- (Focus Area) Agriculture
Research Highlight Editor Lysa Maron spotlighted the work in her article, “Breaking or Sneaking into the Fortress: the Root Endodermis is a Defence Wall Against Nematode Infection.” The journal also showcased the research team's image of a nematode on the cover.
Siddique led the 10-member international research team in discovering the role of a plant's endodermal barrier system in defending against plant-parasitic nematodes. The Plant Journal published the research, “Root Endodermal Barrier System Contributes to Defence against Plant‐Parasitic Cyst and Root-Knot Nematodes, in its July 19 edition.
“We discovered that the integrity of the endodermis—a specialized cell layer that surrounds the vascular system and helps regulate the flow of water, ions and minerals--is important to restrict nematode infection,” said Siddique, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Nematology who joined the faculty in March after serving several years at the University of Bonn.
“We found that having defects in endodermis make it easier for parasites to reach the vascular cylinder and establish their feeding site. Although, this finding is a result of basic research, it opens new avenues to for breeding resistance against cyst nematodes in crops.”
Maron noted that “Roots are a truly amazing plant structure: they conquer the underground, form complex structures that anchor the plant, let water and nutrients in, but must not dry out. Roots store energy, send signals to the aboveground parts of the plant and to neighbors, and defend the plant against soil-borne pathogens. Within the root, the endodermis is the barrier that separates the inner vasculature from the outer cortex. If the root is a fortress, the endodermis is the gated wall. Cell wall reinforcements such as the casparian strip (CS), lignin deposition, and suberin seal the apoplast of the endodermis throughout different parts of the root. These reinforcements allow the diffusion of water and nutrients to and from the vascular tissue while blocking its penetration by pathogens such as bacteria and fungi (Enstone et al., 2002).”
“But roots also face pathogens of a different kind: root-infecting, sedentary endoparasites such as cyst nematodes (CNs) and root-knot nematodes (RKNs),” Maron wrote. “These pathogens infect a variety of important crops and cause significant yield losses (Savary et al., 2019).”
Maron quoted Siddique: “According to Siddique, investigating root traits that affect plant-nematode interactions is important for finding new strategies for plant protection. Screening for natural variation in suberin- and lignin-related traits might help identify and develop stronger fortresses, i.e., plants with enhanced resilience against pathogens, drought, and nutrient deficiency.”
Siddique collaborated with scientists from Germany, Switzerland and Poland: Julia Holbein, Rochus Franke, Lukas Schreiber and Florian M. W. Grundler of the University of Bonn; Peter Marhavy, Satosha Fujita, and Niko Geldner of the University of Lasuanne, Switzerland; and Miroslawa Górecka and Miroslaw Sobeczak of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland.
“Plant-parasitic nematodes are among the most destructive plant pathogens, causing agricultural losses amounting to $80 billion annually in the United States,” said Siddique in an earlier news story. “They invade the roots of almond, tomato, beets, potato or soybeans and migrate through different tissues to reach the central part—the vascular cylinder--of the root where they induce permanent feeding sites.”
“These feeding sites are full of sugars and amino acids and provide the parasite all the nutrients they need,” Siddique explained. “A specialized cell layer called the endodermis surrounds the vascular system and helps regulates the flow of water, ions and minerals into and out of it. However, the role of endodermis in protecting the vascular system against invaders such as nematodes had remained unknown.”
The research was funded by a grant from the German Research Foundation.
The class, set from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Center on Bee Biology Road, will be taught by Extension apicuturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, and lab assistants Robin Lowery and Nissa Svetlana Coit.
“Robin and Nissa will be leading us through the practical part of the wax working day,” announced Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeepers Program. “This class is perfect for the hobby and sideline beekeeper and for other individuals interested in learning the basics of working with wax.”
The instructors said the class "will be a creative and science-based class learning the what, why and how of beeswax, making candles, lotion bars, beeswax food wraps, lip balm and dipped flowers to take home.” The products are wonderful for holiday gifting, they said.
As a bonus, the instructors will provide an overview of the honey extraction process, and learn bottling, labeling rules and regulations, and how to perform a honey tasting.
Class participants will have an opportunity to make candles with wicks, use molds, pour wax into jars or cans, dip flowers in wax, and make hand lotion, chapsticks, and wax reusable food wraps.
