May R. Berenbaum
So, what's been going on for the past 12 years? Actually, in a way, I'm still doing more or less what I was doing 12 years ago--and 20 years ago, for that matter. It's a sobering thought to think that I've been looking at how furanocoumarins and other plant secondary metabolites mediate interactions between plants and their lepidopteran associates since first-class stamps cost a dime. In graduate school, I worked on umbellifers, oecophorids, and papilionids; today, I work on umbellifers, oecophorids, and papilionids. This is not to say that I haven't gotten anywhere. Major developments in technology have allowed us to push back all kinds of frontiers. Beginning in 1983, my invaluable and irreplaceable colleague Art Zangerl and I adopted the methodologies of quantitative genetics to mea-sure precisely the selective impact of parsnip webworms on the furanocoumarin chemistry of wild parsnip and the selec-tive impact of parsnip chemistry on parsnip webworm physiology and behavior. We've incidentally uncovered all kinds of unexpected things, including caterpillar territorial battles over web sites (not the electronic kind!), toxic silk, decoy fruits, and other unlikely phenomena. Beginning in 1989, with Mary Schuler, a plant molecular biologist, we've used the tools of molecular biology to identify genes encod-ing the enzymes responsible for detoxification of furano-coumarins in swallowtail butterflies. Again, in the process, we've run across lots of remarkable phenomena, including larval mimicry, allelochemical synergism, osmeterial allomones, and other unanticipated pleasures.
On the other hand, since the last newsletter my per-sonal life has undergone substantially more changes than have my professional interests. In 1982, I asked the director of the Unit for Cinema Studies if the unit would consider co-sponsoring our first Insect Fear Film Festival; as direc-tors are wont to do when they receive odd requests, he forwarded the letter to his assistant director. This fellow politely informed me that the Unit was occupied with a variety of French and German retrospectives that year (read: we don't do kitsch) but that he would be glad to help me locate films and set up the festival. I took him up on his offer of assistance and, six years later, married him. I do like to point out to Richard every now and then that every one of the Insect Fear Film Festivals has drawn a larger audience and more publicity than any Unit for Cin-ema Studies French or German retrospective ever. Despite the inauspicious beginning, we've managed to merge our mutual interests--his area of specialization is in animation--with several joint publications (e.g., "Insects in animated films, or, not all bugs are bunnies") and, in 1990, with a beautiful, wonderful daughter, Hannah, who is not only a six-year-old authority on animation studios ("Bugs Bunny is Warner Brothers, Fred Flintstone is Hanna Barbera") but also on the taxonomy of chrysomelid beetles (I'm told she indignantly informed her preschool teacher, "that's not a ladybug, it's a bean leaf beetle!" Would that the undergrads could do as well...).
Life has been pretty good. My wife Jeanine and I are the proud parents of Austin J. Berlocher, who is now three. Despite my efforts to indoctrinate him in the Ways of Entomology, right now he seems set on a career as a fireman (I am having about as much luck interesting the Dean in Entomology). But soon he will be old enough for field trips to the Southwest, so there is hope.
On another front, I wish to update my report on Mexi-can food in the area, first filed in 1977: there is still a paucity of enchiladas, but things are better on the taco front.
As a graduate student, taking courses you don't really want to take but must because they are required is a little like being forced to eat your vegetables as a child. Everyone tells you they're good for you, but you don't really believe it. Well I'm here to tell you that you can never tell what you'll get into in your career. I started out strictly as a physiologist, being interested in how the nervous system controls coordinated walking in insects. Never did I entertain the notion that I would ever be doing anything "practical," to say nothing of collaborating with engineers and computer scientists. Yet here I am, working on a project to design and build a free-ranging, walking, robotic cockroach. Now I just wish that I had taken more math and paid more attention in a class in physiological control theory I took in graduate school.
This all came about because I realized that the enor-mous amount of data I was accumulating on how the locomotor control system in the nervous system responds to various types of disturbances during walking was going to require some formal type of modeling or simulation to be understood. Setting up a collaboration with a computer expert seemed natural enough, and when NSF announced the availability of funds to support practical applications of this kind of work, we got together with an engineer. When we got funded we were in business. Our objective is to design the robot using the cockroach as a model, from its physical structure to the organization of its control system. We have constructed a prototype (a couple of feet long) that will stand on its own (if you push it, it will resist and readjust its stance); now we just need to get it to walk. We felt that the project would have important benefits not just for engineering, but also for our understanding of how insects walk, because we would have to deal with all the issues of just how to ensure that each leg moved properly in its own right as well as how each was coordinated with all the others. Some of these scientific benefits have in fact come out--but so have others, mostly involving a variety of publicity in the local and national press. So the moral of the story is, eat those vegetables and take those courses--they really are good for you!
