Posts Tagged: UC Davis Department of Entomology
"Landscape Conservation for Rare Insects!"
That's the title of a seminar to be hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology on Wednesday, Jan. 23.
Nick Haddad, the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Biology at North Carolina State University (NCSU), Raleigh, N.C., will speak from 12:10 to 1 p.m., in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology, will introduce him.
The seminar promises to be riveting.
"I will discuss studies of landscape approaches and how they may be used to conserve rare insects, focusing on rare butterflies," Haddad said. "In one experiment, we are studying how landscape corridors may be used to increase insect dispersal and population viability. In a second experiment, we are asking whether habitat restoration creates population sources, or instead creates unintended population sinks for rare butterflies. These experimental approaches that consider mechanisms of dispersal and demography can be used to inform large scale conservation and restoration in a changing world."
One of his endangered subjects, found only in North Carolina, is a brown butterfly, Saint Francis satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci). See the photo below by Melissa McGaw.
Haddad recently launched a new website, Conservation Corridor, aimed at connecting science to conservation.
Haddad received his doctorate in ecology from the University of Georgia in 1997, and his bachelor's degree in biology, with honors, from Stanford University in 1991. He served as a researcher in the Guatemala Program, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University, from 1990 to 1997, and as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota from 1997-1999 before joining the the North Carolina State University faculty in 1999.
He advanced from assistant professor of zoology to associate professor of biology to professor of biology. In between, he headed west to UC Davis to become a sabbatical scholar, hosted by Marcel Holyoak, from 2006-2007.
Haddad has published his work in Conservation Biology, Journal of Insect Conservation, Ecology, Ecology Letters,Conservation Genetics, PLoS ONE, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Population Ecology, Science, and Ecography, among others.
Assistant professors Brian Johnson and Joanna Chiu are coordinating the Department of Entomology's winter seminars. All the winter seminars are being video-recorded under the direction of James R. Carey and will be posted at a later date on UCTV.
Meanwhile, there's lots of good information on his Conservation Corridor website. You can also "like" his Conservation Corridor Facebook page.
Nick Haddad (Photo by Melissa McGaw)
Saint Francis satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci). (Photo by Melissa McGaw)
We can expect some exciting research to emerge from the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).
And UC Davis pollination ecologist Neal Williams, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, is a part it.
Williams and postdoctoral fellow Claire Brittain of the Williams lab will be participating in the SCRI's annual team and advisory committee meeting, to be held Jan. 17-19 in Gainesville, Fla.
Williams is a co-project director of Aspire Project: Augmenting Specialty Crop Pollination Through Integrated Research and Education for Bees, a coordinated agricultural project funded by SCRI. Williams serves as the project leader for habitat enhancement for bees and a co-leader of a project seeking alternative managed bees for almonds.
The meeting will be the first “all-hands-on-deck” meeting to discuss plans for the first field season; to coordinate collection and curation techniques; and to obtain feedback from the Advisory Committee Tentative Plan, according to Rufus Isaacs, berry crops entomology Extension specialist at Michigan State University, Lansing, Mich.
Isaacs directs the Aspire Project for Bees and is the principal investigator of the $1.6-million SCRI grant. (See news release.)
In addition to Williams, the co-project directors are Theresa Pitts-Singer, research entomologist, USDA-ARS Pollinating Insects Research Unit, Department of Biology. Logan, Utah; Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director, Xerces Society, Portland, Ore; and Mark Lubell, Sociology of Sustainability, UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy.
Project Team members are investigating the performance, economics, and farmer perceptions of different pollination strategies in various fruit and vegetable crops. These include complete reliance on honey bees, farm habitat manipulation to enhance suitability for bees, and use of managed native bees alone or in combination with honey bees. The Project Team has a strong outreach focus, said Isaacs, and will deliver its findings to specialty crop agriculture through various diverse routes of traditional and new media, including the Aspire website.
“Our long-term goal is to develop and deliver context-specific Integrated Crop Pollination (ICP) recommendations on how to most effectively harness the potential of native bees for crop pollination,” says Isaacs on the Aspire website. “We define ICP as: the combined use of different pollinator species, habitat augmentation, and crop management practices to provide reliable and economical pollination of crops. This approach is analogous to Integrated Pest Management in that we aim to provide decision-support tools to reduce risk and improve returns through the use of multiple tactics tailored to specific crops and situations. By developing context-specific ICP programs, this project will improve sustainability of U.S. specialty crops and thereby help ensure the continued ability of growers to reap profitable returns from their investments in land, plants, and other production inputs.”
The project objectives are five-fold:
- to identify economically valuable pollinators and the factors affecting their abundance.
- to develop habitat management practices to improve crop pollination.
- to determine performance of alternative managed bees as specialty crop pollinators.
- to demonstrate and deliver ICP practices for specialty crops.
- to determine optimal methods for ICP information delivery and measure ICP adoption
Two other UC-affiliated scientists are involved with the Aspire program: Karen Klonsky, Cooperative Extension specialist with the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics; and Claire Kremen, pollination ecologist and professor at UC Berkeley.
All hands on deck!
The blue orchard bee or BOB (Osmia) is being studied as an alternative pollinator. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pollination ecologist Neal Williams working on an Osmia project last summer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Ants are the most successful group of social insects on the Earth," says Branstetter, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. and a UC DAvis alumnus. "They occur in almost all terrestrial habitats and are often numerically dominant and ecologically important. Furthermore, ants are diverse. There are likely to be more than 20,000 species worldwide and among these species there is a staggering amount of morphological and behavioral variation."