The two lab assistants are daily exposed to bees, beekeeping, and all things related to honey bee husbandry, said Mather. Lowery, a two-year beekeeper, assists with managing the apiary and the research at the E. L. Nino lab. "She has been making gifts for special occasions for over 15 years and looks forward to modeling how to dip and roll candles, make sealing wax, lotion and lip balm, and wax food wrappers," Mather said.
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by worker honey bees, which have eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments. Hive workers collect the wax and use it to form cells for honey storage and for larval and pupal protection. When beekeepers extract the honey, they remove the wax caps from the honeycomb frame with an uncapping knife or machine.
Beewax has long been used for making candles (they are cleaner, brighter and burn longer than other candles) and for cosmetics and encaustic paintings. Wax food wrappers, used to wrap sandwiches and cover bowls of food, are environmentally friendly, sustainable, economical, and a reusable alternative to plastic bags. Statistics show that globally, people use an estimated one trillion single-use bags every year, or nearly 2 million a minute. While beeswax is a natural wax, plastic bags and plastic bags contain chemicals, and there is concern that chemicals can leach into the food.
The $235 registration fee covers a continental breakfast, snacks, lunch and refreshments, and materials. Participants make and take two of each item. The registration deadline is Nov. 23, said Mather, who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. To register, access https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/589.
Williams and 13 other Fellows were inducted Tuesday night, Oct. 15 at the annual Bay Area gathering of the Fellows. Among the inductees: dermatologist and associate professor Emanual Michael Maverakis of UC Davis Health. (See list of 2019 inductees)
Fellows, nominated by other Fellows, and elected by the California Academy of Sciences' Board of Trustees. James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology, nominated Williams, with Claire Kremen of the University of British Columbia, formerly of UC Berkeley, seconding the nomination. Maverakis was nominated by Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the entomology department.
In his letter of nomination, Carey wrote that Williams is “widely known and respected for his excellence in research, extension, outreach, teaching and leadership” and “is not only one of the stars of our campus, and the UC system, but is an internationally recognized leader in pollination and bee biology and strong voice in the development of collaborative research on insect ecology. He has organized national and international conferences, leads scores of working groups, and guides reviews of impacts of land use and other global change drivers on insects and the ecosystem services they provide.”
Williams' research spans the ecology and evolution of bees and other pollinating insects and their interactions with flowering plants. “He has become a leading voice for pollinator diversity and conservation in the California and The West,” wrote Carey. “One focus of his work has been in understanding the responses of bees to different environmental drivers and developing practical, scientifically grounded actions to support resilient pollinator communities. These efforts are particularly timely given concern over the global decline in bees and other pollinators.”
The UC Davis professor served as co-chair (with Extension apiclturist Elina Lastro Niño) of the seventh annual International Pollinator Conference, a four-day conference focusing on pollinator biology health and policy held July 17-20 on the UC Davis campus.
In his work--a labor of love--Williams seeks and finds found common solutions for sustaining both wild and managed bees and communicates that information to the public and stakeholder groups. Said Carey: “This is a critical perspective in natural and agricultural lands, but also in urban landscapes in northern and southern California.”
Each year the UC Davis professor speaks to multiple beekeeper, farmer and gardener groups, and provides guidance to governing bodies, including the state legislature, and environmental groups. He and his lab are involved in a newly initiated California Bombus assessment project, which is using both museum and citizen scientist records to understand past, current and future distributions and habitat use by bumble bees. This program will host a series of workshops this spring and summer open to practitioners and the public.
Williams received his doctorate in ecology and evolution in 1999 from the State University of New York, Stony Brook and served as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Bryn Mawr (Penn.) College from 2004 to 2009. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 2009, advancing to full professor in 2017.
His honors and awards are numerous. Williams was part of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the Team Research Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) in 2013. In 2015, he was named a five-year Chancellor's Fellow, receiving $25,000 to support his research, teaching and public service activities. And then earlier this year, Williams received PBESA's Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award, presented annually for outstanding accomplishments in the study of insect interrelationships with plants.
In addition to Carey, five others affiliated with UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology are Fellows of the California Academy of Sciences:
- Professor Phil Ward, ant specialist
- Frank Zalom, integrated pest management specialist and distinguished professor of entomology. He is a past president of the Entomological Society of America
- Robert E. Page Jr., bee scientist and UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor. He is a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and provost emeritus of Arizona State University
- Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the entomology department; and
- Visiting scientist Catherine Tauber, formerly of Cornell University.
Former Fellows from the UC Davis entomology department include Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, and visiting scientist Maurice Tauber (1931-2014), formerly of Cornell University.
