Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will answer questions from 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. on the Bohart FacebookLive page. It will be recorded for those unable to watch it at that time.
Kimsey, an authority on wasps and bees, is a two-time past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists. 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.
She recently won the C. W. Woodworth Award, the highest honor given by the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. (See news story.)
“We thought people would be interested in talking to a wasp/bee expert given all the news about wasps and with spring coming and more people tuning into nature and their back yards due to sheltering in place,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator. “We anticipate ‘murder hornet' questions.
“We host open houses to connect people directly to scientists,” Yang said. “Since the museum is closed at this time and social distancing is required, we are setting this up so people can connect with Lynn. We hope to do this regularly with other scientists, but this will be our first.”
North America's first known colony of the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, was detected (and destroyed) in September 2019 on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A single V. mandarinia was found dead in Blaine, Wash., in December 2019.
Three entomologists, including Kimsey just published research on this and the 21 other known species of hornets in the genus Vespa, in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity.
The article, “The Diversity of Hornets in the Genus Vespa (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Vespinae); Their Importance and Interceptions in the United States,” is the work of lead author Allan Smith-Pardo, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); and co-authors James Carpenter of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Lynn Kimsey.
The Bohart Museum is also celebrating the birthday anniversary (May 23) of Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy. Linnaeus (1707-1778), was a Swedish botanist zoologist and physician who formalized the modern system of naming organisms. “It's a good time to celebrate biodiversity, scientific discovery, and museum collections,” Yang said.
In addition, talented Bohart student associates have crafted downloadable coloring pages for the family craft activity.
The Bohart also has pre-recorded tours linked to its website http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/
The seminar is from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Assistant professor Brian Johnson will host and introduce her.
"The evolution of highly cooperative, eusocial behavior from solitary ancestry represents one of the major transitions in the evolution of life," says Toth, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Department of Entomology. "Thus, understanding the evolution of insect eusociality can provide important insights into the evolution of complexity. Recently, with the advent of the genomic era, there has been great interest in understanding the molecular underpinnings of social behavior and its evolution. Several hypotheses about how eusociality have been proposed; these ideas can be roughly divided into two camps—one proposes that eusociality involved new (novel, or rapidly evolving) genes, and the other, that old (deeply conserved) genes took on new functions via shifts in gene regulation."
In her seminar, Toth will provide an overview of recent research in her laboratory aiming to address the genomic basis of social evolution in insects, with a focus on gene expression. "Utilizing a comparative approach involving multiple species and lineages of bees and wasps, as well as de novo sequencing of genomes, transcriptomes, and epigenomes, our work aims to trace the types of genomic changes related to the evolutionary transition from solitary to eusocial behavior," she said.
Toth will present results from several lines of research mainly focused on primitively social Polistes paper wasps, that have led to the following insights:
- Relatively minor shifts in gene expression patterns may accompany earlier stages of social evolution
- Convergent evolution of social behavior in different lineages involves similar gene expression patterns in a small set of key pathways, and
- Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation are variable across species and evolutionarily labile.
"Although more data on additional solitary and social species, and on novel genes, are needed, the emerging picture is that earlier transitions from solitary to simple eusociality involved relatively small changes in gene expression and regulation," she said.
Toth said she is especially interested in the mechanisms and evolution of insect sociality, using paper wasps and honey bees as model systems.
Toth received her bachelor's degree in biology in 2006 from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York and her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2006 from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she was advised by major professor Gene Robinson. She did postdoctoral work with Christina Grozinger at Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa. where she was a USDA postdoctoral fellow. She focused on uncovering conserved molecular pathways for social insect reproduction and social behavior. Earlier she was a postdoctoral research associate with the Department of Entomology and Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, where she studied with advisor Gene Robinson. Her work centered on genomic analyses of insect social behavior.
Plans call for recording her seminar for later posting on UCTV.
