Backyard Orchard News
Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito that transmits malaria, has a new foe.
And his first name is Win.
Win Surachetpong, a UC Davis doctoral candidate in immunology with a designed emphasis in vector-borne disease, has just received the American Committee of Medical Entomology student travel award to present his malaria research at the 58th annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) conference Nov. 18-22 in Washington, D.C.
That's quite an honor, indeed.
Surachetpong studies with noted malaria researcher Shirley Luckhart, an associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UC Davis.
“Win’s work has demonstrated for the first time that signaling pathways that are well known for immune responsiveness in humans to Plasmodium infection are also important for the mosquito response to parasite infection,” said Luckhart, a faculty member of the Graduate Program in Entomology, and the Graduate Groups of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Microbiology; and Immunology.
“Win will be presenting exciting unpublished work that moves forward from his recent publication in PLoS Pathogens,” she said.
Also by invitation, Surachetpong will discuss his research at the adjoining meeting of the American Committee of Molecular, Cellular and Immunoparasitology, a unit of ASTMH that fosters the transfer of fundamental discoveries in basic research to applications that improve human health.
Malaria, caused by the parasite Plasmodium and transmitted by infected anophelene mosquitoes, strikes some 350 to 500 million people a year, killing more than a million. (Above: The photo of Anopheles gambiae is by UC Davis medical entomologist Anthony "Anton" Cornel, based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier.)Luckhart (at left) said that Win is “working simultaneously on three different, inter-related, redox-regulated signal transduction pathways that will move our current state of knowledge forward significantly when he is through.”
“There are no commercially available tools (such as antibodies, reagents for knockout) that have been designed to study these signaling pathways in invertebrate cells, much less mosquito cells,” she said.
Surachetpong is adapting available tools for mammalian cell studies to his work and developing the remaining tools and reagents on his own. “His data comprised nearly all of the preliminary data for a new NIH grant that will allow us to move forward into new and exciting areas in anti-malarial innate immunity,” Luckhart said.
Earlier this year, Surachetpong won the 2009 William C. Reeves New Investigator Award, a statewide award which acknowledges the best scientific paper submitted and presented at the annual Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California conference.
A native of Thailand, Surachetpong received his doctor of veterinary science degree at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok in 2000, ranking first in his class, and his master of science degree in pathobiology in 2005 from the University of Arizona, where he received the “Above and Beyond Award” from the Department of Veterinary Science and Microbiology.
After completing his doctorate at UC Davis, Surachetpong will join the faculty at Kasetsart University, Bangkok, to continue his research on tropical and emerging infectious diseases.
As a medical entomologist and immunologist, his goal is to utilize his expertise in vector-borne diseases and innate immunity to improve malaria transmission control in Thailand and other endemic countries.
Summer is fading and the temperatures are dropping, too.
You're more likely to see Vanessa.
That would be Vanessa annabella, one of the Painted Lady butterflies.
The West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella), is seen more often in cool seasons, says UC Davis butterfly expert, Arthur Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution.
The West Coast Lady is a member of the Brush-Footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae) and the subfamily, True Brushfoots.
On a recent trip to Tomales, we spotted the West Coast Lady and a honey bee sharing the same plant, a Salvia uliginosa (a tall sage that can reach six to seven feet).
The wings of the orange-brown butterfly and the transparent wings of the honey bee glowed in the sunlight as the insects nectared the sky-blue blossoms. The two have at least one thing in common: they love a good sage.
Shapiro, a lepidopterist extraordinaire, covers more than 130 species in his colorful book, Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions, published by the University of California Press. The guide also offers tips on gardening and photography.
West Coast Lady and a Bee
Aware of Each Other
Ever seen a tachinid tiptoeing through the lavender?
The tachinids are parasitic flies that lay their eggs in hosts such as Lepidoptera (butterfly) caterpillars.
As larvae, they live in and kill their hosts.
As adults, they sip nectar and other plant juices.
That's why you'll see the adults tiptoeing through the lavender, sage and mints.
The scenario is unforgettable. The soft, silken flowers contrast sharply with the insect's long, hairy bristles.
But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as entomologists are fond of saying.
This one (below) was exploring a lavender in our yard last weekend.
If it were six-feet tall, it would probably scare little children.
Except for future entomologists!
The honey bee nectaring the Penstemon, aka Beardtongue, in Tomales, Calif., didn't seem to mind my presence.
The amber-colored bee was foraging among the purple two-lipped flowers. The plant derives its name from what appears to be a "tongue" (staminode) poking from the "mouth" of the blossom.
It's an attractive flower--indeed, humans hold Penstemon festivals in Flagstaff, Ariz. and Holden, Utah--and the bees like it, too.
The little Marin County honey bee glanced at me and then began cleaning her tongue. Or, as emeritus professor and pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of the University of California, Davis, said of the photo below: "Caught in the act of cleaning her tongue with the brushes of hairs on the inner sides of her forelegs."
"Even worker bees take time to groom," he said. "Vanity or just good maintenance?"
We like to think she was primping for the photo shoot.
Bee tongue and the Beardtongue.
Cleaning Her Tongue
Surprise: it's in the antennae!
Neurobiologists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have long wondered how monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) can migrate from across eastern North America to a specific grove of fir trees in Mexico.
That's 2000 miles, as a crow flies--or as a monarch flies.
The scientists figured that the key mechanism that steers the monarchs is in the brain.
Nope. It's in the antennae. The antennae aren't just "noses" or "odor detectors."
"We've known that the insect antenna is a remarkable organ, responsible for sensing not only olfactory cues but wind directions and even sound vibration." said Steven Reppert, professor and chair of neurobiology and senior author of the study, published today (Sept. 25) in the journal Science.
"But its role in precise orientation over the course of butterfly migration is an intriguing new discovery, one that may spark a new line of investigation into neural connections between the antennae and the sun compass, and navigation mechanisms in other insects," he said in press release.
For those of us who are navigationally challenged and have long admired how insects migrate from Point A to Point B, this is amazing. There are circadian clocks in the antennae.This study makes us look at monarch butterflies in an entirely different light.
Like the monarchs we spotted nectaring last weekend on the grounds of the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, Santa Rosa.
Their antennal circadian clocks coordinate sun-compass orientation.
Or, in other words, those antennae are necessary for sun-related orientation.
It's in the Antennae