“Honorary Membership acknowledges those who have served ESA for at least 20 years through significant involvement in the affairs of the society that has reached an extraordinary level,” ESA officials said in announcing the three recipients on Aug. 24. “Candidates for this honor are selected by the ESA Governing Board and then voted on by the ESA membership.”
“I am honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Leal, a distinguished biochemistry professor with the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a former chair of the Department of Entomology (now the Department of Entomology and Nematology). “It is truly a highlight of my career.”
Other 2022 Honorary Member recipients are research entomologist Alvin Simmons of the USDA Agricultural Research Service whom Leal fondly calls “my twin brother”; and research entomologist and UC Davis-educated Melody Keena of the U.S. Forest Service.
Leal and Simmons co-chaired the 2016 International Congress of Entomology conference, “Entomology Without Borders,” held in Orlando, Florida, that drew nearly 7000 attendees from 101 countries. It was the largest gathering of entomologists in the history of insect science.
Keena received three UC Davis degrees in entomology: her bachelor's degree in 1983; her master's in 1985, and her doctorate in 1988. (See her website.)
Leal, Simmons and Keena will be recognized during the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Societies of America, Canada, and British Columbia, Nov. 13-16, in Vancouver.
As a leading global scientist and inventor in the field of insect olfaction and communication, Leal was named a 2019 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) for his impact in the fields of molecular, cellular biology, and entomology. (Due to the COVID pandemic, the organization cancelled the 2020 Phoenix ceremony and Leal received the medal in June 2022.)
“When Walter Leal reached UC Davis, he came with the reputation of being a ‘one man army in research,'” said UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock who received the NAI Fellow award in 2014. Hammock holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This reputation was well deserved. I know of no one at UC Davis who matches Walter in taking his remarkable fundamental advances in science and translating them to increase the safety and magnitude of world food production.”
Leal, an expert in insect communication, investigates how insects detect odors, connect and communicate within their species; and detect host and non-host plant matter. His research, spanning three decades, targets insects that carry mosquito-borne diseases as well as agricultural pests that damage and destroy crops. He and his lab drew international attention with their discovery of the mode of action of DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents.
Leal was recently elected chair of the International Congress of Entomology Council, which selects a country to host the congress every four years and which supports the continuity of the international congresses of entomology. Leal succeeds prominent entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, editor-in-chief of the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a 2014 recipient of the National Medal of Science.
“I have big shoes to fill,” he said.
Federal Grants. For the last 22 years, Leal's research program has drawn support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, commodity groups, research agreements, and gifts from various donors.
He has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers in a variety of entomology and multidisciplinary journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), Nature, iScience, Journal of Medical Entomology, Insect Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology. His research, with an h-index of 61, has been cited more than 13,500 times.
A native of Brazil, educated in Brazil and Japan, and fluent in Portuguese, Japanese and English, Leal received his master's degree and doctorate in Japan: his master's degree at Mie University in 1987, and his doctorate in applied biochemistry at Tsukuba University in 1990. Leal then conducted research for 10 years at Japan's National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Science and the Japan Science and Technology Agency before joining the faculty of the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 2000. He chaired the department from July 2006 to February 2008.
Leal has served ESA for more than two decades, organizing symposia at the annual meetings, and serving as secretary, president, and past president of the ESA Integrative Physiological and Molecular Insect Systems section, now the Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology section. “He organized more than a dozen program and section symposia and included outstanding scholars and newly minted ESA members as speakers or co-organizers,” ESA noted. “These symposia included sponsored luncheons, social hours, and discussion sessions to promote interaction among attendees and speakers and build and cement collaborations.”
Highly Honored by Peers. Highly honored by his peers, Leal is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (2015) and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2005), ESA (2009), and California Academy of Sciences (2015). He received both the Medal of Achievement (1995) and the Medal of Science (2008) from the Entomological Society of Brazil and the 1998 Gakkaisho from the Japanese Society of Applied Entomology and Zoology. In 2019, ESA selected him to deliver the Founders' Memorial Lecture on "Tom Eisner: An Incorrigible Entomophile and Innovator Par Excellence."
