Posts Tagged: Phil Ward
(A) Ants, (B) Bonnie Blaimer and (C) Crematogaster.
Add a double "M" and you have a myrmecologist studying ants in Madagascar.
Bonnie Blaimer, a graduate student in entomology at the University of California, Davis, just received a National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant for $13,794 to help support her doctoral dissertation research on the systematic and evolution of Malagasy ants of the genus Crematogaster in Madagascar.
Blaimer, who studies with major professor Phil Ward, a noted ant specialist, describes Crematogaster ants as "a species-rich, world-wide occurring group of ants with a notoriously difficult species-level taxonomy."
Why these ants? Blaimer said she first became interested in them when she was doing field work in Madagascar as an intern for the Cal Academy of Sciences.
“This genus fascinates me particularly because of its species diversity and dominance in tropical forests, and its intriguing natural history,” she said. “Most species are canopy-nesting in dead twigs and branches or under bark, or they make elaborate independent carton-nest from wood fibers. Some species are suspected to be temporary social parasites, and many tend scale insects or mealybugs. In short, many different aspects remain still open for investigation beyond my dissertation work!”
Blaimer, who holds a master’s degree in Forest Sciences from Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg, Germany, says she will mostly use the NSF funds to perform DNA sequencing of the Malagasy species and also a variety of species from other biogeographical regions.
"This enables me to investigate and revise species boundaries within Crematogaster in Madagascar, and to establish a framework phylogeny for the genus upon which I can explore the evolution of the genus in the Malagasy region. A smaller portion of the grant will further allow me to travel to Madagascar to do some outreach and education work.”
Blaimer is the co-principal investigator of the grant, titled "Aligning Ant Diversity with Conservation Priorities in a Biodiversity Hotspot: Systematics and Biogeography of the Arboreal Ant Crematogaster in Madagascar." Her major professor serves as the principal investigator.
Be sure to check out the Phil Ward lab website.
Ward welcomes visitors with:
"We are a group of myrmecologists who study the taxonomy, evolution, biogeography and behavior of ants.
"In many terrestrial habitats – especially those of the lowland tropics – ants rival other arthropods in numerical abundance, ecological importance and species richness. Our research is concerned with unraveling details about the evolutionary history of ants and attempting to understand the processes that have generated such an extraordinary diversity of form and function. This work entails both species-level taxonomy and analyses of phylogenetic relationships.
"Visit our research pages to learn more about current projects."
And for amazing photos of ants, check out the websites of University of Illinois biologist-insect photographer Alex Wild, former graduate student of Phil Ward's. Wild maintains http://myrmecos.net/ and http://www.alexanderwild.com/.
Ladybugs, aka ladybeetles (family Coccinellidae), are best known for devouring aphids, those pesky little critters that suck plant juices.
But have you ever seen ladybugs gobbling ants?
There's a three-way predator-prey relationship here. When aphids pierce plant stems, they leave behind honeydew excretions. Ants scurry to the honeydew and quickly alert their buddies. Soon, you'll see a long trail of ants marching toward the honeydew.
Now enter the ladybug, which is attracted--quite nicely, thank you--to both aphids and ants.
This little beetle will feast on aphids and ants much like we humans chow down on popcorn and jelly beans at a movie.
In the photos below, unsuspecting ants climbed a lavender stalk, only to meet their demise.
If you look on You Tube, you'll see a video of an apparently famished ladybug chowing down ants. The background music of Queen's "We Will Rock You" adds the finishing touch.
Want to learn more about ants? Check out professor Phil Ward's website. He's a noted myrmecologist (one who studies the taxonomy, evolution, biogeography and behavior of ants) and a professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
One of his former graduate students, Alex Wild, has incredible insect photography on his website, appropriately named myrmecos.net.
Ant specialist Andrea Lucky, who will receive her doctorate in entomology on June 10 from UC Davis, will speak on the evolutionary history of ants on Wednesday, May 12 in 122 Briggs, UC Davis.
This is her "exit seminar" but it's doubling as part of the spring seminar series. Her talk, from 12:10 to 1 p.m., will be Webcast live. To tune in, access this site.
She researches the evolutionary history of ants in the geological complex region of Australasia, Melanesia and the islands of the Western Pacific.
“I use a combination of traditional morphological taxonomy and molecular phylogenetics to interpret how, when and where individual lineages diversified within this complex landscape,” said Lucky, who maintains a research website and studies with major professor Phil Ward. “In addition to my work on the biogeography of ants, I am also involved in biodiversity assessment and conservation using ants in Papua, New Guinea.”
You can watch a mini- interview of her in New Guinea on YouTube.
Lucky completed her undergraduate degree at Brown University in Providence, RI, where she majored in biology with an emphasis on ecology and evolutionary biology.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she traveled to Ecuador as a Fulbright Fellow, where she worked with insects in the Amazon.
Lucky entered the doctorate program in the UC Davis Department of Entomology in 2004 and completed her degree in the lab of Phil Ward.
After receiving her Ph.D., she will move on to a postdoctoral scholarship at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where she will work with Rob Dunn on a project examining geographic variation in ants and the processes they mediate.
If you miss any of the UC Davis Department of Entomology webcasts, they're archived.
These webcasts are a good resource for entomologists, would-be entomologists, and folks of the curious-sort who just want to learn more about the exciting world of science.
And, somewhere out there, there's another young entomologist who will follow in Andrea Lucky's footsteps...trailing ants.
Andrea Lucky in New Guinea
Honey bees and ants belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, and occasionally you see them together.
Such was the case today in the Storer Garden, UC Davis Aboretum, as the closely related honey bees and ants foraged in the red-hot poker (Kniphofia galpinii or "Christmas cheer").
These ants? Argentine ants (Linepithema humile). "The Argentine ant is a non-native and a notorious pest," says UC Davis ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology.
The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is also a non-native (it came over with the European colonists in the 1600s), but oh, what a non-native. We're so accustomed to it being a beneficial insect that we consider it a native.
Hymenoptera ("membrane wing") originated in the Triassic period, a geologic period that existed some 251 to 199 million years ago.
And today in a tiny thimble of time, they shared a red hot poker.
Honey Bee and an Ant
Nectaring on Lavender
If you're accustomed to seeing ants crawl, wait a minute...some can actually jump.
Ants? Jump? Like leaping lizards?
Harpegnathos saltator, aka Jerdon's jumping ant, a species found in India, can indeed jump. It can leap a distance of about 10 centimeters (about 3.9 inches). It does this to catch prey and to escape sticky situations.
Christian Peeters, director of the Laboratoire d’Ecologie, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, will talk about Jerdon's jumping ant when he discusses his research at a noon lecture on Wednesday, April 15 in 122 Briggs Hall, University of California, Davis. His topic is “Recurrent Selection Against Winged Queens in Ants, and Shifts in Life History Traits.”
This exquisite photo (below) of Jerdon's jumping ant is the work of entomologist-insect photographer Alex Wild, who received his Ph.D. from UC Davis (his major professor was Phil Ward). Wild is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois. You'll want to visit his Web sites often to view his amazing work. One site is at http://www.myrmecos.net and the other at http://www.alexanderwild.com.