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Leonard, the insects and me

 

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By Rama – Commons file, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53046764

 

Last winter, I spent a few months working on insect identifications for the BC Conservation Data Centre, mostly collections of insects made at newly-acquired conservation lands in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions of BC.

As I had no laboratory of my own, and no reference collections to work with, I was working out of the ROM, back behind Antonia Guidotti’s office in the entomology workroom. This place, in midwinter, is usually a little lonely, as Antonia has a lot of work to do all around the collection. And so mostly in solitude, I would sit there at my microscope,  stumbling through insect IDs, learning what I could about a vast array of taxa, and listening to an inordinate amount of Leonard Cohen’s music.

Somehow, I feel the mood of Leonard Cohen’s later works lends itself so well to solitary entomology pursuits. The consummate outsider, looking closely and inwardly at the human condition, and yet always so aware of a wider world, Leonard’s music has many parallels to sitting at a scope, baffled by Nature’s  diversity and wondering how it all fits together.

(As an aside, when I was going through scads of unfortunate, dead, trapped insects, the song “Who by Fire” seemed morbidly appropriate)

Occasionally, from the lab bench, I would reach out to the other folks online, sharing my discoveries through Twitter (the entomology workroom has a modest wireless connection!).

How excited I was, having lived in BC most my life to discover the wonderful piglet bug Bruchomorpha beameri, a wonderful fulgoroid planthopper that I had no idea even existed before taking this contract!

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It was heartening, sitting there alone, singing softly along to Leonard Cohen that people out there on Twitter responded so well to my excitement at discovering these treasures, and offering helpful advice. Terry Wheeler  was especially helpful when I was stumbling over some puzzling scathophagids from the Peace District.

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Connecting with people like Terry, who encouraged me through my ID struggles made me feel that despite being on the outer edges of my knowledge and what could reasonably be called paid employment in entomology, people cared about what I was doing and were there if I needed them.

With the help of Terry, Antonia, Laura Timms, Lu Musetti, and the great Leonard Cohen, I struggled my way through my contract, and my first eastern winter. Last week, Leonard Cohen died, leaving a huge hole in Canadian songwriting. We still have his recordings and poems to keep us company, though no matter what we are doing.

On Tuesday, I will head back to the ROM as a volunteer, to help sort out some of the ant collection, to the best of my ability. Perhaps I will listen to some of Leonard Cohen’s music, and tweet out some of what I find to connect me and my entomology work to the wider world.

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ESC Blog Classifieds: Assistant Professor, Extension Specialist

The Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University seeks outstanding candidates for a full-time, nine month, tenure track position titled: Extension Specialist—Vegetable and Specialty Seed Crops. The position is based at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (NWREC) located in Aurora, OR—about 90 minutes north of Corvallis, OR and Oregon State University’s main campus. The position is at the assistant professor rank.

We seek an individual that will develop a regionally and nationally recognized, Extension outreach and research program in support of the fresh and processed vegetable and specialty seed crop industries. Extramural funding generated by the incumbent will help support this position and grow capacity. The appointment is 50% Extension, 30% research, 15% scholarship, and 5% service. Potential areas of emphasis could include, but are not limited to: pest management, irrigation, soil fertility and nutrient management, production science, food safety, marketing, environmental monitoring, technology and automation. The incumbent will be expected publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals and present at professional meetings. Also, the incumbent will be expected to work closely with other OSU faculty—on campus and off-campus who support vegetable and specialty seed crop research, teaching, Extension and outreach.

See flyer for more details & how to apply. Deadline November 20, 2016.

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A Nobel prize and the unknown benefits that come from saying yes

Aziz Sancar delivering his Nobel Lecture for his prize in Chemistry 2015. He said yes.

