Ants and Science Are Her Passions

Her passion is ants.

And she'll be conveying that passion and her passion for science when she presents a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology online seminar on Wednesday, May 19.

Postdoctoral researcher Manuela Ramalho of the Corrie Moreau lab, Cornell University, will speak on "Exploring Connections among Microbial Community, Ecology and Phylogenetic History of Ants" from 4:10 to 5 p.m. UC Davis insect ecologist Marshall McNunn is serving as the host. Access the seminar through this Zoom link.

"Symbiotic interactions shape animal evolution and govern patterns of biodiversity," Ramalho writes in her abstract. "Using ants as a study model, my research focuses on unraveling the role of host ecology, diet, behavior, stage of development, and phylogeny on symbiotic interactions."

Ramalho, a cell and molecular biologist from Brazil, joined the Moreau lab in January 2019. She holds three degrees from Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho (UNESP): a bachelor's degree (2010), master's degree (2013) and doctorate (2017). Her doctoral thesis: "Ants' Microbiome with Emphasis in Camponotini (Hymenoptera, Formicidae."

Experienced in the areas of microbiome, genetics, genomics, and more specifically molecular biology, Ramalho focuses her research on "understanding the mechanisms that impact microbial communities, unraveling the role of ecology, diet, behavior, stage of development, and also phylogeny of the host in these symbiotic interactions," she writes on her website. "To better understand these mechanisms, I use ants as a study model. In several ant genera, symbiotic interactions with microbial communities have been shown to have profound impacts on the host. But more than that, ants can be found across the globe and have an immense diversity of behaviors and ecology. Also, ants are fascinating."

"In addition to focusing on studying the microbiome of ants, I also advocate for a more diverse and inclusive scientific community," she relates. "Quality science is done with a diverse group of scientists with different backgrounds. Being an ally of women in science and parents in science, and others underrepresented groups that seek inclusion in science and scientific dissemination, is a passion that I am very proud and pleased to be part of. I believe that the world can be a better place with science, and with all that power, science should be for EVERYONE."

"Talking and spreading science has always been a passion for me, but our daily lives have shown that being engaged in these activities is crucial for a scientist. I am a Brazilian, a woman/parent in science, and a myrmecologist who uses ants as a way to engage people with science. Diverse audiences and of all ages have some curiosity about these small insects that occur all over the world in the most diverse colors and shapes. We just need to be creative in how to attract this audience!"

She is a subject editor of Myrmecological News and recently reviewed a publication  y UC Davis alumnus Andrea Lucky, titled “Myrmecology, Gender, and Geography: Changing Demographics of a Research Community Over Thirty Years." Lucky, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, received her doctorate in 2010 from UC Davis, studying with Phil Ward.

Ramalho co-authored "Attractivity or Repellence: Relation Between the Endophytic Fungi of Acalypha, Colocasia and the Leaf-Cutting Ants--Atta sexdens," published in April 2021 in Advances in Entomology.

Other recent publications include:

Ramalho, M.O., Kim, Z.; Wang, S.; Moreau, C. S.: "Wolbachia across Social Insects: Patterns and Implications." Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 2021.

Ramalho, M.O.; Moreau, C.S.: "The Evolution and Biogeography of Wolbachia in Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)." Diversity, 12, 426. 2020.

Caruzo, M.B.R.; Ramalho, M.O.; Philipp, J.; Bragagnolo, C.: "Maternity, Science, and Pandemic: an Urgent Call for Action!" Hoehnea, 47: e812020. 2020.

Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger coordinates the spring seminars, which take place every Wednesday at 4:10 p.m. He may be reached at for any technical issues.