Two scientists—lead author Charlie Nicholson, a UC Davis postdoctoral scholar formerly with the University of Vermont (UVM), and senior author Paul Egan, a senior researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences--analyzed 117 published research papers on natural hazards that threaten pollinators and pollination.
Their paper, “Natural Hazard Threats to Pollinators and Pollination,” published in the journal Global Change Biology, sounds the alarm to scientists and policy makers to place the impacts of natural hazards at the center of future research in order to emphasize conservation and reduce disaster risks.
Previous research on threats to pollinators primarily focuses on direct human impacts, but scientific knowledge of natural hazard impacts has not been synthesized yet, they said.
“The frequency and intensity of many natural hazards, such as floods and storms, are set to increase under climate change, so bringing together the evidence of these impacts is really timely,” said Nicholson, who joined the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, earlier this year.
“Research was not evenly distributed across pollinator groups, with many impacts recorded for bees, Lepidoptera, flies. wasps, birds, beetles, and bats,” they wrote. “Studies tended to report impacts to pollinators in terms of abundance (41 percent of responses), species richness (19 percent), and various population-level effects (19 percent), whereas impacts to plants were measured in terms of reproductive success (39 percent), floral traits (27 percent), and species richness (11 percent).”
Scrutinizing the scientific literature involved “poring over many accounts of the powerful destructive force of nature, but also searching for some pretty unexpected hazards such as solar flares, or the Earth's electromagnetic effect on pollinators,” Nicholson said.
The work also highlights disparities in the burden of evidence. Said Egan: “We see that this type of pollination research is strongly biased toward economically developed regions, whereas it is smallholder farmers and developing countries that will bear the largest impacts. Their existing vulnerabilities and dependence on crop pollinators tend to be higher.”
Nicholson and Egan identified several future research priorities, including the need to understand impacts to yields through impacted pollination services and to better characterize and contextualise the nature of exposure to natural hazards.
“Taken together, our findings show that the response of pollinators and pollination to natural hazards depends on the type of disturbance and level of biological organization observed and that different pollinator taxa can respond very differently to the same hazard,” they wrote.
Formas, a Swedish government research council for sustainable development, funded the research.
Nicholson holds a doctorate in natural resources (2018) from UVM. Egan received his doctorate in plant animal interactions from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland in 2015.
Kimsey will be honored at the UC Davis Fall Welcome, set for 9:30 to 11 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 17 in the Student Community Center multipurpose room. The annual campuswide awards program, launched in 2015, honors the outstanding faculty advisor, staff advisor, advising administrator, new advisor, peer advisor, campus collaborator and the advising equity champion.
Kimsey, known as "Dr. Bob," earlier received the 2019 Eleanor and Harry Walker Faculty Advising Award from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES).
Kimsey, master advisor for the animal biology (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 is known for expertly guiding students toward career paths, helping them meet challenges and overcome obstacles.
Advising is “about being a good listener, being a source of diverse perspectives to tackle potential problems, being able to put oneself in the other person's place, being broadly experienced and caring about and enjoying other people,” said Kimsey, who also advises the UC Davis Entomology Club.
Kimsey holds two entomology degrees from UC Davis: a bachelor of science degree (1977) and a doctorate (1984). He has served in his current position as an associate adjunct professor and lecturer since 1990.
“I view Dr. Kimsey as the epitome of what a university professor and student advisor should be,” wrote doctoral student Alex Dedmon, who has worked with him for 10 years, first as an undergraduate student in 2009 and now as a doctoral candidate. “Over that time, he has filled many roles in my life and career--a mentor, teacher, advisor, major professor, and friend.”
UC Davis biology lab manager Ivana Li, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis (2012), wrote: “For myself, and likely for others, Bob has served as a wonderful mentor. He saw things in me that I didn't see in myself. He gave me the confidence to be a leader and I still carry those lessons with me as a lab manager.”
Kimsey continues to draw “best of the best” accolades from students on the Rate My Professors website:
- “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.”
Dedmon recalled that in his third year, he enrolled in Kimsey's forensic entomology course. “This turned out to be arguably the most pivotal point in my academic career. Dr. Kimsey is an excellent teacher, and aside from being thoroughly enjoyable, the content of the course itself was comprehensive and enlightening. Dr. Kimsey's instruction was unparalleled, both in the classroom as well as the field part of the course. In the end, I was so enamored with forensic entomology and its presentation, that I decided to make it the focus of my degree.”