My early morning wakeup on Wednesday, October 7, 2015 began as usual with a, though admittedly not healthy, quick Twitter check. My internet-induced squint widened when I saw that Aziz Sancar was trending. Dr. Sancar had just been named co-winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry for his work on DNA repair mechanisms. Not at all surprised by the recognition of his career achievements, I was, however, flabbergasted because I actually know Aziz Sancar and in no small way, my career is what it is because of his generosity and kindness.

Twenty years ago, I was an MSc candidate studying the physiological ecology of amphibians at Trent University. At the time I was working with Michael Berrill on replicating and testing the findings of a 1994 PNAS paper by Andrew Blaustein and company. This was important work on declining amphibian populations in the Cascade Mountains. They found that these declining populations were characterised by low levels of a DNA repair enzyme called photolyase. This finding was intriguing because photolyase catalyses the repair of the principal form of damage to DNA from ultraviolet-b radiation. Because emerging ozone holes would result in natural populations experiencing an increased amount of UVB radiation, low levels of photolyase might be a “magic bullet” that explained which populations would be in decline in otherwise “pristine” areas.

Intriguing, but I was actually not ready to test it. With a potent combination of naïve enthusiasm, I figured I could simply contact the authors of the paper and ask them to teach me the methods that I needed to know to further their work. I tried email but could not find an address on the department website. So I phoned the Department of Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They explained that Dr. Sancar did not want or have an email address. I asked that the call be connected to his office. When he picked up the phone, I leapt immediately into my explanation that I was an MSc student from Trent University in Peterborough, Canada, and that I was hoping to visit his lab to learn methods of photolyase extraction that I would apply to my system. To my now weathered academic amazement, but, at the time, only to my joy, immediately and without hesitation, he said yes. If I could get myself to Chapel Hill, he would teach me what I needed to know.

Alex Smith with hair studying amphibian photolysase induction and concentration in the late 20th century.

Alex Smith with hair studying amphibian photolysase induction and concentration in the late 20th century.

So on my spring break of 1997, I rented a car (two cars actually – one died, another story) and drove from snowy Peterpatch to the flowering springtime of Chapel Hill, North Carolina to spend a week in Dr. Sancar’s lab. “Lab” didn’t quite cover it. Dr.’s Sancar (he and his wife, Dr. Gendolyn Sancar) had a floor of the building at UNC. Dr. Sancar met me on that Monday morning and arranged for a postdoc and a PhD student to help me all week and ensure that I could extract and purify the enzyme. He even arranged for another lab to give me some African clawed frog eggs to practice on! He met with me every day to see how I was progressing and answer any questions. I remember him encouraging me to take in a UNC NCAA women’s basketball game while in Chapel Hill (Tar Heels!), and I was very impressed that this academic superman was often watching soccer in his office when I arrived (the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League, I think). A man of many interests! I left at the end of the week and proceeded to apply these methods successfully in my MSc. Three papers (Smith 2000, Smith et al 2000, and Smith et al 2002), eventually came from this project and one of the principal findings was that this enzymatic system could be induced in individuals from natural populations (previously not considered – and something that dramatically affects ones’ estimation of a populations’ photolyase level).

In my paper I was very critical of previous research – and not surprisingly, the manuscript received quite harsh and negative reviews. I had never written a response to reviewer comments before, and I did not craft them elegantly or with appreciation. Dr. Sancar was the editor at the journal handling the submission. He phoned me to suggest how I might better word my response. Connecting the phone call alone was no easy feat considering I was living in my car at the time, couch-surfing amongst friends on the west coast of North America – I’m still not sure how he managed to find me. But the advice was priceless and likely not something I would have come to on my own (let’s say it was something along the lines of…“I can hear that you’re angry by these comments, and they are not elegant – but you can’t say what you’ve said. What you mean is this……..so try expressing it like this….”). I was so appreciative, and now 20 years later I’m not sure I expressed my gratitude sufficiently.

And so, fast forward 20 years when I wake to read that the world has recognised Aziz Sancar for his pioneering work in the broad field of DNA repair. It made me think about the often unappreciated or unintended effects that saying yes can have on those around you.

