our mission of documenting and supporting research in biodiversity, educating and inspiring others about insects, and providing state-of-the-art information to the community,” says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The Bohart Museum, home of a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity of the state's deserts, mountains, coast, and the Great Central Valley. The Bohart is also the home of a live “petting zoo” (comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas), and the year-around gift shop.
Items are shipped out on Fridays by priority mail via the U.S. Postal Service. Average arrival times currently average between 6 to 10 business days, officials said. Those who plan on purchasing holiday or birthday gifts should do so as early as possible.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, founded in 1946 and dedicated to teaching, research and service, is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart, who taught entomology at UC Davis for more than 50 years, beginning in 1946, and chaired the Department of Entomology from 1963-1967. Said Kimsey: "His publications include three of the most important books on the systematics of the Hymenoptera, including the well-used volume Sphecid Wasps of the World. His journal publications total over 200 articles. He revised many groups of insects, discovered new host-associations or geographic ranges, and described many new species."
Kimsey, master advisor for the department's undergraduate Animal Biology (ABI) program and an assistant adjunct professor, is the newly announced winner of NACADA's Outstanding Advising Award, Faculty Academic Advising.
Elvira Galvan Hack, student academic advisor for ABI, has received a certificate of merit in the highly competitive global category, Outstanding Advising Award, Primary Advising Role.
Both Kimsey and Hack shared the 2019 Eleanor and Harry Walker Advising Awards from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, for top faculty advisor and top staff advisor, respectively. The awards honor excellence and innovation in academic advising.
Highly honored by their peers and students, Kimsey and Hack earlier received awards in the NACADA Region 9 Excellence in Advising Awards. Kimsey this year won the UC Davis Outstanding Faculty Advising Award, and the Distinction in Student Mentoring Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. Hack was honored at the 2019 Staff Assembly's Citation for Excellence Program, receiving an honorable mention and a cash award in the Individual Service Award category.
Established in 1983, the NACADA Global Awards Program for Academic Advising honors individuals and institutions making "significant impacts on academic advising." The organization, comprised of 13,000 members, “provides a network and professional identity for the thousands of faculty, full-time advisors, and administrators whose responsibilities include academic advising,” a spokesperson said. NACADA' s vision is to recognize that "effective academic advising is at the core of student success." Its mission: "to promote student success by advancing the field of academic advising globally."
Kimsey, master advisor for the ABI major since 2010 and an ABI lecturer since 2001, “excels at teaching, advising and mentoring,” wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “He sincerely cares about each student, and incredibly, remembers their conversations and their interests.”
Kimsey, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, wrote in part about his philosophy of advising: "In a broad sense, advising at the undergraduate level requires a good and objective listener, broad experience in life, a source of diverse perspectives to tackle any potential problem, an ability to put oneself in the other person's place, and really caring about and enjoying other people."
Kimsey's teaching philosophy: "I think that humans learn best together, where one person demonstrates the process or disseminates the knowledge to solve a problem to another person, and then together they solve the problem. The problem may be proximal and practical or abstract and conceptual. Following instruction, the teacher may participate with groups of students to solve problems, and there exist many other variations on teaching that adhere to this simple theme. But the principal components remain the same: demonstration or dissemination of knowledge followed by cooperative application. This is likely the most ancient of teaching concepts, and to the extent recent innovations in teaching method return to this simple process and replace simple lecturing, it continues to be the most effective."
Known for expertly guiding students toward career paths, and helping them meet challenges and overcome obstacles, Kimsey draws such unsolicited accolades on Rate My Professors as:
- “Dr. Kimsey is by far one of the best professors at UC Davis. His class never fails to entertain! You do need to put in the work to do well but it is very worth it! Dr. Kimsey truly cares about his students and wants to see them succeed and find a path that best suits them. Strongly recommend!”
- "This was the best class I've taken at UC Davis. You can tell that Dr. Kimsey really cares, and puts a lot of effort into his class.”