The International Society of Chemical Ecology honored him with its Silverstein-Simeone Award (2007) and the Silver Medal (2012). In 2012, Leal was elected to the Brazilian Academy of Science (inducted in 2013). For his creativity in entomology, Leal received ESA's Nan Yao Su Award (2011) and was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (2019). The UC Davis Academic Senate awarded him both the Distinguished Teaching Award (2020) and the Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award (2022).
Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wrote the news article on "An Amazing Doctoral Opportunity Few Receive,” in March of 2021. The article won the “writing for newspapers” category. (See https://bit.ly/3MfuaLn)
“When five-year-old Rebecca Jean “RJ” Millena entered her kindergarten class in Concord, Calif., she immediately settled on a career choice: entomology,” Garvey began.
“An ‘About Me' poster hanging in her childhood home in Concord confirms it: ‘When I grow up, I want to be an entomologist.'
“She did and she is.”
Millena, who over a two-year-period worked as a student researcher in the laboratory of UC Davis distinguished professor Jay Rosenheim, studied the bizarre Strepsiptera endoparasites that attack their hosts, the Ammophila (thread-waisted) wasps. Millena went on to receive her bachelor's degree in entomology in 2021, and a rare four-year, full-ride doctoral fellowship from the American Museum of Natural History.
While at UC Davis, Millena studied Ammophila specimens at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses a worldwide collection of more than 30,000 Ammophila (among the Bohart's eight million specimens). As larvae, members of the order Strepsiptera, known as “twisted wings,” enter theirs hosts, including wasps and bees, through joints or sutures.
Millena drew information and inspiration from UC Davis alumnus Arnold Menke, a global authority on Ammophila and author of "The Ammophila of North and Central America (Hymenoptera, Sphecidae).
“Strepsiptera are very unusual among parasites in that the parasite is visible on the outside of the host's body,” Rosenheim explained. “The head of the parasite protrudes between the sclerites on the abdomen. Looking across a growing list of species, RJ has shown that Ammophila species where mothers have more extended contact with their young--because they provision their nests with many, small caterpillars instead of one giant caterpillar-- are at much greater risk of acting as inadvertent vectors of strepsipteran parasites to their young.”
“RJ has shown that this one feature explains something like 90 percent of the total variation across Ammophila species in the risk of parasitism,” Rosenheim said. “Ecology virtually never works in such a predictable way; this is one truly exceptional counterexample of nature being highly predictable. Anyway, RJ's work shows that sometimes parental care can be a double-edged sword; we usually think of parental care as providing enhanced protection of offspring from predators and parasites. In this case, it proves to be the reverse.”
Also quoted in the news story was Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology: “RJ is one of those rare students that is focused, task-oriented and simultaneously creative. She was great fun to have working in the museum.”
Entomology Photo Series Award
Garvey also won the ACE silver award (second-place) for her picture story on “The Flight of the Bumble Bee,” posted June 14, 2021 on her daily (Monday through Friday) Bug Squad blog on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website. (See https://bit.ly/3xuoPLN)
Garvey captured in-flight images of a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, foraging on lupine at Bodega Bay. In her blog, she drew attention to two books: California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014), the work of University of California scientists Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter; and Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014), co-authored by Thorp (1933-2019), a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology.
ACE, an international association of communicators, educators and information technologists who focus on communicating research-based information, will present the communication awards at its 2022 conference, set June 12-14, in Kansas City, MO.
And you'll see arthropods such as jumping spiders (family Salticidae) and scorpions (superfamily Scorpionoidea).
Who is Gwentomologist?
She's 21-year-old Gwendolyn “Gwen” Erdosh, a UC Davis entomology major and undergraduate researcher with 21,900 followers on Instagram, where she shares her fascination, passion and growing scientific knowledge of entomology with the intensity of a moth heading for light.
Erdosh, president of the UC Davis Entomology Club, a scholar in the campuswide Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIB), the recipient of a Provost's Undergraduate Fellowship (PUF) research award, and a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, brims with enthusiasm.