At the end of his Nobel Lecture in Sweden in December 2015, Dr. Sancar showed a slide acknowledging his lab and colleagues. In part, these people and their output are the metrics that the Nobel committee evaluated in awarding him the prize. It was an impressive, but I knew not an exhaustive, list, for Dr. Sancar’s direct effect on my career – and indirectly then on all the students I have worked with in the subsequent years – was invisible to the Nobel committee (and perhaps not even remembered by Dr. Sancar). But these effects are significant and they came from a busy scientist saying yes when confronted with a naïve but enthusiastic student. There were many reasons for him to not take my call, not encourage me to come to North Carolina, not host me while I was there nor mentor me through the review process later on. But he did. He did say yes and it had an immeasurable effect.

I now work with insects in the neotropics and Canada on questions of biodiversity. I don’t work with photolyase and I don’t work as a physiological ecologist. However, by saying yes to me 20 years ago, Dr. Sancar’s act of generosity enabled me to follow this path. In the over-scheduled and busy lifestyle that we lead, it is important to consider this ripple that saying yes can have. There are many intended and measurable outcomes of supervision and mentoring – however there are many, perhaps more, unintended and important effects that kindness can have. As Anne Galloway said on Twitter, “We’re all smart – distinguish yourself by being kind”. The Nobel committee judged Dr. Sancar’s academic output worthy of its highest award last year. They were likely unaware of the affect that he has had in other scientific disciplines through his generosity and kindness.

 

I don’t think I said it clearly enough before. Thank you Dr. Sancar.

 

Dr. Alex Smith
Department of Integrative Biology,
University of Guelph

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ESC Blog Classifieds: Job opportunity – Entomologist / Offre d’emploi – Entomologiste

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) recently published a job advertisement for two Research scientist positions in the fields of entomology (Vector-borne Entomology & Molecular Insect Taxonomy). Please find below the link to the job advertisement, shall this be an employment opportunity that could interest you. https://emploisfp-psjobs.cfp-psc.gc.ca/psrs-srfp/applicant/page1800?poster=966937&toggleLanguage=en Thank you for your consideration! Deadline: Oct 26, 2016

L’Agence canadienne d’inspection des aliments (ACIA) a récemment publié une offre d’emploi pour deux postes de chercheurs scientifiques, dans les domaines de l’entomologie (Entomologie vectorielle & Taxonomie moléculaire des insectes). Veuillez trouver le lien menant à l’offre d’emploi, advenant que ce soit une opportuniqué qui vous intéresse.https://emploisfp-psjobs.cfp-psc.gc.ca/psrs-srfp/applicant/page1800?poster=966937&toggleLanguage=fr Merci pour votre consideration! Date limite: 26 octobre 2016.

Krista McCarthy, Recruitment-recrutement Advisor, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

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À la chasse au pseudoscorpion béringien dans l’Arctique

Notre but initial, pour mon superviseur Dr. Brent Sinclair et moi, était de voyager au Yukon pour collecter des araignées. Nous avions entendu du Dr. Chris Buddle, que nous allions rencontrer là-bas, que les araignées étaient nombreuses. Et il avait bien raison ! Cependant, nous ne pensions pas être charmé par le minuscule (maximum 3mm), mais fougueux pseudoscorpion Wyochernes asiaticus et qu’il pique autant notre curiosité.

