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365体育官网Forest entomologist Crystal Homicz will be among the six UC Davis graduate students discussing their work at the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Saturday, Jan. 18. Kathy Keatley Garvey/Courtesy photo

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Bohart Museum Open House to present ants to monarchs

How do fruit flies tell time? How do monarch butterflies know when to migrate? How can assassin flies overcome prey much larger than they are? How do bark beetles wreak havoc in our forests? What insects do bats eat?

The community can learn about those topics — and much more — at the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology when it hosts an open house themed “Time Flies When You Are Studying Insects: Cutting Edge Student Research” on Saturday, Jan. 18.

The free family-friendly event will be from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane on the UCD campus.

An assassin fly hitchhikes with Charlotte Alberts.
365体育官网Courtesy photo

365体育官网“We will have a diversity of topics,” said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum. “I just love how this university excels at interdisciplinary research. We may be the entomology and nematology department but we are connected to so many fields of research. Our grads are our future’s hope and here they are inspiring others.”

Doctoral students who will showcase their research are:

365体育官网* Entomologist Yao Cai of the Joanna Chiu lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology,

* Entomologist Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies assassin flies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology,

* Entomologist-ant specialist Zachary Griebenow of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology,

* Forest entomologist Crystal Homicz who studies with Joanna Chiu and research forest entomologist Chris Fettig, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Davis. (She formerly studied with the late Steve Seybold of USDA Forest Service and the Department of Entomology and Nematology.),

365体育官网* Forensic entomologist Alexander Dedmon, who studies with Robert Kimsey, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology,

* Ecologist Ann Holmes is affiliated with the Graduate Group in Ecology, Department of Animal Science, and the Genomic Variation Laboratory.

Yao Cai

365体育官网Cai, a fourth-year doctoral student, studies the circadian clock in insects. “Using Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) and Danaus plexippus (monarch butterfly), as models, we seek to understand how these insects receive environmental time cues and tell time, how they organize their daily rhythms in physiology and behavior, such as feeding, sleep and migration (in monarch butterfly),” Cai said.

“Since clock design is conserved from fly to human, understanding how the fly clock works can be translated into knowledge and treatment for people who undergo clock disruption in their daily lives, such as jet lag, shift work,” Cai said.

Visitors will learn how fruit flies and monarch butterflies tell time, why the clock is important to them, and the tools scientists use to study circadian clock.

Zachary Griebenow

Griebenow, a third-year doctoral student, will be showcasing or discussing specimens of the ant subfamily leptanillinae, most of them male.

“I will be showing specimens of the leptanillinae under the microscope, emphasizing the great morphological diversity observed in males and talking about my systematic revision of the subfamily,” he said. “In particular, I want to explain how the study of an extremely obscure group of ants can help us understand the process of evolution that has given rise to all organisms.”

Crystal Homicz

365体育官网“Did you know that between 1987 and 2017 bark beetles were responsible for more tree death than wildfire?” asked Crystal Homicz, a first-year doctoral student. “Bark beetles are an incredibly important feature of forests, especially as disturbance agents. My research focuses on how bark beetles and fire interact, given that these are the two most important disturbance agents of the Sierra Nevada.” At her table, she will discuss the interaction between bark beetles and fire, why bark beetles and fire are an important feature of the forest ecosystem, and more generally the importance of bark beetles in many forest systems throughout North America.

“I will have several wood samples, insect specimens and photographs to display what bark-beetle damage looks like, and the landscape level effects bark beetles have. I will also have samples of wood damage caused by other wood boring beetles and insects. My table will focus widely on the subject of forest entomology and extend beyond beetle-fire interactions.”

365体育官网Visitors, she said, can expect to leave with a clear understanding of what bark beetles are and what they do, as well as a deeper understanding of the importance of disturbance ecology in our temperate forests.

Charlotte Alberts

Charlotte Alberts, a fifth-year doctoral candidate, will display assassin flies and their relatives, as well as examples of prey they eat or mimic. Visitors can expect to learn about basic assassin fly ecology and evolution.

Alberts studies the evolution of assassin flies (Diptera asilidae) and their relatives. “Assassin flies are voracious predators on other insects and are able to overcome prey much larger than themselves,” she said.

“Both adult and larval assassin flies are venomous. Their venom consists of neurotoxins that paralyze their prey, and digestive enzymes that allow assassin flies to consume their prey in a liquid form. These flies are incredibly diverse, ranging in size from 5-60 mm, and can be found all over the world! With over 7,500 species, asilidae is the third most specious family of flies. Despite assassin flies being very common, most people do not even know of their existence. This may be due to their impressive ability to mimic other insects, mainly wasps and bees.”

365体育官网For her thesis, she is trying to resolve the phylogenetic relationships of Asiloidea (asilidae and their relatives) using Ultra Conserved Elements and morphology.

“I am also interested in evolutionary trends of prey specificity within Asilidae, which may be one of the major driving forces leading to this family’s diversity.”

Ann Holmes

Ecologist Ann Holmes’ research interests include conservation genetics, environmental DNA, molecular ecology, fish, crustaceans, plankton, aquatic food webs, marine ecology and bats. At the open house, she will discuss her research on bat guano; she examines bat guano in the Yolo Bypass to see what insects they eat.

“Insects in bat poop are hard to identify because they have been digested, but I can use DNA to determine which insects are there,” she said. “We care about which insects bats eat because bats are natural pest controllers. With plenty of bats, we can use less pesticide on farms and less mosquito repellent on ourselves.”

Alexander Dedmon

Forensic entomologist Alex Dedmon, a sixth-year doctoral student, will display tools and text and explain what forensic entomology is all about.

“My research focuses on insect succession. In forensic entomology, succession uses the patterns of insects that come and go from a body. These patterns help us estimate how long a person has been dead. Visitors can expect to learn about the many different ways insects can be used as evidence and what that evidence tells us.”

Other activities at the open house

The family craft activity will be painting rocks, which can be taken home or hidden around campus. “Hopefully some kind words on rocks found by random strangers can also make for a kinder better future,” Yang said.

In addition to meeting and chatting with the researchers, visitors can see insect specimens (including butterflies and moths), meet the critters in the live “petting zoo” (including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and browse the gift shop, containing books, insect-themed T-shirts and sweatshirts, jewelry, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.

The Bohart Museum, founded by noted entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007), houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of insect biodiversity.

It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, except on holidays. More information is available at or by contacting 530-752-0493 or [email protected]

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