In a recent post, she related how she “raised this gorgeous female Hemileuca eglanterina (sheep moth) from a tiny caterpillar!! First time successfully rearing these species. I got a male and female, and I was hoping they'd mate but it never happened. Guess they didn't like each other. I have some eggs overwintering, and I hope they make it ‘til the spring!”
“The best way to see the adult is to rear caterpillars,” Gwen noted. “In the past, I attempted to rear the caterpillars and ran out of host plant. With no method of transportation to the high sierras, I had to give them rose leaves, which worked…until it didn't. They all got a disease and died. This time, I had tons of host plant, and was able to return to the mountains in my car to get more (they eat way more than you'd expect). I'm really happy that I was able to raise this species successfully, and hope to do it again next spring! The insect season is coming to a close, but certain species only come out around this time, so I'll be on the lookout.”
In another post, Gwen wrote that “Today I took on a difficult task: identifying a Chrysidid wasp to species! These colorful wasps are commonly known as cuckoo wasps. This is a specimen I collected on July 13 of this year, a few miles south of Lake Tahoe, at Carson Pass.
Gwen went on to describe the wasp as a nest parasite of sand wasps, and detail its characteristics. “The mesopleuron has a projecting lobe, the tegula (on top of thorax at base of wing) is subovoid, meaning it's fairly egg-shaped. The metanotal projection is large and #mucronate, meaning it ends abruptly in a sharp point, not an elongated point; the propodeal angle is shaped like an acute triangle. I was able to find the species by looking at the key combined with location records. Based on both sources of information, I concluded that my specimen was Parnopes edwardsii.”
“On my page, I mainly post my own macro-photographs with detailed captions about the featured insect,” Gwen explained. “My goal is to not only teach others, but also learn a lot myself. I also post fun and engaging videos to encourage others to pursue entomology. Many times, people have told me that my page helped them decide that they wanted to pursue entomology as a career! I love being able to spread the love of insects to others, and will continue to be active on my page.” Additionally, she maintains a YouTube account as “gwentomologist.”
A 2018 graduate of Los Gatos High School, Santa Clara County, and a UC Davis student since 2019, she anticipates receiving her bachelor's degree in 2023. In February 2020, she applied for—and was accepted—into the highly competitive RSPIB program, which aims to provide undergraduates with closely mentored research experiences in biology. She studies with community ecologist and professor Louie Yang, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, one of the three RSPIB founders.
Gwen's interest in entomology began with caterpillars.
“Ever since I can remember, I have always loved caterpillars,” Gwen said. “As a little kid, I would collect any caterpillar I saw and raise it to adulthood.” Amazed that a caterpillar could "magically change” into a moth or butterfly, she decided “to make a book matching every caterpillar to its adult. I did my own research online and in books I had, and soon was quite knowledgeable about Lepidoptera. The summer before 9th grade, I attended Bio Boot camp, the summer camp for kids led by the Bohart Museum, and Tabatha Yang (education and outreach coordinator). “This was the experience that led me to choose entomology as a career. During this camp, I learned everything about entomology and had a chance to meet real entomologists at UC Davis, and do field work. I fell in love with it and kept coming back each summer for the camp.”
Gwen started her own insect collection, inspired by Jeff Smith (curator of the Bohart Museum's Lepidoptera collection). “Since then, I have never doubted my decision to be an entomologist, not even once. My passion only grew once I entered college, and I consider entomology a lifelong journey of discovering everything about these beautiful, intricate, and fascinating creatures.”
“Gwen is one of those students who instantly shows you her enthusiasm and enjoyment of entomology," Smith said, "and it is just this kind of person who we hope will continue in this important field of science. For those of us looking ahead at the oncoming 'golden years' we need to ensure that there will be competent young scientists who will continue the research and who will discover so many more fascinating things about the world of ‘bugs.' Gwen clearly will be one of these, and I am proud to be associated with her.”
Following her UC Davis graduation, she plans “to work abroad for a year in South America doing research. I then want to apply for graduate school in the United States. I may decide to get my masters first in systematics, and then decide if I want to get my PhD in insect ecology or insect systematics. I cannot decide between the two. However, I definitely want to pursue a career as a professor and researcher.”