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Une femelle W. asiaticus avec une poche pleine d’oeufs. Beaucoup des pseudoscorpions furent trouvé pleins d’oeufs qui ont éclos à notre retour en Ontario. Crédit photo: Brent Sinclair

 

Notre équipe de recherche a quitté Whitehorse avec tout l’équipement nécessaire (nourriture, réchaud, véhicule à quatre roues motrices et beaucoup de contenants pour l’échantillonage) et nous avons passés les deux prochaines semaines à explorer la tundra, se dirigeant vers le Nord sur la « Dempster Highway ». Cette route est probablement la seule route entretenue au Nord du Yukon et nous permet d’atteindre la région béringienne. Alors que les glaciers recouvraient la plupart de l’Amérique du Nord durant la dernière ère glacière, la Béringie était un des seuls endroits n’ayant pas été ensevelie. Pour cette raison, beaucoup des espècesqui s’y trouvent , telles que W. asiaticus, pré-datent la dernière ère glacière. Bon, cette créature n’est peut-être pas aussi excitante qu’un mammouth ou un castor géant, mais, pour les chercheurs travaillant sur les arthropodes, elle est très spéciale.

C’est Dr. Buddle qui a attiré notre attention sur ces créatures. Il en avait trouvé durant des voyages antérieurs et voulait avoir des échantillons provenant de différentes latitudes (nous avons traversés environ 10 dégrées de latitude durant notre voyage). Il a demandé notre aide pour collecter les échantillons de pseudoscorpions. Ceux-ci vivent sous des roches plates sur les rives des rivières. C’est pendant l’échantillonnage que nous nous sommes demandés ce qu’ils faisaient le reste de l’année. Non seulement ils doivent supporter le froid éprouvant de l’hiver arctique, mais vivent aussi dans une région où il y a des crues périodiques. Nous voulions voir quelle était leur tolérance pour le froid et pour la submersion. Nous allons pris et les avons rapporter vers notre laboratoire à University of Western Ontario, avec aussi environ 600 araignées

De retour dans le laboratoire, j’ai mesuré le point de congélation, les points thermaux critiques minimum et maximum (CTmin et CTmax; les limites de l’activité) des pseudoscorpions. Leur point de congélation, déterminant s’ils survivent ou pas à la congélation, nous a donné une idée de leur habilité à surmonter les hivers glaciaux de l’Arctique. Nous sommes intéressés par le CTmin et CTmax car ils nous permettent d’avoir une bonne idée de leurs limites écologiques, c’est-à-dire s’ils peuvent se déplacer, se nourrir ou se défendre. Nous avons découvert que ces petites bêtes avaient une très mauvaise tolérance au froid. Ils ne survivent pas à la congélation et, aux alentours de -4°C ne peuvent plus bouger. L’Arctique peut atteindre des températures bien plus froides que ça ! Nous pouvons seulement supposer qu’ils recherchent des refuges thermaux très efficaces durant l’hiver ou qu’ils ajustent leur tolérance au froid durant l’année, comme beaucoup d’insectes.

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De retour au laboratoire, j’ai utilisé un bloc de métal avec des petits trous pour abriter les pseudoscorpions. Le bloc pouvait être réchauffé ou refroidi et, ainsi, je pouvais observer le moment où les individus arrêtaient de bouger. La photo fut prise à travers un microscope. Crédit photo: Susan Anthony

Parlant de changements de saison, nous assumons que leur habitat est inondé de façon saisonnière vu que nous les avons trouvés sur le bord d’une rivière. Est-ce qu’ils se déplacent en amont de la rivière ? Est-ce qu’ils nagent ? Est-ce qu’ils apportent une bulle d’air avec eux, comme les araignées plongeuses ? Au départ, nous pensions qu’ils tenaient une bulle d’air entre leur abdomen et les roches auxquelles ils s’accrochent. Dans nos expériences, ils ont survécu une semaine submergés dans les eaux hautement oxygénées ayant un taux de survie similaire à ceux qui ne vivaient pas sous l’eau. Cependant, ils avaient aussi le même taux de survie que ceux qui étaient submergés dans des eaux peu oxygénées. Nous concluons donc qu’ils tolèrent le fait d’être sous l’eau, mais qu’ils ne se comptent pas sur l’oxygène provenant de l’eau environnante.