Elvira Galvan Hack
Hack, a UC Davis employee since 2011, has served in her position as student academic advisor for undergraduates in the Animal Biology program for 12 years. She is passionate about helping her students succeed professionally, socially and developmentally.
The students seek such careers as physicians, veterinarians, wildlife scientists or researchers. They are diverse: they range from first-generation college students to undocumented immigrants, and they span all socioeconomic levels.
"Elvira is likely the best academic advisor ever,” Kimsey wrote in the application. “Not only is she completely conversant with all the rules and regulations of the major, but understands the latitude of flexibility built into their application in a very human way. She is connected with all the administrative functionaries necessary to efficiently accomplish any task in a timely manner. For the confused or troubled student, she is the first and last resort for the solution of problems not only of an academic or administrative kind but those of a deeply personal nature as well. She keeps them on track, outlining their options, helping them decide on their future professions, and the direction their life should take. She has been invaluable to me as the master advisor. She really does care about a student's fate. Moreover we have had great fun doing these tasks together.”
Elvira, born in Arizona and raised in Dixon, Calif., was the seventh of eight children born to farmworkers. Her parents successfully ensured that their children grew up happy and healthy and in a loving home filled with family traditions.
Hack credits a UC Davis professor's assistance in helping her attend business school (he loaned her funds to purchase an electric typewriter) that led to her vow "to pay it forward" and "to make a difference."
Hack's philosophy of advising:"My overall philosophy is that students should feel welcome, respected and treasured. I ensure that my advising office is a warm, friendly, and an inviting place, an all-inclusive place where students can feel both comfortable and safe. They can trust me: they can trust me to listen, they can trust me to be heard, and they can trust me that they will be understood, supported and valued. I maintain an open door policy. I am here to provide them with advice, assistance and tools at a time when they need it the most. If they are experiencing a problem, I make time for them immediately, no matter the hour. I assure them that it is better for them to seek assistance now, than for them to head home and worry about it for hours or days. I emphasize how important self-care is because, frankly, they can be so hard on themselves. In the classroom, they may struggle with the instructor, content, assignments, grades and peers, but in my office, it's a positive experience. I assure them that they belong here, that they are appreciated, and that they are celebrated like family. My students know that I care. For example, I know that many students develop food insecurities due to monetary or time restraints. Thus, I stock a table with healthy snacks and encourage them to “drop in and grab a quick snack” in between classes or when they are working on research projects in their lab."
Students highly praise her work, dedication and kindness. “During my first quarter as a transfer student, I went through some extreme life changes and emotional roller coasters,” one student said. “I would end up in her office crying my eyes out and in distraught, but she always calmed me down and helped me reach out for other help to get me through my rough patch.”
Another student described Elvira “as by far the most helpful, kind and encouraging adviser I have met at UC Davis. Being a first-generation college student, I require extra help in understanding and executing graduation requirements and other criteria for my future career goals.”
UC Davis faculty and UC Cooperative Extension specialists fared well, with Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, receiving the highest award, the C. W. Woodworth Award. (See news story)
Walter Leal, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won the Award for Excellence in Teaching. (See news story)
Emily Symmes, who received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 2012, and is an agricultural entomologist specializing in integrated pest management (she was formerly with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources), was part of the almond team that won the PBESA Entomology Team Award.
The complete list of recipients, as announced by PBESA President Elizabeth Beers, professor of entomology at Washington State University:
C. W. Woodworth Award
Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Award for Excellence in Teaching
Walter Leal, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Distinction in Student Mentoring
Robert Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management
Surendra Dara, UC Cooperative Extension, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award
Laura Lavine, Washington State University Department of Entomology, Pullman, Wash.
Medical, Urban, and Veterinary Entomology Award
Dong-Hwan Choe, UC Riverside Department of Entomology, Riverside
Excellence in Early Career Award
Priyadarshini Chakrabarti, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.