Susan E. Fahrbach
My laboratory studies the hormonal regulation of the postembryonic development of the insect nervous system. In moths, we focus on regulation of neuronal number of ecdysteroids, but would like to identify any neuronal gene products whose expression is directly regulated by the steroid hormone! This work requires us to rear tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta). Given the dili-gent efforts of our department at community outreach, it is unlikely that any child in Champaign County reaches the age of 10 without having met one of my caterpillars. Collaborative work with Gene Robinson involves studying hormone-mediated brain plasticity in adult honey bees. In this case, the relevant hormone is juvenile hormone, and the end-point is not a dead neuron but rather the transition to foraging at the end of the worker bee's life. Current lab members are Sarah Farris, Chiou-Miin Wang, and Joe Sullivan. Tomoko Yoshimura is a Biology Masters student working on an anatomical project in honey bee brains.
I am having as good a time as one can when away from daily contact with one's colleagues, and especially with my department head, May Berenbaum--or is it Mary Barenboim? I forget easily these days. It seems that I left the headship at just the right time to be able to go in a few days a week and talk a lot about what should be done, but have no responsibility for either doing it or seeing that it gets done. I must say, however, that I do pray a lot. Hopefully, we shall weather the present storm as we have in the past.
Nevertheless, I can stand away now and objectively state that our departmental faculty is as wonderful as I thought it was when I had the privilege of representing it as head. Frances and I are going places and doing things that are boring to people with "real" jobs, but we invite any of you who show up in town on vacation to have a sail with us this spring or summer--if we are around. My love to you all.
Lawrence M. Hanks
I joined the department in October, and am taking this opportunity to introduce myself. For the past several years I have been working at UC-Riverside, initially as a postdoc, later as an "assistant research entomologist" (postdoc with better pay). My research centered on the ecology, behavior, and biological control of the eucalyptus longhorned borer, a recently introduced and important pest in California. My dissertation research at the University of Maryland concerned the ecology of an armored scale insect, white peach scale. Before that, I received an M.S. at the University of Nevada, Reno, and my B.S. at UC-Davis. I am therefore no stranger to the University environment.
Jean, my wife of 2.5 months, and I are Californians, so settling in Illinois may take a bit of adjusting. We hear that it can get cold here and so are putting together winter wardrobes, buying socks to wear with our sandals, and so forth. At any rate, the long winter months should be no problem since we like to alpine ski and will need some time to develop our broom-making skills. But seriously, I should be preadapted to the Land-o'-Lincoln lifestyle since my family roots extend back to this part of the country. In fact, my lineage goes back to Abe's mother, Nancy Hanks. So the genes are there, unless they have been selected out during three generations of sunshine and smog.
I truly look forward to working at UIUC and with my new colleagues in the department.
William R. Horsfall
Dr. Horsfall, professor emeritus, retired in 1977. He served the department as both a teacher and a graduate advisor. His areas of interest included bionomics of mosquitoes and blister beetle ethology. His many publications include over 100 papers and five books. Dr. Horsfall and wife Annie Laurie celebrated their 60th anniversary last year.
Ellis G. MacLeod
With a big assist from Stan Friedman and several ex-students from non-entomological programs in which I taught some years ago, I was awarded the Prokasy Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1989. Since there was real money accompanying the usual com-memorative plaque, this award has had more than passing meaning. I came out of a 13-year stint of organizing and teaching a large undergraduate course in cell biology in 1992 and since then have been able to spend more time teaching in entomology and systematics, areas where my heart has always been located.
Although I continued to teach Entomology 302 during this time, it was only after unloading cell biology that I finally had the time to give this course a thorough reorganization so that it now contains a proper introduction to the central issues involved in making estimates of phylogenetic relationships and to molecular sequences as sources of phylogenetic information. In 1993-94 I collaborated with Steve Downie, who now teaches the introductory course in plant taxonomy, in developing a 300-level introduction to the principles of systematics. We presented this in fall 1994, the first such course on the campus since Hobart Smith retired in the early 1970s. Since Steve is a certified molecular systematist (I consider myself competent only by the standards of book learning), the relevance and computer-assisted analysis of these sorts of data naturally occupy their proper positions in our course.