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Sheep Creek, la rivière où nous avons collecté Wyochernes asiaticus. Les spécimens étaient plus commun à environ 1m au dessus du niveau de l’eau, sous les roches plates. Crédit photo: Chris Buddle

Notre excursion dans le Nord pour l’échantillonnage nous aura donc donné une belle surprise. Un petit pseudoscorpion sur les rives de la rivière a capté notre attention. Cependant, ce n’est pas la seule chose pouvant provoquer un lot de fascination lorsqu’au Yukon. De l’énorme grizzly au caribou aux centaines d’araignées et aux collemboles dont ils se nourissent, l’Arctique est en effet un endroit unique.

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L’équipe de biologie arctique: (g-d) Anne-Sophie Caron (Université McGill), Susan Anthony (Western University), Dr. Brent Sinclair (Western University), Saun Thurney (Université McGill), and Dr. Chris Buddle (Université McGill). Crédit photo: Mhairi McFarlane.

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Hunting for the great Beringian pseudoscorpion in the Arctic

By Susan Anthony, PhD Candidate, University of Western Ontario

Our initial aim for me and my supervisor Dr. Brent Sinclair was to travel to the Yukon to collect spiders. We had heard from Dr. Chris Buddle, who would meet us there, that spiders are plentiful. And indeed they were! But what we didn’t expect was to be charmed, and infinitely curious, about the tiny (max. 3mm) but feisty pseudoscorpion Wyochernes asiaticus.

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Female W. asiaticus with a brood pouch full of eggs. Many of the pseudoscorpions we found were gravid (full of eggs). When we brought them home, the eggs hatched are we had baby pseudoscorpions. Photo credit: Brent Sinclair

Our research team left Whitehorse with supplies (food, stove, 4WD vehicle, and lots of collecting containers), and spent the next two weeks exploring the tundra heading north on the Dempster Highway. This highway is probably the only maintained road in northern Yukon, and it provided access for us to the Beringian region. As the glaciers swept much of North America during the last ice age, Beringia was the land that was never glaciated. For this reason, many of the species located there pre-date the last ice age, such as W. asiaticus. Now, this creature may not be as exciting as a mammoth or a giant beaver, but to arthropod researchers, it was very special.

It was Dr. Buddle that pointed us to these creatures. He had found them on previous trips, and wanted to collect more from different latitudes (we spanned about 10 degrees of latitude on our trip). He had us help collect the pseudoscorpions: they live on the underside of flat rocks along river banks. It was while collecting them that we wondered what they did for the rest of the year. They would not only have to withstand the grueling cold of an Arctic winter, and they were also in an area that would experience periodic flooding. We wanted to see what their tolerance is for cold and for submergence. We packed them up, and brought them back to our lab at the University of Western Ontario, along with about 600 spiders.

When back in the lab, I measured freezing point, their critical thermal minima and maxima (CTmin and CTmax; the limits of activity) of the pseudoscorpions. Their freezing point, and whether or not they survive freezing, gives us an idea of their ability to survive the frigid winters in the Arctic. We are interested in CTmin and CTmax because they are good ideas of their ecological limits, if they can’t move, they can’t feed or defend themselves. What we discovered is that these little critters have very poor cold tolerance. They don’t survive freezing, and roughly -4°C, they can’t move. The Arctic gets much, much colder than that. Our only guess is that they seek very effective thermal refuges in the winter, or somehow adjust their cold tolerance through the year, much like many insects.

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Back in the lab, I used a metal block with small holes drilled into it to house the pseudoscorpions. The block could be heated or cooled, and I could observe the point at which they could no longer move. Photo take through the lens of a microscope. Photo credit: Susan Anthony

Speaking of seasonal change, we found W. asiaticus along the stream. Undoubtedly, their homes will be flooded seasonally. Do they migrate further up from the stream? Do they swim? Or do they bring a bubble of air down with them, like the diving spiders? It seemed at first that they held a bubble of air between their abdomen and the rocks that they latch onto. They survived for a week in highly oxygenated water (same survival as the ones who weren’t underwater). However, it was also the same survival as those submerged in low oxygenated water. Half of them even survived 2 weeks in the low oxygenated water. We concluded that they can tolerate being underwater, but they likely don’t rely on oxygen coming from the water around their air pocket.