Entomology Team Work Award
David Haviland (team leader)
UC Cooperative Extension, Bakersfield
Team: Brad Higbee, Charles Burks, Jhalendra Rijal, Emily Symmes, Robert Curtis, Stephanie Rill
John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award
Jacqueline Serrano, who holds a doctorate from UC Riverside, is currently with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) in Wapato, Wash.
Student Leadership Award
Megan Asche, Ph.D candidate, Washington State University Department of Entomology
PBESA encompasses 11 western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming), U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Mandatory coronavirus pandemic precautions led to the canceling of the 104th annual meeting, initially scheduled April 19-22 in Spokane, Wash., announced PBESA president Elizabeth "Betsy" Beers of Washington State University. (See her video update on YouTube).
The three UC Davis faculty members selected for prestigious awards are:
- Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, recipient of the PBESA's highest honor, the C. W. Woodworth Award
- Robert Kimsey, forensic entomologist and associate adjunct professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, recipient of the Distinction in Student Mentoring Award
- Walter Leal, chemical ecologist and distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now Department of Entomology and Nematology), recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching
The virtual meeting will begin at 9 a.m, Pacific Daylight Time; register online here. In her video message, Beers said the last time the meeting was canceled was in 1945. The next PBESA meeting is scheduled in Hawaii in 2021.
PBESA encompasses 11 western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming), U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Capsule information on the recipients:
Lynn Kimsey, C. W. Woodworth Award
Lynn Kimsey was singled out for her 31 years of outstanding accomplishments in research, teaching, education, outreach and public service. "She is an immense credit to the field of entomology; in fact, we rarely see anyone of her caliber come forth, and do as much as she does," wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
An alumnus of UC Davis, Lynn received her undergraduate degree in 1975 and doctorate in 1979. She joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989. Since 1990, she has administered the world-renowned Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses eight million insect specimens and is the seventh largest university insect museum in North America.
Richard M. Bohart, for whom the insect museum is named, served as her major professor and she was his last student. Kimsey's areas of expertise include insect biodiversity, systematics and biogeography of parasitic wasps, urban entomology, civil forensic entomology, and arthropod-related industrial hygiene. She has served in numerous leadership roles at the international, national and local level, including two terms as president of the International Hymenopterists, board member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance, and interim chair and vice chair (twice) of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology).
Professor Kimsey is a recognized global authority on the systematics, biogeography and biology of the wasp families, Tiphiidae and Chrysididae: the author of 127 peer-reviewed publications; and has described more than 270 news species. She is the author of The Chrysidid Wasps of the World (Oxford, co-authored by Richard Bohart), California Cuckoo Wasps in the Family Chrysididae, and Systematics of Bees of the Genus Eufriesea, among others.
She earlier received two other PBESA awards: the Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Award in 2014, and shared the Team Award in 2013 with colleagues Eric Mussen, Robbin Thorp, Neal Williams and Brian Johnson, who were recognized for their collaborative work specializing in honey bees, wild bees and pollination issues through research, education and outreach. (Their service to UC Davis at the time spanned 116 years.) Kimsey won the highly competitive UC Davis Academic Senate Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2016.
The Woodworth award memorializes eminent entomologist Charles William Woodworth (1865-1940), who founded the UC Berkeley Department of Entomology. He excelled in research, teaching and public service. (See previous Woodworth Award recipients.)
Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty for three decades, has served as an associate adjunct professor and lecturer since 1990. He holds two degrees from UC Davis: a bachelor of science degree in 1977 and a doctorate in 1984. He is described as a "trusted advisor, mentor, teacher, friend and confidant--has served above and beyond what is expected."
"His dedication to graduate and undergraduate students as a mentor, advisor and teacher, all intertwined, is beyond exemplary; it is colossal," wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the department. Since 1990, Kimsey has taught and interacted with some 7000 students, including entomology, biology and animal biology majors.
