- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
No, time's fun when you're studying flies!
Nearly a dozen fly researchers from throughout the UC Davis campus will greet the public and explain their research at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane. The event, themed “Time's Fun When Studying Flies," is free, open to the public, and family friendly.
The open house will showcase botflies, fruit flies, assassin flies, mosquitoes and other members of the Diptera order. Ten scientists, including undergraduate students, graduate students and a visiting scholar, are scheduled to participate. They will display specimens, photos and field equipment and chat with the public.
"Besides checking out the flies, this is also a good time for visitors to inquire about graduate school, ask about starting research projects, and to meet people working in forensics, evolution, agriculture, animal behavior, genetics, geography, and home pests, among other topics," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart's butterfly and moth section, will be on hand to open the Diptera section. "He will dust off and put on his pest industry hat to talk about those relevant flies," Yang said.
A family craft activity is also planned.
Among the fly researchers participating will be fourth-year doctoral candidate Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies assassin fly (Asilidae) systematics with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology.
She lists other interesting facts about assassin flies:
- They are venomous! Their venom both immobilizes their prey and starts extra-oral digestion.
- They have very fancy facial hair (beards and mustaches) called a mystax, thought to protect their face while they catch and eat their prey.
- Some assassin flies are very selective in their prey choice and may have specialized venom to help them overcome their prey.
- There are more than 7,500 species found all over the world!
“I am currently working on a few projects: An Asiloidea Phylogeny, Predator-Prey Dynamics of Asilidae and their kin, and a few side projects including the revision of Ablautus, and Nearctic Saropogon,” Alberts says. She is also interested in assassin fly venom and how it may have evolved to target certain prey taxa. In addition, she teaches basic entomology and art in a UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program course.
Graduate student Socrates Letana, who also studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey. researches the evolution and diversification of botflies (Oestridae) "in the global mammal host-space with special emphasis on the New World." Part of his research interests include Diptera systematics, biogeography and Southeast Asian biodiversity. He is a research associate with the California State Collection of Arthropods, California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The larvae of botflies are internal parasites of mammals; some species grow in the host's flesh and others within the gut. Dermatobia hominis is known as the only species of botfly known to parasitize humans routinely.
UC Davis undergraduate researcher Cindy Truong of the Joanna Chiu lab, will be showing flies in various life stages and provide coloring pages for kids. "We primarily study circadian rhythm, which is the sleep and wake cycle. More specifically we study the mechanisms in which 'clock proteins' go through in order to maintain this cycle." She will expand on "How flies tell time.”
Christine Tabuloc, graduate student researcher in the Chiu lab, will discuss her work on fruit flies. "My current focus is to investigate the effects of climatic change on gene expression of an invasive pest and determine whether there is a correlation to resistance and survival," she said. "In addition to pest management research, I am also studying a kinase of a core clock protein in Drosophila melanogaster and hoping to dissect its functional contribution to the molecular oscillator."
Others from the Chiu lab participating will be Yao Cai, a doctoral graduate student who studies genetic mechanisms underlying the regulation of organismal behavior, and undergraduate researcher Christopher Ochoa.
The presenters also will include fruit fly, forensics and mosquito experts:
- Kathlyne-Inez Soukhaseum of the Frank Zalom lab will talk about her research on the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, a major agricultural pest that invaded California in 2008.
- Danielle Wishon, a forensic entomologist who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis, will discuss how flies are used in forensics. She hopes to enroll in graduate school at Purdue University.
- Nermeen Raffat, visiting scholar in the Sharon Lawler lab, will focus on mosquito larvae. He is working on "the effect of copper sulphate and other toxicants on the development and anti-predatory behavior of the mosquitoes larvae."
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007), is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids. The gift shop is stocked with newly published calendars, books, jewlery, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals.
The Bohart Museum is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ or contact (530) 753-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
She delivered her presentation on “Phylogenetic Relationships of Spider Flies (Acroceridae) – Discordance, Uncertainty and the Perils of Phylogenomics.” Acrocerid adults are floral visitors, and some are specialized pollinators, while the larvae are internal parasitoids of spiders.
Approximately 350 delegates attended the conference; the scientists focus on the Diptera order, which includes houseflies, mosquitoes, and gnats. Gillung was among 40 students presenting their research.
Gillung studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; mentor Shaun Winterton of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and collaborator Phil Ward, UC Davis professor of entomology.
UC Davis doctoral students Charlotte Herbert Alberts and Socrates Letana, who both study with Kimsey, also presented their work; Alberts delivered an oral presentation on her research (she studies Asilidae (Assassin flies), and Letana displayed a poster on bot flies.
Presenting the award to Gillung was Professor Thomas Pape of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and chair of the Council for the International Congresses of Dipterology, which organizes the conferences. The next Congress takes place in 2022 in California.
In her abstract, Gillung described spider flies “as a monophyletic group of lower Brachycera currently classified into three subfamilies, 55 genera and ca 530 species.”
“The group has long been considered a rogue taxon and its placement within the Diptera tree of life remains uncertain,” she wrote. “Phylogenetic relationships among lineages of spider flies are by contrast relatively well established, with hypotheses proposed based on molecular data from both Sanger and high-throughput sequencing. Phylogenomic estimation of spider fly relationships yields different topologies, depending on whether data is coded and analyzed as nucleotides or as amino acids. The most significant difference among the two data types is in the monophyly of Panopinae; a morphologically and ecologically recognizable group, that is recovered as monophyletic only in the analyses of nucleotides. This study uses Acroceridae as a system to explore the effects of potential confounding factors in phylogenomic reconstruction. This research takes advantage of modern and powerful statistical approaches, including posterior predictive simulation, to understand the effects of conflict, uncertainty and systematic error in the estimation of evolutionary relationships using the standard phylogenomic toolkit.”
Gillung, to receive her doctorate this month, will present her exit seminar on “Evolution of Fossil and Living Spider Flies (Diptera, Acroceridae): A Tale of Conflict and Uncertainty” at 2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14 in 122 Briggs Hall.
"Parasitoid flies," Gillung wrote in her abstract for her Dec. 14 seminar, "are some of the most remarkable, yet poorly known groups of insects. Represented by over 10,000 species distributed in 21 families, dipteran parasitoids comprise over 100 independent lineages, offering an unparalleled system to understanding the origin, evolution and diversification of the parasitoid life history. My dissertation research unraveled the systematics, evolution and biology of a lineage of dipteran parasitoids specialized in spiders, Acroceridae, commonly known as spider flies. My research resulted in a monograph of fossil spider flies, and a robust hypothesis for the pattern and timing of spider fly evolution based on high throughput sequencing. Through the combination of DNA sequence data obtained via Sanger sequencing with morphological characters, I also estimated their relationships among spider fly genera using an extensive taxon sampling which culminated in a new taxonomic classification for the family.”
Gillung has accepted a postdoctoral position at Cornell University, Ithaca, beginning Jan. 2. She will be working with Bryan Danforth on Apoidea (stinging wasps and bees) phylogenomics, evolution and diversification.
She recently was named the recipient of the prestigious 2018 Student Leadership Award, presented by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), which represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
A native of Brazil, Jessica holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil and a master's degree in zoology from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She speaks four languages fluently: Portuguese, Spanish, English and German.