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Sheep Creek, the stream where we collected Wyochernes asiaticus. The animals were most common approx. 1m above river level, on the underside of flat rocks. Photo credit: Chris Buddle

Our trip up North to collect spiders gave us a great surprise. A small pseudoscorpion on the banks of the streams caught our attention. However, there was so much to capture our fascination up North. From the giant grizzly bear and caribou, to the hundreds of spiders and the collembolans they much upon. The Arctic is indeed an unique place.

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The Arctic biology crew: (l-r) Anne-Sophie Caron (McGill University), me Susan Anthony (Western University), Dr. Brent Sinclair (Western University), Shaun Thurney (McGill University), and Dr. Chris Buddle (McGill University). Photo credit: Mhairi McFarlane.

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Joint Annual Meeting ESC-ESM 2017 – Winnipeg, MB

Yes, the International Congress of Entomology, which included the 2016 Entomological Society of Canada meeting contained within it, has just drawn to a close, but it’s never too early to start planning and preparing for the next ESC Annual Meeting!

So, in 2017, please accept the invitation of the Entomological Society of Manitoba to join entomologists from across the country in Winnipeg October 22-25 to share their, and your, entomological research and curiosity!

Official 2017 ESC-ESM Joint Annual Meeting Website

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BugsR4Girls – Applied entomology with a twist

By B. Staffan Lindgren (@bslindgren)

I have always thought of myself as extremely fortunate and blessed to have made a career in entomology. The main reason is that 99.9% of all entomologists I have met and come to know over the years have been extremely nice people. Like most entomologists, I was interested in animals (which in my case included insects and spiders) at a young age. Many of my friends probably considered me a bit odd, but that’s as far as it went as far as I recall. Unfortunately, that is not always the case as this story reveals.

The other day I (along with a large number of people on Twitter) got to witness this kindness in action in a way that warms my heart. Nicole Spencer, a concerned mother, sent a request to the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) regarding her young daughter, Sophia, who happens to love insects and wants to become an entomologist when she grows up. Sophia’s interest has somehow led to teasing and outright bullying in school, however. Fortunately Sophia’s mom understands the importance of nurturing her daughter’s interest, as did my mother even though I kept spiders in jars in my bedroom. Nicole’s and Sophia’s heartfelt letter was passed on to Morgan Jackson (@BioInFocus), who promptly posted a tweet on behalf of the ESC (@CanEntomologist) asking entomologists to help out. This tweet, which displayed the letter, included the hashtag #BugsR4Girls, and it quickly went viral.

facebook-shareWithin a very short period, Morgan had amassed a list of 100+ people willing to assist, along with a number of additional offers from non-entomologists. An offer even came from celebrity Dominic Monaghan, British actor and host of the television program Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan. You can get the gist of it all from the Storify that Morgan put together. The huge response led to interest from media, and Sophia and her mom were featured on Buzzfeed Canada, where the whole story is revealed. It hasn’t ended there. Another media story came from LFPress, and Sophia’s story even made the front page of the Toronto Star! In addition, numerous tweets have been posted with or without the hashtag, and above I have reproduced 3 (but there are so many more that you really need to look for yourself). I also posted about this on my Facebook Page, and the story was shared by others there. The comments from this one really says it all!