Kimsey, known as “Dr. Bob,” shares with his students his many and varied research interests: public health entomology; arthropods of medical importance; zoonotic disease; biology and ecology of tick-borne pathogens; tick-feeding behavior and biochemistry. He has served as the master advisor for the Animal Biology (ABI) major since 2010 and an ABI lecturer since 2001. He has taught ABI 50A for 20 years, giving lectures and instructing labs to a total of 900 students per year. He has taught ABI 187 for 12 years, presenting material to a total of 450 students.
A U.S. Army veteran, Kimsey served as an instructor of medical entomology, epidemiology and preventive medicine in the Academy of Health Sciences from 1971-1974. He is a past president of the North American Forensic Association (2014-2016). He is the director of the Forensic Sciences and instructor for the San Luis Obispo Fire Death Investigation Strike Team (since 2011) and an instructor and member of the Glen Craig Institute Advisory Committee (since 2012). He is married to Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology (see above).
The recipient of seven outstanding teaching or mentoring awards, Robert Kimsey was named the 2019 UC Davis Outstanding Faculty Advisor of the Year; 2019 Eleanor and Harry Walker Faculty Advising Award from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and a regional faculty advisor award from NACADA, the Global Community for Academic Advising.
His students are highly successful. Under his guidance, they have established careers as professor of microbiology at Cal Poly; campus veterinarian at UC San Diego; Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Sergeant in Molecular Biology for Contra Costa County Sheriff; CSI Sergeant in Trace Evidence, Ballistics and Tool Marks for Contra Costa County Sheriff; CSI for Sacramento City Police, CSI in the Santa Rosa CA Department of Justice (DOJ) Laboratory, DOJ laboratory manager for the Central Region, Rippon, CA; and laboratory manager in the Jan Bashenski DOJ DNA Laboratory. Many others are serving as laboratory technicians in local police and sheriff's units.
Since 1998, Kimsey has co-chaired the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's Picnic Day activities. (This year's event is canceled due to coronavirus pandemic precautions.)
Walter Leal is a distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. A member of the UC Davis faculty since 2000, he has taught insect physiology for 13 years and biochemistry for six years.
In his classrooms, Leal employs the strategic use of digital technology in truly innovative ways to generate animated eReviews, eClarifications, and eSolutions. He teaches, motivates, and inspires. His motto: “I don't teach because I have to; I teach because it is a joy to light the way and to spark the fire of knowledge."
Leal received the 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching from the UC Davis Academic Senate. He is a fellow of four organizations: Entomological Society of America (ESA), National Academy of Inventors, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the California Academy of Sciences. He also received the Gakkaisho (fellow equivalent) from the Japanese Society of Applied Entomology and Zoology.
Leal was the first non-Japanese scientist to earn tenure in the Japan Ministry of Agriculture. His other honors include Technology Prize, Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology and Agrochemistry, Japan; ESA's Nan Yao Su Award for Innovation and Creativity; Silver Medal, International Society of Chemical Ecology; Medal of Achievement, Entomological Society of Brazil; and Corresponding Member, Brazilian Academy of Sciences. Leal co-chaired the 2016 International Congress of Entomology and delivered ESA's 2019 Founders' Memorial Lecture in honor of Tom Eisner, father of chemical ecology.
Wrote nominator James R. Carey, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: "One of the most astonishing responses to a professional talk I have ever witnessed in my entire career—and that is saying something—is the 5-minute standing ovation given to Walter after the 50-minute presentation (“Tom Eisner—An Incorrigible Entomophile and Innovator Par Excellence”) he gave to the over 1,000 attendees at the Founder's Memorial Awards program on the morning of November 19th at the national ESA meetings in St Louis."
"Walter designs and delivers his lectures to engage, encourage and inspire students, prompting them to think, ask questions, and resolve problems," wrote Carey, who received the PBESA teaching award in 2014 and went on to win the national ESA teaching award. "His students appreciate his state-of-the-art technology, dedication, kindness, and enthusiasm, coupled with his finely honed sense of humor."
To register for the virtual meeting, click here.