Posts Tagged: Joanna Chiu
Jessica, who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, works in the Chiu lab on the Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii or SWD), a serious pest of fruit crops. In collaboration with scientists in the U.S. and around the world, including Frank Zalom, UC Davis professor of entomology, West is surveying populations of SWD using next-generation sequencing to determine the extent of possible insecticide resistance.
“By correlating her results to insecticide bioassay data, she can start to understand the mechanisms of developing resistance and use this information to help the agricultural industries manage SWD in a more sustainable manner,” said Chiu, an assistant professor.
The UC Global Food Initiative “is a commitment to apply a laser focus on what UC can do as a public research university, in one of the most robust agricultural regions in the world, to take on one of the world's most pressing issues," said UC President Janet Napolitano. This includes research related to food security, health and sustainability.
West received a $2500 stipend. The selection committee said “Jessica's ability to articulate a novel, hypothesis-driven research idea and follow it up with a detailed plan stood out from the rest.”
Said Chiu: “Jessica wrote an outstanding research proposal, detailing how her project can contribute to the mission of the UC Global Food Initiative.”
West applied for--and received--membership in the Class of 2013, Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology (RSPIP), which was organized by three UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty (Jay Rosenheim, Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu) to provide undergraduates with closely mentored research experiences in biology. The program's goal is "to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research and useful for students whose career goals will take them to medical school, veterinary school, or graduate programs in any biological sub-discipline."
Undergraduates can easily feel like they are lost in the crowd, Chui said, and rarely get close mentorship from faculty or other research staff. The RSIBP program fills that bill. “It is highly competitive and being selected is not an easy feat in itself,” Chiu said. West was one of eight students from the pool of 50 applicants selected.
Insects can be used as model systems to explore virtually any area of biology (population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; and cell biology).
The Chiu lab collaborates with the Zalom lab and with research groups at Oregon State University, Washington State University, North Carolina State University, University of Georgia, and Cornell University to develop pest management strategies to combat SWD. Most drosophila flies feed on spoiled fruits, but SWD prefers fresh fruit (berries and soft-skinned fruits). The national crop loss has been estimated at more than $700 million annually.
“As a result, to control pest population and reduce crop loss, growers now rely on preventive applications of broad-spectrum neuroactive insecticides,” Chiu explained. “The selection pressure for insecticide resistance is therefore extremely high and will likely lead to resistance development in SWD, which threatens the sustainability of these high value crops.”
“Our laboratory has already set up a large network of collaborators all over the world to support this project,” Chiu said. “Jessica regards this project as an opportunity to explore new research areas, while contributing to an urgent food crisis as the crop industries and growers all over the world are becoming gravely concerned. “
Jessica West and her mentor, Joanna Chui, are a good fit. And that should mean bad news for the spotted wing drosophila.
UC Davis undergraduate student Jessica West, who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, has just received the UC Davis undergraduate award President's Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Who would have thought?
Who would have thought that ants are more closely related to bees than they are to most wasps?
In ground-breaking research to be published Oct. 21 in Current Biology, a team of UC Davis scientists and a colleague from the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History, has found that ants and bees are more genetically related to each other than they are to social wasps such as yellow jackets and paper wasps.
"Despite great interest in the ecology and behavior of these insects, their evolutionary relationships have never been fully clarified," said senior author and noted ant specialist Phil Ward, professor of entomology at UC Davis. "In particular, it has been uncertain how ants—the world’s most successful social insects—are related to bees and wasps. We were able to resolve this question by employing next-generation sequencing technology and advances in bioinformatics. This phylogeny, or evolutionary tree, provides a new framework for understanding the evolution of nesting, feeding and social behavior in Hymenoptera."
The researchers used state-of-the-art genome sequencing and bioinformatics to produce this significant research.
The six-member team: Ward; molecular geneticist and assistant professor Joanna Chiu; honey bee scientist and assistant professor Brian Johnson; doctoral student-researcher Marek Borowiec of the Ward lab; and postdoctoral researcher Joel Atallah of the Johnson lab, all with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and visiting scientist Ernest K. Lee of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History.
Ants, bees and stinging wasps all belong to the aculeate (stinging) Hymenoptera clade -- the group in which social behavior is most extensively developed.
