Posts Tagged: Fran Keller
“Our crowd sourcing ends on Sunday night, April 20," said wildlife biologist David Wyatt, professor at Sacramento City College. (To learn more about the effort or to donate, check out the "Cataloging Insect and Bat Diversity in Belize" website.)
Wyatt, a professor in the field ecology program and a veteran of nine trips to Belize, in Central America, has scheduled the trip for June 2-16, 2014. A veteran of nine trips to Belize, he will guide the research team of six other biologists, including entomologist Fran Keller, his former student. Keller, who is finishing her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.
In addition to establishing a major entomology collection in Belize, the research team will conduct an inventory of bats from this area of Belize. An added bonus to the bat work is that the team will be collecting insect ectoparasites from the bats - in particular the bat flies (Nycteribiidae and Streblidae). “These are a fascinating group of parasitic dipterans that only occur on bats with a high degree of coevolution between the bats and the bat flies,” said Wyatt, who specializes in mammals (ringtails and bats) and also extensively studies in entomology.
The researchers are also teaming with the Biodiversity Center of Belize to conduct DNA barcoding of the insect specimens they collect (each will donate a leg to the analysis) and also barcoding of small wing punches of skin from the bats. Regular updates of the project are being blogged under the Lab Notes section of the website. Supporters who donate are automatically informed of new Lab Notes updates by email.
Keller said that starting an entomological collection “is not an easy thing nor is it inexpensive. With university and governmental cutbacks, funding for basic scientific research, such as biodiversity surveys and discovering new species, is rejected and being replaced by studies focused on climate change and alternative energy resources. Insects act as indicators of climate change and understanding the distribution of insects over time informs the scientific community on how various ecosystems are being altered by climate change.”
“Our crowdsource funding is an attempt to fund research through a unique online company called Experiment.com. We are presenting our research proposal to the public and the public will decide the value by backing the project with donations that range from $5 to--well we will take any maximum amount. Any funds over the requested amount will be applied to the collection set up equipment. With only three days left we are hoping to get as many backers as possible. Getting to work with David to establish this collection in Belize is also an opportunity for a former student to give back to a dedicated mentor.”
Keller is an alumnus of Sacramento City College. She began her academic career as a microbiology major but after completing classes in natural history, entomology, and field entomology, she turned her interests from single-celled organisms to multi-cellular animals. She is now teaching science at the college.
Keller credited Wyatt with encouraging her to transfer to UC Davis to continue her education. “David's enthusiasm and energy for teaching and entomology were contagious,” Keller said. “Although I really do enjoy cell and molecular biology, entomology is my true passion and David helped me recognize that fact. David and I have collected insects together many times in the Mojave Desert and Arizona. He also encouraged me to sign up for a one-week course in the summer to work with bats. Many bats rely on insects as their major food source.”
“I guess I have been an entomologist since I was a child but just didn't know it,” Keller said. During her childhood, she collected bees in jars and added flowers "to see what the bees would do." She and her sisters also collected caterpillars and watched them form chrysalids and emerge as butterflies.
Fran Keller chasing dragonflies. (Photo by Alex Wild)
David Wyatt with a ringtail.
All that glitters may be beetles--jewel beetles.
You'll want to attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. to bask in the theme, "Beauty and the Beetles."
The museum, located on the UC Davis campus in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" and a gift shop. The open house is free and open to the public. The museum is people friendly, family friendly and bug friendly.
And the beetles?
"Beetles are awe inspiring because they are so different,” said Fran Keller, who is completing her requirements this year for a doctorate in entomology. She studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“As a human, I and the 7 billion people on the planet are only one species, Homo sapiens," Keller said. "But the insect Order Coleoptera, or beetles, has more than 360,000 species. Beetles have the greatest diversity of all the insects. Butterflies are big and showy, but beetles can be. too. On a ladybug, which is really a beetle and not a bug, those red and black spotted front wings are called elytra. Beetle elytra are not used for flying so beetles actually fly with one pair of wings. But those elytra help protect them because they can be very tough and sometimes incredibly flashy to warn off predators.”
Keller said that “If you can think of an ecological niche there is probably a beetle there taking advantage of the resources. Believe it or not, there is a beetle that is a parasite and lives in the butt of a beaver. Beetles are truly amazing and although I am partial to the flightless, black tenebrionids, I do collect and appreciate the beauty of all beetles. Okay, maybe I don't collect the beaver butt parasite beetle but wow, who would have thought beetles would be there!”
Keller, who noted that Darwin was an avid beetle collector and enthusiast, acknowledged that she has many "favorite groups of beetles," but "one of my favorites has to be the jewel beetles. Most of them are pests but they are very stunning, hence the name jewel beetle. There are so many different types of beetles that we know of or that have been described but there are still so many that await discovery."
So, all you beetle fans and would-be beetle fans, head over to the Bohart Museum on Saturday afternoon. There will be arts and crafts for the youngsters (and adults, too, if they wish!) Find out more here.
These jewel beetles will be displayed at the Bohart Museum's open house. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hint: It's the state insect.
"What, we have a state insect?" you ask.
Yes, and it's the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice).
On the monorail, it's an artistic blue and white and it seems to flutter along for the ride. (See what the Monorail Society wrote about it in 1995.) In real life, the male of the species is yellow and black, and the female, predominantly yellow.
