Backyard Orchard News
Research news coming out of the University of California, Davis and the University of Arizona labs recently drew international attention; the scientists have genetically engineered mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria parasites.
Now one of the co-authors has received a coveted research fellowship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
who studies with noted malaria researcher and major professor Shirley Luckhart (left), has received a NIH research fellowship aimed to promote diversity in health-related research.
Luckhart is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine, and a graduate student advisor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Drexler, who joined the Luckhart lab in January 2008, focuses her research on the roles of the human blood-derived insulin-like growth factor-1 and the role of insulin signaling in the regulation of malaria parasite transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes.The UC Davis student is a co-first author of a paper on malaria parasites published July 15, 2010 in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens (PLOS). Titled “Activation of Akt Signaling Reduces the Prevalence and Intensity of Malaria Parasite Infection and Lifespan in Anopheles stephensi Mosquitoes,” the work is a collaborative effort between UC Davis and the University of Arizona.
Co-authors include Luckhart and UC Davis researcher Ed Lewis, who has a joint appointment with the Department of Nematology and the Department of Entomology.
The paper, with more than 4200 article views in July alone, has drawn extensive news coverage. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill, in a July 16th article headlined “Malaria-Proof Mosquito Engineered,” wrote that the scientists “have succeeded in genetically engineering a malaria-resistant mosquito.”
In a July 17th piece, “Malaria-Proof Mosquito Created,” ABC News science writer Eric Bland wrote that scientists have created a malaria-proof mosquito by engineering "a genetic ‘on switch' that permanently activates a malaria-destroying response.”
“If these mosquitoes,” Bland wrote, “are successfully introduced into the wild, they could prevent millions of people from becoming infected with life-threatening Plasmodium--the parasite that causes malaria.”
Drexler, who grew up in Washington, D.C., received her bachelor’s degree in integrative biology, with an emphasis on animal biology, from UC Berkeley in 1999. She earned her master’s degree in physiology and behavior from San Francisco State University in 2006.
The competitive NIH fellowships are available to provide funds to qualified students for stipends, research supplies, and research-related travel under an existing parent research grant.
The applications are evaluated on multiple criteria, including career goals, prior research training, research potential and relevant experience, and evidence of educational achievement.
This research is so important: targeting a killer that causes more than a million human deaths a year worldwide.
It's a big year for buckeyes, says noted butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis. He counts between "30 and 85 a day" in West Sacramento and North Sacramento.
The common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) is not only distinctive, but quite attractive, especially when it lands on a red zinnia.
Its large eye spots on the wings (probably meant to scare off predators) draw you to its world of color and drama.
We saw this buckeye (below) in Napa, just off the Napa-St. Helena Highway. However, buckeyes are found all over the United States, except in parts of the northwest.
Maybe the northwest, too! An image of the buckeye appeared on a 24-cent U. S. postage stamp issued in 2006.
This intriguing member of the Nymphalidae family also appears on a popular poster available in the Bohart Museum of Entomology gift shop. The insect museum, at 1124 Academic Surge, UC Davis campus, also counts this butterfly as among its seven million mounted specimens.
Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, is more than just a haven for honey bees.
Think bumble bees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, sunflower bees and scores of other bees.
The grand opening celebration of the garden will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, but the bees and other native pollinators are already out there.
And have been for some time.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, has been monitoring the garden for the past two years--from open field to planted garden.
He's found more than 50 different species of bees representing five families (Andrenidae, Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae and Megachilidae).
They include the striped sweat bee Halictus ligatus from the family, Halictidae; the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii from the family Apidae; the leafcutter bee, Megachile sp., from the family Megachilidae; and the sunflower bee, Svastra obliqua expurgata from the family Apidae.
How colorful they are. And how diverse.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
Thousand cankers disease, which infects and kills black walnut trees, has spread from the western United States to the eastern United States.
Officials announced Aug. 5 that the disease has been detected in Knox County in east Tennessee. This marks the first detection of the disease east of the Mississippi River.
Previously, the disease was known to eight western states: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
And now, Tennessee. It's probably in other states across the Great Plains and east of the Mississippi River, as well.
The disease, caused by the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis) in association with a newly described fungus with the proposed name of Geosmithia morbida), occurs only on walnut species. Eastern black walnut is one of the most susceptible species.
By itself, the walnut twig beetle doesn't present a major problem. Together they wreak havoc.
A pest alert, distributed by the U.S. Forest Service and co-authored by Davis-based researcher Steve Seybold, is sounding the alarm
Seybold, research entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Davis, and a faculty affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, says the disease symptoms to watch for are branch mortality; numerous small cankers on branches and the main stem of the tree; and the entry and exit holes of the tiny bark beetles. (See news article on presence of the disease in Davis.)
In an attempt to stop the spreading of the disease, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) plans to quarantine Knox County to prohibit the movement of firewood and black walnut nursery stock and to limit the movement of black walnut timberland.
The TDA's Division of Forestry estimates that the state has 26 million black walnut trees (both on public and private land). They are valued as high as $1.47 billion.
That's "billion" with a "B."
The losses would be more than monetary, though.
We received a telephone call from a Washington state resident today who is worried--and rightfully so--that his two 100-year-old majestic black walnut trees might contract the disease.
And to think that they could be felled by this duo: a fungus hitching a ride on a tiny walnut twig beetle boring into a tree.
It's a beetle that's smaller than a grain of rice.
Walnut Twig Beetle
Tame that tiger.
Wilton beekeeper Brian Fishback, president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association, stopped Friday at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, and a friendly Western tiger swallowtail greeted him.
At least, it seemed quite friendly.
Fishback and Laidlaw staff research associate Elizabeth “Liz” Frost paused to watch the butterfly (Papilio rutulus) glide in and out of the flower garden in front of the facility.
Fishback held out his hand. The butterfly obliged and touched down for just a moment.
This year is a good year for Western tiger swallowtails.
There’s an outbreak--or an elevated population--in the area, says noted butterfly expert Arthur Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis. “I’ve seen as many as 11 a day in Davis recently, and the outbreak ranges from as far west as Vallejo and as far east as Reno.”
This is the second year for elevated populations of the tiger, Shapiro says. The epicenter seems to be Davis.The colorful butterfly visits a variety of hosts, including California yerba santa, milkweed, lilies, lilacs, coyote mint, California buckeye, sycamore, privet and sweet gum.
It doesn't mind being around the 6 million honey bees (from 110 hives) in the apiary at the Laidlaw facility, either.
Spreading Its Wing
Sip of Nectar