With Charlie Vossbrinck, I have been involved in developing software to support undergraduate instruction. The first project was fully deployed this past semester for Ent 301, which I now share with Gene Robinson.
Robert L. Metcalf
The Metcalf laboratory continues to be extensively involved in studies of the chemical ecology of Diabrotica spp. rootworms. Studies over the past several summers have shown conclusively that adult host plant selection in several species of the diapausing virgifera subgroup of D. barberi, D. cristata, and D. v. virgifera, occurs predominantly in response to plant kairomones involved in pollen feeding and in pollination ecology. D. barberi and D. cristata are highly responsive to phenethanol and 4-methoxyphenethanol while D. v. virgifera is not. This explains the proclivity of the first two species for pollen-feeding in thistle blossoms (Cirsium spp.) which contain large amounts of phenethanol. D. v. virgifera is never found there and is unresponsive to this kairomone. D. v. virgifera is specifically responsive to the terpenoid [[beta]]-ionone found in corn, while the other species are unresponsive.
Indole is a major component of the aroma of squash blossom, and is a remarkable olfactory synergist for other blossom volatile kairomones, producing 2- to 3-fold olfactory synergism at ratios of as low as 1:300. These investigations are providing new insights into the ecology, behavior, and evolution of host selection by these insects.
Dr. Metcalf also has a part-time appointment as professor in residence and director of the Center for Exotic Pest Research, University of California, Riverside, where he is concerned with systematizing, prioritizing, and implementing urgently needed research on exotic insect pests introduced into California.
I am South African by birth and upbringing, and obtained my undergraduate and graduate training in zoology and biochemistry/molecular genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. My Ph.D. was five projects on the courtship and mating behavior of odonates and drosophilids, all performed in the context of evaluating competing models of speciation, since my advisor was Hugh E.H. Paterson (the author of the specific mate recognition system view of speciation). After five years of postdoctoral research and training in the Zoology and Genetics Departments at the University of Wisconsin at Madison I came here as an assistant professor in 1987. In Madison, I had spent the last two years working with William Engels on the P element of Drosophila flies, and was interested in continuing related work, especially in extending work with transposable elements to non-drosophilid insects. In 1991, I finally succeeded in the latter endeavor with the discovery of a diverse array of transposable elements related to the mariner element of D. mauritiana in a wide diversity of insects. This work, together with the wonderful support of the department, put me over the edge on the tenure issue in 1993. Since then a large number of undergraduate students, three graduate students (Michelle Asplund, Kim Walden, and John Sherwood), a postdoctoral fellow (David Lampe), and a visiting researcher (Rita Avancini) in my lab have extended this work in many directions, including the complete characterization of several such elements implicated in recent horizontal transfers across ordinal boundaries. We are currently working to develop some of these as transformation systems for non-drosophilid insects, so that the molecular genetic approaches employed so successfully with transgenic Drosophila can be extended at least to some extent to other insects.
Other research projects in my lab have concerned the phenomenon of cytoplasmic incompatibility in insects caused by a rickettsial bacterium called Wolbachia. Work by another series of undergraduates, a graduate student (Rosanna Giordano) and a postdoctoral fellow (Scott O'Neill) have placed the phylogenetic and systematic study of these bacteria on a solid footing using 16S rRNA gene sequences, and shown that they are extremely widespread and common in insects.
A third research area involves phylogenetic and syste-matic study of insects using molecular sequence data, and has included a variety of projects from study of a damsel-fly genus to the early origins of insects. In particular, a graduate student (Felipe Soto-Adames) has used 18S rRNA gene sequences to assess the higher level systematics of the Collembola.
Finally, I have become very interested in the stubborn problem of the molecular characterization of olfactory and other chemoreceptors of insects. Recent advances in cloning and characterizing the genes for such receptors in vertebrates and nematodes have indicated that this endeavor will eventually be a major and productive field of research in entomology and, together with colleagues here such as Jim Nardi, I hope we will be able to contribute to it.
On the personal side, I have now lived in Champaign-Urbana for eight years and have a home on the east side of Urbana. I visited my parents and sister in South Africa in 1986, and they visited this past May, while my brother moved with his family first to Houston and then Honolulu. In September 1994, I married an artist from Bloomington/Normal, Christina Nordholm, who has a nine-year-old son, Gabriel, so I am becoming immersed in a family environment at last.