Fran Keller, doctoral candidate in entomology at the University of California, Davis, and her colleague, naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum of Entomology identified the insect on the monorail right away. Several years ago they teamed to create a California dogface butterfly poster, which graces many a classroom, office, and den. The poster is for sale in the Bohart Museum's gift shop on Crocker Lane, UC Davis, or online.
Keller went on to write a children's book, "The Story of the Dogface Butterfly," with watercolor-and-ink illustrations by Laine Bauer, a 2012 graduate of UC Davis. Kareofelas contributed photographs.
Net proceeds from the sale of the 35-page book, also available at the Bohart Museum or online, benefit the insect museum's education, outreach and research programs.
The book tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly, and how schoolchildren became involved in convincing the State Legislature to select the colorful butterfly as the state insect.
Bauer’s illustrations depict the life cycle of this butterfly. As part of their research, Keller, Karofelas and Bauer visited a Placer County habitat of the butterfly last year.
As for the book, “There are also ecology, life cycle, taxonomy and conservation issues presented that are relevant to grades K-6 that can be used in classroom curriculum,” Keller said. In addition, the book includes information on the butterfly’s host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica).
So, score one for the California State Fair. And score two for the Bohart Museum.
California dogface butterfly is illustrated on the California State Fair monorail. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What a beauty.
But not nearly as striking as her male counterpart.
The flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata) owned a perch on a bamboo stake last Tuesday in residential Davis.
Davis resident Gary Zamzow, a dynamite insect photographer (especially bumble bees), pointed his Pentax camera at the insect, just inches away.
The dragonfly did not move.
“The female flame skimmers are not as intensely orange as the males are and they also have the expansions on the 7th abdominal tergite that you can see in your picture (below),” said senior museum entomologist Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology (http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/), University of California, Davis.
If you like dragonflies, you may want to purchase a dragonfly poster at the museum, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, or online at its gift shop. It features 18 species of dragonfies, ranging from the common whitetail and green darner to the Western river cruiser and the bison snaketail. And, of course the flame skimmer.
Entomology doctoral candidate Fran Keller designed the poster with images provided and donated to the museum by naturalist Greg Kareofelas of Davis.
A female flame skimmer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female flame skimmer being photographed with the camera of Gary Zamzow. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
In her professional life, she's an entomologist, researcher, teacher, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.
In her private life, she's a wife and mother.
Her specialty: darkling beetles. You'll often find her at her "home away from home," the Bohart Museum of Entomology where she studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, Bohart Museum director and UC Davis professor of entomology.
Fran Keller is the designer and impetus behind the many Bohart Museum of Entomology posters and t-shirts. Posters include Butterflies of Central California, Dragonflies of California, California State Insect (California Dogface Butterfly) and Pacific Invasive Ants. T-shirts spotlight dragonflies, butterflies and walking sticks. (Access them at the Bohart's online gift shop.)
Fran Keller also found time to author a children's book on the California dogface butterfly, with sales benefitting the Bohart Museum.
If you belong to the Entomological Society of America (ESA) or another entomological organization, you've probably seen her leading symposiums, presenting talks, and conferring with other scientists.
There's not much that she CAN'T do.
So, on Wednesday, Fran Keller will probably convince her audience that darkling beetles are more exciting than any other insect. After all, her enthusiasm is well known and led to her UC Davis honor as an outstanding teacher.
Keller's exit seminar, "Taxonomy of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Asidini," will be from 12:05 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 29 in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, located on the corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Plans call for the seminar to be videotaped for later public viewing on UCTV.
“My research focuses on a very large genus which historically had 88 species and no modern species level work for several taxa for nearly 175 years,” Keller said. “Part of my research focuses on a group of flightless species restricted to the Sierra Transvolcanica or southern Transverse range in Mexico. Using biogeography, morphological analyses and the examination of over 10,500 specimens, I recognize 51 valid species of Stenomorpha Solier, 1836, with seven newly recognized subgenera, while 37 formerly recognized species are synonymized or newly combined."
“Certain Stenomorpha species occur in California vernal pools but are not listed as vernal pool species,” Keller said. She also will discuss the importance of taxonomy in conservation.
If time allows, Keller will discuss her other projects, working in the Bahamas and mentoring students, as well as her recent research on morphology and developmental patterns of gene expression.
Keller received her associate science degree in biology and chemistry, with highest honors, from Sacramento City College in 2001 and then transferred to UC Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in evolution and ecology (2004), and her master’s degree in entomology (2007).
She served as a teaching assistant for a number of courses at UC Davis and has also presented guest lectures, including “Insect Sex and Mating Systems” and “Insects and the Environment—Ecological Physiology.”
Among her many awards at UC Davis:
- Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, May 2008
- Division of Biological Sciences (DBS) Commencement Speaker, June 2004
- DBS Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement in Academics and Research in Evolution and Ecology, Spring 2004
- Outstanding Senior, 2004
- Undergraduate Research Conference, Oral Presentation, April 2004
- President’s Undergraduate Fellowship, Spring 2003
Her students applaud her teaching skills, her enthusiasm, and her care and concern. Said one student: "It's reassuring to know that out of a maze of 30,000 students and faculty at Davis that there are people like Fran who really care."
Fran Keller photographing insects in the Mojave Desert. (Photo by Mark deVries)
Fran Keller is a big fan of all things insects. She designed the monarch t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)