Some of her role models include Louie Yang, Lynn Kimsey (director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor), Greg Kareofelas (Bohart associate), Jason Bond (UC Davis spider specialist, professor and associate dean), and Jason Dombroskie (manager of the Cornell University Insect Collection and coordinator of the Insect Diagnostic Lab.)
“It is always great to see someone be able to pursue their passion and be successful,” Kareofelas said, adding that Gwen sometimes accompanies him on his many field trips and “she is always welcome. Her enthusiasm, knowledge and energy make these trips a memorable and learning event for both of us! Her photographic skills enable her to record the insects ‘in nature' and as a curated specimen. Her curated specimens are an example of how a collection should be made and how it should look.”
As a 15-year-old high school student, Gwen traveled to the Bohart Museum in 2016 for its annual Moth Night and conferred with many of the scientists.
At age 16, she served an entomology internship at Cornell University, where her work included identifying microlepidoptra in the family Tortricidae; sampling monarch butterflies for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) spores; catching and tagging the gray petaltail dragonfly (Petalurid) at a local state park; and collecting, identifying and presenting moths for a Moth Night program at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.
That was not her first internship. Gwen gained experience at a five-week internship in the summer of 2018 at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Costa Rica, where she studied insects, conducted tours, and cared for the arthropods in the insectarium.
At age 12, while attending Bio Boot Camp, Gwen learned about the UC Davis Entomology Club, advised by forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “It had always been my dream to be president one day. From the moment I entered UC Davis, I immersed myself in the club, and became extremely active in it.” She attends all the meetings and field trips; the members now include some of her closest friends. Before advancing to president this year, she served as vice president in 2020 and social media coordinator in 2019.
“I'm super passionate about the club,” Gwen acknowledged. “In fact, it's my favorite time of the week during the quarter. The people in the club are absolutely incredible, and we all inspire each other in so many different ways. I feel so grateful that this organization exists at UC Davis, and I'm glad I have a team of officers that really put in the work to make it an inclusive, fun, and educational environment for anyone who wants to join.”
In addition, Gwen is vice president of the UC Davis STEM Careers Club, booking speakers, and inspiring students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has also worked as a youth steward for Grassroots Ecology of Central California (removing invasive plants, planting native grasses and trees, and surveying mammals and birds using a motion-activated camera); and as a volunteer counselor at the Walden West Summer Camp, a nature summer camp for elementary-school age youths.
Although sometimes mistaken for a teenager--“I look young for my age and I'm 5' 1”--Gwen doesn't let that stop her. “I now have accepted who I am and I do not let what others think of me affect me or my goals. I am glad that I am unique!”
Tabatha Yang of the Bohart Museum, coordinator of the Bio Boot camps, remembers Gwen as passionate about entomology when she first enrolled as a middle-school student. "She was an enthusiastic camper with applications that were passionate about insects and insect rearing. We were thrilled when she chose to come to UC Davis for entomology. It doesn't surprise me that she is now president of the entomology club."
Gwen's hobbies and interests closely align with her career plans. They include collecting, photographing, and pinning insects; exploring and observing wildlife; traveling; creating art; producing music on FL Studio (digital audio workstation); and spending time with her friends—two-legged friends (people), six-legged friends (insects) and eight-legged friends (arachnids).
Gwendolyn Erdosh, Gwentomologist.
So begins an article in the current edition of the American Entomologist by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey details how teaching a course in general entomology can be both eye-opening and entertaining. Some of the sentences that the students wrote on their papers appear in the Bohart Museum's 2019 calendar, complete with illustrations by graphic artist and undergraduate entomology student, Karissa Merritt.
For the article, Kimsey divides choice sentences into categories, including social insects, agricultural pests, mosquitoes and medical entomology, aquatic insects, butterflies and "sundry."
A few examples:
- Honeybees were able to find their way home by navigating around the sun.
- Because the males in the Hymenoptera social structure do no work, they are considered a waste of the colony's energy, and as such, they are only laid when the colony can stand the strain.
- Normally, locusts are introverted creatures; they do not socialize unless it is for reproduction
- 300,000 to 500,000 new cases [of malaria] occur annually, of which 2.7 million are fatal.