Upcoming noon-hour speakers in 122 Briggs Hall are
Topic: "Molecular Mechanisms of Hookworm Infection"
Research Center for Neglected Diseases of Poverty, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine, The George Washington University
Nominator/host: Steve Nadler
John "Jack" Longino
Title of Seminar: "Project ADMAC: Ant Diversity of the Mesoamerican Corridor"
Professor of Biology
Adjunct Curator of Entomology, Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Nominator/host: Phil Ward, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Title of Seminar: "One Butterfly, Six Host Shifts"
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences
Specialty: Butterfly ecology and behavior
(Formerly with University of Texas, Austin, Texas)
Nominator/host: Meredith Cenzer, graduate student, Louie Yang lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Dragonflies, cabbage white butterflies, skippers, and honey bees especially drew his attention.
His choice of a career—entomologist, botanist, paleontologist, anthropologist, herpetologist, everything with an “ist”—“rested largely on what I could sneak into the house,” Grissell quipped, recalling that his mother wasn't terribly enthusiastic about bugs or snakes. In fact, she hated them. “But I could hide a lot more bugs in my bedroom than I could snakes—take my word on it!”
“I eventually gravitated to what was most abundant in my habitat, namely plants and bugs,” Grissell, would later write in his chapter, ‘City Toads and Country Bugs,” in Jean Adams' book, Insect Potpourri: Adventures in Entomology. “Of the two, insects fulfilled a more immediate need than did plants. After all chasing butterflies was a lot more stimulating than chasing dandelions.”
Born Aug. 10, 1944 in Washington, D.C., Eric lived in San Francisco from 1947 to 1952. His adventures led to his first published paid story ($2) in 1954 at age 12 in the San Francisco Examiner. “It was about a crawfish.”
E. Eric Grissell went on to receive his master's degree and doctorate in entomology from the University of California, Davis, completing his Ph.D. in 1973. Grateful for the advice, encouragement, and opportunities given him, he is now giving back to the university that mentored, molded and motivated him.
The entomology fund is geared for undergraduate and graduate students studying insect systematics, with preference for students associated with the Department of Entomology and Nematology's Bohart Museum of Entomology, named for his major professor, Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007).
The botany fund is in appreciation for the mentoring, advice and assistance Grissell received from UC Davis botanist John Maurice Tucker, “Dr. Oak” (1916-2008), professor and longtime director of the UC Davis Herbarium. (See more information about the herbarium and its founders).
“My thesis and dissertation dealt with parasitoid wasps that prey on gall-forming insects (some of which cause gall formation on oaks),” Grissell said. “Any botanist at Davis during the last half-century knows that Dr. Oak was the foremost authority on the oak genus at the time.” Tucker identified Grissell's specimens and “was always willing to help.”
Grissell received Sigma Xi and National Science Foundation grants to survey the western states for oak galls and reared parasitoids. Today many Grissell oak specimens are housed in the herbarium.
“I ended up essentially minoring in botany because I've always had an interest in plants,” Grissell said.
Fast forward to today. “The main reason I am supporting students in both the Plant Science and Entomology departments is that I received support when I needed it in the form of jobs from Richard Bohart (work study, research assistantship), much needed guidance and advice from John Tucker, and encouragement from both. Dick and his wife Margaret even housed and fed me for his last year of study.
“The Law Family Award is named in recognition of the moral support given by family members who never understood my attraction to bugs but opted not to place me in a mental institution where I would have been much better off,” he joked.
Following his UC Davis studies, Grissell accepted a position as a taxonomic entomologist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services until 1978. From 1978 to 2005, he worked as a research entomologist for the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), located at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History. During his periods of employment, Grissell authored more than 100 papers, and served as editor of the Journal of Hymenoptera Research for seven years. Although retiring in 2005, he continues his work as a Smithsonian Institution research associate with the Museum of Natural History, and is a former adjunct associate professor at the University of Maryland.
Grissell authored several books published by Timber Press, including Bees, Wasps, and Ants: the Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens (2010); Insects and Gardens, in Pursuit of a Garden Ecology, published in 2001 and recipient of two of the "Top 10" 2002 Garden Globe Awards presented by the Garden Writers Association of America -- one for Best Book and one for Best Writer; and another award from the American Horticultural Society); A Journal in Thyme(published in 1994); and Thyme on My Hands (published in 1987). He is currently writing a book on the history of garden zinnias. He hopes to finish the book, about three-fourths finished, by the middle of next year. “I've tried to make the book readable by including many odds and ends associated with the garden zinnia.”