“Over this time, I have seen countless undergraduates from his courses come to him for advice, help, or even just someone to talk to. While it is common for advisors to have to listen to the woes of students, it is much rarer to find ones that genuinely care. The proof of his character is in their success – I know many of his former students who have gone on to graduate, veterinary, or medical school. I still find it amazing how these young men and women have gone from scared, tearful students in office hours to successful vets and doctors. After being his student for so long, though, I can easily see why.”
Dedmon praised Kimsey not only his major professor, but as a friend. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, there were countless times he called or visited me at the hospital – this was not just to touch bases about academics, but because he genuinely cared and wanted to help as much as he could. In my most trying times, gestures such as these were absolutely invaluable to me. Even in good times, he is someone I know I can always turn to for advice, a straight answer, or just a good laugh.”
Li wrote that “his dedication to inspiring students for careers in the science, far surpasses the scope of his obligations as an advisor to the Entomology Club or as a faculty member of the department.”
She first met him as an undergraduate student in 2009. “It became apparent that he truly possessed a deep caring for each student that he met. Everyone who knows him affectionately calls him Bob, and I think it is a testament to his determination to tear down the alienating hierarchy of academia and fully integrate students into the UC Davis community.”
“Over the years, I worked with Bob as a member of the Entomology Club,” Li related. “When I became president of the club, I planned many of the club activities with him. He connected us with the National Park Service which helped the club take some truly unique trips. Of these, the one that stands out to me was when we took an overnight trip to Alcatraz. While surveying for rats, we found evidence of beetle damage to the buildings. This led to subsequent trips that involved documenting the full scale of the damage done by beetles, including in many areas normally off-limits to tourists.”
“The hard work he puts into making events happen is infectious,” Li said. “Bob is really the hidden hero of Picnic Day for the Entomology Department. Year after year, he never fails to lug several truckloads of equipment and décor out of storage. Without him, the entomology exhibits at Picnic Day wouldn't be possible. He truly loves educating the public and having students teach people what they have learned. It's a very direct feedback experience that helps students gain confidence that they understand the organisms and scientific processes that they have been learning.”
“In addition to promoting on campus networking, Bob connects students with his many contacts in forensics labs, the National Park Service, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and other organizations,” Li pointed out. “This has led to internships and even full-time employment for some many students over the years.”
UC Davis alumnus Danielle Wishon, who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (2013), said that Kimsey “continues to be one of my most valuable connections from my time there. I am proud that, even years after my graduation, I can call him a friend.”
Kimsey “introduced us to as many personal and professional contacts as possible,” Wishon said. “This networking has proven invaluable to my and others post-graduate success. I participated in a number of skill-based volunteer work that contributed to my CV and qualified me for a number of job opportunities that I would have otherwise been unqualified for. Working on Alcatraz Island was one of those opportunities."
Wishon recalled “conducting official pest surveys of a number of rodent and arthropod pests, as well as evaluating and documenting pest-related structural damage. We were able to work alongside and learn from a National Park Service professional in charge of the Island. Dr. Kimsey understands the value in developing the practical side of student education and works tirelessly to help us develop that skill set.”
“Another invaluable opportunity for me was interning in his laboratory," Wishon added. "After showing a particular interest in Forensic Entomology, he welcomed me into his lab as a student intern. In this position, I learned colony development and various laboratory skills; I assisted and observed curriculum design and student teaching; and I assisted him in the field on casework. I was able to network with many professionals in my field of interest and was able to get a job soon out of college directly based on the experience I obtained through this internship.”
“Dr. Kimsey has always had an open-door policy with his students,” Wishon said. “Students come to UC Davis from all over the world, with all different backgrounds and upbringings, and come together in a setting that is often stressful and vulnerable. He helps us personally when he can, and knows when and how to get other forms of help to students when needed. In addition to my own experiences seeking his counsel and help through difficult times in my life, both personal and with learning disability struggles, I have personally witnessed Dr. Kimsey aide a number of other students through turbulent times in their lives. academic stress to more serious.”
Graduate student Mark James McLellan of the UC Davis Forensic Science Masters' Program lauded Kimsey for offering him first-hand experience in forensic science. “In addition, he has been instrumental in my research, I had little experience and he has pushed me towards developing a thesis for the program. I am not the only one, there are boatloads of students he has helped and continues to do so! He is a guide and mentor, not only academically but professionally.”