- Aerial spraying should be done as a last resort since this leads to mosquito resistance, affects American lobsters and human health.
- The infected fleas can harbor rats, ground squirrels, rabbits, and occasionally, even house cats.
- Water bodies are usually slow moving and narrow so that they may burrow, crawl along the bottom and climb vegetation.
- Although caterpillars are vulnerable and young, their ability to protect against predators has helped them become successful predators.
- However, at the end of the day, a pit-building antlion is a fat sack of poop that lies motionless at the bottom of a hole waiting for food to fall directly into its jaws, and that's a lifestyle I fully endorse.
- Some West African tribes are known to be very fond of certain insects, although sometimes more with the children.
Kimsey concluded: "I can't wait for next year to learn more about new things that insects do and how they do them. Through all of this, I'm hoping to create the next generation of entomologists, while teaching them how to write and continuing to collect more wonderful sentences."
The American Entomologist is a publication of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), the world's largest entomological organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and others in related disciplines.
Kimsey, who received both her undergraduate degree (1975) and her doctorate (1979) from UC Davis, joined the entomology faculty in 1989. The director of the Bohart Museum and executive director of the Bohart Museum Society since 1990, she has also served as interim chair and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Kimsey won the UC Davis Academic Senate's Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2016. The annual award recognizes a faculty member's significant public service contributions that benefit the local, regional, national, and/or international community.
She twice served as president of the International Society of Hymenopterists, and is a former board member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance. She is active in ESA and the Washington Entomological Society. The Pacific Branch of ESA (PBESA) honored her and colleagues Eric Mussen, Robbin Thorp, Neal Williams and Brian Johnson—“the UC Davis Bee Team”--with the outstanding team award in 2013. Kimsey also received the PBESA Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Award in 2014.
The award-winning UC Berkeley-UC Davis Linnaean Games Team will vie for the national championship at the Entomological Society of America's annual meeting, set Nov. 11-14 in the Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, B.C.
The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts and played by winners of the ESA branch competitions. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team is comprised of captain Ralph Washington Jr., a UC Davis entomology graduate who is studying public policy at UC Berkeley; UC Davis doctoral students Brendon Boudinot, Jill Oberski and Zachary Griebenow, all of Phil Ward lab, specializing in ants; and UC Davis doctoral student Emily Bick of the Christian Nansen lab, a lab that specializes in insect ecology, integrated pest management and remote sensing.
The UC Davis Linnaean Games Team, captained by Washington, won the national championship twice, defeating the University of Georgia in 2016 and the University of Florida in 2015. Boudinot served on both championship teams, and Bick, the 2016 team.
Last year UC Davis did not compete. Texas A&M won the national championship, with Ohio State University finishing second.
The national preliminaries will begin at noon Sunday, Nov. 11 while the finals will get underway at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Members of the winning team will each receive a gold medal and and a plaque for the team's department.
The UC Berkeley-UC Davis team won the regional championship at the Linnaean Games hosted by the Pacific Branch of ESA at its meeting June 10-13 in Reno. They defeated Washington State University in a sudden death overtime to win the title.
Among the questions asked at the regional competition:
Question: Name the fungal agent that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes white muscardine disease and is commercially packaged as a biological insecticide for the control of termites, whiteflies, and other insect pests?
Answer: Beauveria bassiana
Question: Name the process through which spiders use silk to fly and disperse.
Question: Where are you most likely to encounter a rheophilic insect?
Answer: In moving streams.
Theme of the ESA meeting is “Sharing Insect Science Globally.” This year it is a joint meeting with the Entomological Societies of Canada and British Columbia.
The 7000-member ESA, founded in 1889, is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and individuals in related disciplines. It is affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government.
Videos of the championship matches:
All videos of the national Linnaean Games championships are posted here.
Entomology Today, published by ESA, posted a preview of the 2018 Linnaean Games. Author Emily Justus, a graduate student in entomology, Ohio State University, interview some of the participants. She wrote: "Another common thread between teams is that they believe having a well-rounded team gives them an edge. Zach Griebenow, a member of UC Davis/Berkeley team, attributes their success to the members of his team being broadly knowledgeable, and he says he believes that all successful teams have this in common."