In his book, Bees, Wasps and Ants, he writes: “Few insects are more important than bees, wasps, and ants. They maintain the garden's biological balance, fertilize vegetables, fruits, and flowers, and recycle nutrients within the soil. It's no exaggeration to say that a garden can't be understood without an understanding of its insects.”
Grissell and fellow UC Davis entomologist Arnold Menke nominated Bohart for the International Society of Hymenopterists Distinguished Research Medal, which he received at a ceremony held May 15, 2006 in Briggs Hall. They also coedited an honorary edition of the Pan-Pacific Entomologist (vol. 59) on the occasion of Bohart's 70th birthday. “Doc Bohart” died Feb. 1, 2007 in Berkeley.
Menke, a decade older than Grissell, was a postgraduate student in the Richard Bohart lab when Grissell was an undergraduate. “I knew him because I helped Dick catalog wasps for his book,” Grissell recalled. “Arnold took a job with the Systematic Entomology Laboratory when he graduated and then a number of years later, I took a job in the same lab a few doors down the hallway in the U.S. National Museum. I lived near Arnold and we commuted to work together until he retired.“ Today they live about 60 miles from each other.
“Eric was one of a group of Doc Bohart's favorite students,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, professor of entomology at UC Davis, and one of Bohart's last graduate students. She received her doctorate from UC Davis in 1979 and joined the faculty in 1989. “Eric is an excellent insect taxonomist and his research and writings have always brought together his interest in insects and plants. His generosity with this scholarship will help support and encourage students who share these interests.”
Using state-of-the-art genome sequencing and bioinformatics, the researchers resolved a long-standing, unanswered evolutionary question. Scientists previously thought that ants and bees were more distantly related, with ants being closer to certain parasitoid wasps.
Ants, bees and stinging wasps all belong to the aculeate (stinging) Hymenoptera clade -- the group in which social behavior is most extensively developed, said senior author and ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at UC Davis.
"Despite great interest in the ecology and behavior of these insects, their evolutionary relationships have never been fully clarified. In particular, it has been uncertain how ants—the world’s most successful social insects—are related to bees and wasps," Ward said. "We were able to resolve this question by employing next-generation sequencing technology and advances in bioinformatics. This phylogeny, or evolutionary tree, provides a new framework for understanding the evolution of nesting, feeding and social behavior in Hymenoptera."
“With a phylogeny or evolutionary progression that we think is reliable and robust, we can now start to understand how various morphological and/or behavioral traits evolved in these groups of insects, and even examine the genetic basis of these phenotypic changes,” Chiu said.
Johnson, whose lab studies the genetics, behavior, evolution and health of honeybees, noted that the study showed that ants and bees are more closely related than previously thought.
The scientists combined data from the transcriptome -- showing which genes are active and being transcribed from DNA into RNA-- and genomic (DNA) data from a number of species of ants, bees and wasps, including bradynobaenid wasps, a cuckoo wasp, a spider wasp, a scoliid wasp, a mud dauber wasp, a tiphiid wasp, a paper wasp and a pollen wasp; a velvet ant (wasp); a dracula ant; and a sweat bee, Lasioglossum albipes.
Of particular interest was the finding that ants are a sister group to the Apoidea, a major group within Hymenoptera that includes bees and sphecid wasps (a family of wasps that includes digger wasps and mud daubers).
The UC Davis results also provide a new perspective on lower Cretaceous fossil Cariridris bipetiolata, originally claimed to be the oldest fossil ant. Scientists later reinterpreted it to be a spheciform wasp.
“Our discovery that ants and apoids are sister taxa helps to explain difficulty in the placement of Cariridris,” the authors wrote in the paper, “and suggests that it is best treated as a lineage close to the root of the ant-apoid tree, perhaps not assignable with certainty to either branch.”
The scientists discovered that the ancestral aculeate wasp was likely an ectoparasitoid, which attacks and paralyzes a host insect and leaves its offspring nearby where they can attach to the outside of the host and feed from it.
The research drew financial support from UC Davis.