Said Chiu: “With a phylogeny or evolutionary progression that we think is reliable and robust, we can now start to understand how various morphological and/or behavioral traits evolved in these groups of insects, and even examine the genetic basis of these phenotypic changes.”
Said Johnson, whose lab studies the genetics, behavior, evolution and health of honey bees: "Using transcriptomics we were able to resolve a long standing question regarding the evolutionary relationships between stinging wasps, ants, and bees. We found that ants and bees are more closely related than previously thought. This result should be important for future studies focused on eusocial evolution, as it suggests that morphology may not be a good indicator of evolutionary relatedness in these groups of organisms."
The abstract: "Eusocial behavior has arisen in few animal groups, most notably in the aculeate Hymenoptera, a clade comprising ants, bees, and stinging wasps. Phylogeny is crucial to understanding the evolution of the salient features of these insects, including eusociality. Yet the phylogenetic relationships among the major lineages of aculeate Hymenoptera remain contentious. We address this problem here by generating and analyzing genomic data for a representative series of taxa. We obtain a single well-resolved and strongly supported tree, robust to multiple methods of phylogenetic inference. Apoidea (spheciform wasps and bees) and ants are sister groups, a novel finding that contradicts earlier views that ants are closer to ectoparasitoid wasps. Vespid wasps (paper wasps, yellow jackets, and relatives) are sister to all other aculeates except chrysidoids. Thus, all eusocial species of Hymenoptera are contained within two major groups, characterized by transport of larval provisions and nest construction, likely prerequisites for the evolution of eusociality. These two lineages are interpolated among three other clades of wasps whose species are predominantly ectoparasitoids on concealed hosts, the inferred ancestral condition for aculeates. This phylogeny provides a new framework for exploring the evolution of nesting, feeding, and social behavior within the stinging Hymenoptera."
A bee and an ant; they're more closely related than they are to most wasps. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ants and bees are more genetically related to each other than they are to social wasps, such as this yellow jacket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Want to develop skills that will make your application to graduate school, medical school or veterinary school really stand out from the crowd?
The UC Davis Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology is recruiting undergraduate students who are eager to experience one-on-one research training and mentorship.
This will be the third cohort of students.
The program, now officially approved by the Academic Senate, is coordinated by professor Jay Rosenheim and assistant professors Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu, all of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology provides the opportunity to learn research skills in all areas of biology, including:
- behavior and ecology
- population biology
- mathematical bology
- human health
- cell biology
- molecular biology
Applications are now being accepted from first and second-year students and first-year transfer students. The application deadline is April 10, 2013. More information on the program and how to apply is on the program’s website.
Successful venture? Yes, indeed. Two members of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology recently received President's Undergraduate Fellowship Program (PUF) grants.
They are Sarah Staley, mentored by medical entomologist Anthony “Anton” Cornel, associate entomologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Parlier; and Don Hoang, mentored by evolutionary geneticist Artyom Kopp, professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology.
Staley and Hoang were among 25 undergraduate students receiving grants from a pool of 62 applicants. Staley submitted her proposal titled “Prevalence of Leucocytozoa Infections in Potential Vector Populations of Black Flies in Alaska.” Hoang's proposal: "The Yeast/Drosophila Relationship: Is it Meant to Last?”
Read their story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
No small feat. Great things are happening in the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology. Jay Rosenheim, Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu are making it happen.
Jay Rosenheim, professor of entomology at UC Davis, doing research in a meadow. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Molecular neurobiologist Anupama Dahanukar, assistant professor at UC Riverside, will speak on "Taste Receptors and Feeding Preferences in Insects" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
UC Davis assistant professor Joanna Chiu, who studies the molecular genetics of animal behavior, will host the seminar, which is scheduled to be recorded for later viewing on UCTV.
The seminar will focus on the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, exciting research under way in the Dahanukar lab.