Gene E. Robinson
This is my first opportunity to write something for the newsletter, but this has less to do with the long gap between newsletter issues than the fact that I am a relatively new addition to the faculty. I joined the department in fall 1989, after obtaining my Ph.D. in Entomology at Cornell University in 1986 and doing postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Robert Page at Ohio State University for three years. Since I am still relatively new (though feeling older all the time...), let me tell you a bit of what I do.
My students, postdocs, and I study the regulation of honey bee behavior. We are particularly interested in understanding the genetic, neurobiological, and hormonal mechanisms that regulate bee behavior and colony organization. As many of you know, honey bees and other social insects are famous for their highly efficient division of labor, which is both intricately structured yet exquisitely flexible. (Indeed, this combination seems to be so successful that our society's large corporations' attempts at restructuring can be seen, entomocentrically, as unwitting attempts to emulate social insect colonies. How else can one view their desire to combine the best of a rigid organization with a looser, more entrepreneurial approach?) To understand how an insect colony functions, we use a "bottom-up" (as opposed to "bottoms up") approach. We study the mechanisms that regulate the behavior of individual bees in order to gain insights into how their activities are integrated into a smoothly functioning colony.
My research program has gotten off to a nice start, thanks to tremendous support from our previous and current department heads, and to our department's ability to consistently attract bright, hard-working, creative graduate students and postdoctoral researchers (don't you agree?). I currently have six graduate students working with me: Matt Ginzel, Tugrul Giray, Laura Heuser, Dan Toma, Dave Schulz, and Christine Wagener-Hulme. Two more students, Sarah Farris and Joe Sullivan, work with both Professor Susan Fahrbach and me on a collaborative project that explores changes in brain structure that occur in association with division of labor. In addition, I am fortunate to be working with Drs. Sam Beshers and Zhi-Yong Huang, two outstanding postdoctoral researchers, and Jack Kuehn, technician and apiarist who contributes so much to all of our research efforts. A few years ago I was honored to be named the Thomas A. Murphy University Scholar, and last summer I delivered the keynote lecture at the International Congress of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects in Paris.
Like the rest of my colleagues in our department, I am quite busy teaching. I co-teach Introduction to Entomology with Professor Ellis MacLeod. Many of the students in this course are studying to become science teachers, so Prof. MacLeod and I do our best to make sure that they are willing and able to educate our youth on the importance and delights of insects. I also teach Animal Behavior as part of our department's commitment to the general biology program on campus. Enrollment in all biology courses is increasing rapidly and Animal Behavior is no exception. Enrollment this year was almost 300! Despite the administrative headaches of running a large class, I enjoy teaching Animal Behavior and frequently take the opportunity to introduce students to the world of insect behavior. Students are truly shocked to learn that insects are capable of sophisticated behavior, such as communicating via a symbolic language, and learning or recognizing their relatives. Confronting these facts, they are forced to think seriously about both the evolution and mechanisms of behavior (which is what the course is supposed to be about, anyway), rather than just basing their ideas of animal behavior on anthropomorphic nature shows of large mammals they watched as children.
My family is very happy and thriving in Champaign-Urbana. Julia and I arrived here with one young child, Aaron. He is now almost 10 years old and has been joined by two younger brothers, Daniel, 6, and Sol, 3. If you ever come back and visit you might see them, at least the younger ones--one of their favorite weekend activities during the long, cold, central Illinois winter is to visit Morrill Hall and run up and down the halls. I see to it that they run quietly, of course, because, as you know, UI entomology students are at work all the time.
After my retirement in 1989, I continued for several years to lecture in Ent 301. However, I am no longer teaching, and only doing a minimum of research, mostly on several species of butterflies. After my wife died in 1989, I spent more time with various hobbies. Insect photography has continued to be important. I also have many aquariums, with mostly native fish captured by me, or reared by me. Gardening is another favorite past time. As an emeritus professor, I serve on an occasional prelim committee.
The big news in my life is that I retired from the University in May 1995. I have not, however, given up the ghost. From now on I will devote time to popularizing biology; to writing books that are scientifically sound and informative but avoid using technical terms so that they are readily accessible to the reader who is not trained in biology. The first book, Insects Through the Seasons, was published by Harvard University Press in February. I have recently completed a second book, The Birder's Bug Book, which deals with the complex interactions between insects and birds.