"It's not just the red ant and black ant. Some species are predatory and have large trap-jaw mandibles. Some are farmers, growing fungus gardens inside their nests. Some are parasites of other ant species, living in host nests and taking advantage of a tricked worker force. And some have huge migrating colonies that go on massive raids to collect food. The list goes on..."
Branstetter is also intrigued by the diversity and is devoted to discovering and describing species and behaviors. "Most of my work focuses on using morphology and genetic data to determine what species are, but I also spend lots of time in the field making direct observations about behavior and ecology."
Branstetter, who received his doctorate in entomology in June 2012 from UC Davis (major professor Phil Ward), will speak on ”Uncovering the Origins of a Middle American Ant Radiation: Insights from Natural History, Biogeography and Molecular Data” from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drive. His seminar will double as his exit seminar.
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Branstetter grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich. "It was not until I entered college at The Evergreen State College in Washington state that I became interested in science and eventually entomology," he says. His passion for entomology ignited in a class on "Insects and Plants of Washington" taught by Jack Longino.
That prompted Branstetter to specialize in myrmecology, the scientific study of ants.
He was hooked. Next: Graduate school at UC Davis.
The ants (genus Stenamma) that Branstetter studies are "special because they are an example of a group that originated in the temperate zone and later dispersed into the tropics. Within the tropics they have radiated in mid- to high-elevation wet forests, sometimes becoming the most dominant ant. This is in contrast to most other ants, which usually peak in diversity and abundance in the lowlands."
"It is my hope that studying Stenamma diversity and ecology will yield insights into the factors that have helped ants become so successful," Branstetter says. "Also, the genus has many undescribed species in Middle America. Describing these species and making identification keys will allow others, such as ecologists or conservation biologists, to identify them in their work. Of particular importance are the montane species, which may be in danger of extinction due to climate change."
If you miss Branstetter's seminar, not to worry. It will be recorded for later viewing on UCTV.
Michael Branstetter at Reserva Nacional Kahka Creek, Nicaragua. He is in the process of doing a transect of mini Winkler samples. (Photo by Laura Sáenz)
Michael Branstetter with a Winkler hanging structure, which was constructed in the forest by his guide using only a machete. (Photo by Laura Sáenz)
You'll never guess what Bruce Hammock did on Dec. 18.
First, a bit about Bruce Dupree Hammock. He's a distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis; he holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center; and he directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory.
He’s an athlete who loves rock climbing and white-water rafting and hosts the annual Bruce Hammock Water Balloon Battle in front of Briggs Hall for his students, researchers and colleagues.
So, what did he do on Dec. 18? He embarked upon an acting career.
His first role?
Hammock grew a beard, donned his father's old ragged World War II clothes and worn-out shoes, and practiced looking like a corpse. He then drove to a secluded place in the high desert, near Mojave, to participate in the production on Dec. 18. (The details are top secret.)
“It was very interesting,” Hammock. “But my, the producers work hard. We were on the set at 5:30 a.m. We worked until dark, in weather well below freezing, with high winds blowing sand. The professional actors and actresses put in amazing performances under quite adverse conditions."
“They’re a very professional and fun group. I had never realized the complexity of filming a movie. I hope they pull off their vision.”
Hammock, who is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of the 2001 UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award and the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching, doesn’t think his acting career is so established that he’ll be nominated for an Academy Award.
At least not soon.
And the beard? Will he shave?
Yes. The movie role is over.
His colleague, chemical ecologist Walter Leal, joked: “Just before he left, Bruce mentioned he was dressing to shoot a movie. I didn’t notice any difference; I thought he was taking off for another scientific meeting.”
Bruce Hammock: from distinguished professor to renowned scientist to skilled athlete to actor.
Bruce Hammock in his office in Briggs Hall, before he began his acting career. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Chris saw it first.
This morning Chris Mussen of Davis contacted his father, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and told him that the photo of him being stung by a honey bee made the Sacramento Bee's list of top 15 2012 stories.
Well, a son should recognize his father's wrist anywhere, right?
He told me to get my camera ready. My Nikon D700, equipped with a 105 macro lens and a motor drive), was strapped around my neck, where a camera ought to be.
I caught the image (actually four of them as my camera shoots eight frames a second) and the rest is history. The photo initially won the first-place (gold) award in a feature photo contest sponsored by the international Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences.
The Sacramento Bee featured it, and later it was selected one of the Huffington Post's most amazing photos of 2012 and "Picture of the Day" on a number of websites.
It depicts a Carniolan bee reared by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey. At the time the image was taken, the bee was defending its hive.
Which is what bees do.
Usually a bee sting results in a clean break, Mussen said. This one shows the bee trailing its abdominal tissue, aka guts.
I earlier wrote about "The Sting" in a Bug Squad blog.
The thing is, people are still saying that I must have spent the day torturing bees to get that shot.
Not true. (Fact is, I've never killed a bee in my life except for the one I stepped on in Hawaii.)
Now folks are jokingly telling me I was torturing Eric Mussen.
Not true, either. He's been stung countless times, and each time, he simply scrapes off the sting with his fingernail.
Which is what beekeepers do.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen being stung by a bee in an unexpected encounter at the Harry H. Laidalw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)