"We are interested in the molecular neurobiology of feeding behavior," Dahanukar says. "Insects use highly diverse groups of gustatory receptors (Grs) to taste the chemical world and determine the palatability of potential food sources. In Drosophila melanogaster, the 68 receptors of this family are expressed in complex combinatorial patterns in taste neurons. In previous studies we and others identified a highly conserved clade of eight Gr genes that encode sugar receptors. Although some of these have been linked to detection of sweet compounds by genetic analysis, their precise functions are still poorly understood. Little is also known about how stimuli that are typically not rich in sugars trigger highly attractive gustatory responses in Drosophila."
"Using genetic and evolutionary analysis, we recently found that Gr64e, a receptor in this clade, plays an essential role in feeding preference for beer and other yeast fermentation products. We identified that Gr64e is necessary for neuronal and behavioral responses to an abundant component of yeast and fermentation products, glycerol. Moreover, Drosophila species that carry a polymorphism disrupting Gr64e function have reduced behavioral preference for beer, suggesting that Gr64e may contribute to specific evolutionary variations in appetitive selectivity. Ectopic expression of the Gr64e receptor in an olfactory neuron is sufficient to confer glycerol sensitivity. We have extended this ectopic expression system to identify that each sweet Gr protein serves as a determinant for recognition of unique but overlapping subsets of sweet tastants."
"We have also obtained functional expression of a taste receptor from the mosquito Anopheles gambiae in Drosophila. We are now poised to further investigate taste detection and Gr function in Drosophila and other insects."
A noted scientist, Dahanukar received a National Science Foundation Career Award in 2012; the Whitehall Foundation Award in 2011; and the 2000 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. She was awarded a Government of India National Merit Scholarship in 1990.
Dahanukar holds a bachelor of science degree in life sciences from Bombay University, India; a master's degree in environmental management from Duke University, Durham, N.C.; and a doctorate in genetics in 1999 from Duke University, where she studied patterning along the anterior-posterior axis in Drosophila embryos. In 1999, she joined the laboratory of John Carlson at Yale University to pursue post-doctoral training in the molecular neurobiology of insect chemosensory systems. Dahanukar joined the faculty of the UC Riverside Department of Entomology in 2009.
Molecular neurobiologist Anupama Dahanukar of UC Riverside working with Drosophila cultures with junior specialist, Adriana Medina.
But how many people know about its migration?
Steve Reppert, chair and professor of the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will speak on "Monarch Butterfly Migration: Behavior to Genes" at the Department of Entomology seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 13 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives.
"Studies of the iconic migration of the eastern North American monarch butterfly have revealed mechanisms behind its navigation using a time-compensated sun compass," Reppert says. "Skylight cues, such as the sun itself and polarized light, are processed through both eyes and integrated in the brain’s central complex, the presumed site of the sun compass. Circadian clocks that have a distinct molecular mechanism and that reside in the antennae provide time compensation. The draft sequence of the monarch genome has been presented, and gene-targeting approaches have been developed to manipulate putative migration genes. The monarch butterfly is an outstanding system to study the neural and molecular basis of long-distance migration." (See lab research.)
Hosts are Joanna Chiu, assistant professor of entomology, and Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology, will host the talk. Dingle, an authority on animal migration, was featured in a National Geographic cover story, "Mysteries of Great Migrations" in November 2010.
Reppert received his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska, Omaha, in pre-medicine, and his medical degree from the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship in neurobiology at the National Institutes of Child Health (NICHD), NIH, in 1979. He is a professor of pediatrics (neuroscience) at Harvard Medical School (2001 to the present) and since 2000, a pediatrician at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Reppert became the chair of the Department of Neurobiology, UMass Medical School in 2001, the same year he became the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience at UCMass Medical School. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Among his publications on monarchs:
Reppert SM, Gegear RJ, Merlin C (2010). Navigational mechanisms of migrating monarch butterflies. Trends in Neurosciences (TINS) 33:399-406.
Heinze S, Reppert SM (2011). Sun compass integration of skylight cues in migratory monarch butterflies. Neuron 69:345-358.
Zhan S, Merlin C, Boore JL, Reppert SM. The monarch genome yields insights into long-distance migration. Cell 2011; 147:1171-1185.
Reppert's talk will be video-recorded and posted on UCTV at a later date.
Monarch butterflly shares a Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) with a honey bee at the Haagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven, UC Davis, last summer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)