I mentioned non-entomologists. Here is an open letter to Sophia (called Beatrix in the letter because the author didn’t know her name at the time) from a science communicator.bug-chicks

On the one hand this is a story about a little girl who has big dreams. On the other hand it is a story about the future of women in STEM. Sophia has dreams about becoming a scientist, but both she and her mother are uncertain of what possibilities are out there. Many other young children are in the same boat, I’m sure. But the journey starts at home with parents encouraging children to believe that they can be or do whatever they set their minds to. Last Friday I listened to a CBC Radio show with Maria Issa, a Canadian scientist who started in life just like Sophia by daydreaming and watching lady bugs. In spite of the odds being stacked high against her success, she made it, but many are discouraged, which later affects their self-confidence. My experience is that there is no gender difference in ability – in fact women mature sooner and are more focused than men IMHO. And the increasing number of brilliant female scientists in entomology is a case in point. Luckily for Sophia, she has an encouraging mother. Whether or not she becomes an entomologist is not the point. The point is that she believes in the possibility.

llavanerasFor me, Sophia’s story is a wonderful, multifaceted teachable moment. With all her new friends, Sophia will do just fine. I wish her all the luck in the world.

whiffin

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ESC Blog Classifieds – 2 Post-docs @ University of Alberta (Chemical Ecology & Ecophysiology)

Seeking Two Postdoctoral Fellows in Tree Responses to Insect Herbivores and Drought

Area of Research: Chemical Ecology & Ecophysiology

Location: Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton (Alberta, Canada)

Description of positions: The interdisciplinary project goal is to characterize the contributions that metabolomics and genomics-assisted tree breeding can play in comprehensive forest planning. Postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) sought for this project to assess the activities of tree defense and ecophysiological responses to insect herbivory and drought. The PDFs will characterize the secondary compounds, anatomy, and ecophysiology of two conifer species (lodgepole pine and white spruce) in response to insect herbivory and drought treatments in both greenhouse trials and associated progeny field trials in Alberta. The PDFs will be responsible for conducting and coordinating both lab and field investigations that include anatomical and chemical characterization of tree defenses, assessment of 13C, gas exchange, and chlorophyll fluorescence plant drought response, implementation of greenhouse and field experiments, data management, statistical analyses, writing reports and peer-reviewed journal manuscripts, and interact with industrial and government partners. The PDFs will also assist with supervision of full and part-time research assistants and undergraduate students. Even though each PDF will have his/her own research projects, it is expected that they work and collaborate together.

Salary: $50,000+ benefits per year, commensurate with experience.

Required qualifications: PhD in a relevant field is required. The ideal candidate should have background and experience in chemical ecology, ecophysiology, entomology, forest ecology, with strong analytical chemistry of plant secondary compounds (primarily terpenes and phenolics) using GC-MS and LC-MS, and writing skills. Suitable applicants with a primary background in one or more areas, plus interest in other research areas, are encouraged to apply.

Application instructions: All individuals interested in these positions must submit: (1) an updated CV; and (2) a cover letter explaining their qualities, including a list of 3 references along with their contact information (a maximum of 2 pages). Applications should be sent by email to Nadir Erbilgin (erbilgin@aulberta.ca) and Barb Thomas (bthomas@ualberta.ca) by the closing date. Please list “PDF application in Tree Responses to Insect Herbivores and Drought” in the subject heading.

Closing date: November 30, 2016.

Supervisors: Nadir Erbilgin (https://sites.ualberta.ca/~erbilgin/) and Barb Thomas (http://www.rr.ualberta.ca/StaffProfiles/AcademicStaff/Thomas.aspx)

Expected start date: January 2017 (with some flexibility)

Terms: 1-4 years (1st year initial appointment, with additional years subject to satisfactory performance).

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Appreciating insects and other arthropods: a lifetime of riches

 

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It is about time I got busy and stared blogging again on this site. Since I am out of practice, I will do what I know best: a photo essay about why I love insects and other arthropods, and how studying them has improved my life!

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Ever since I was a young kid, I have loved getting out and seeing the animals nearby. When I was very young, my mom would send me in the backyard with a spoon and a yogurt container, so I could dig up, catch and watch the bugs I found. 

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In school, virtually all of my research reports and essays would be about insects, spiders, snakes and other animals. My love of insects became my pathway to learning.

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In university, I continued to indulge my love of insects and other animals, by taking any and all zoological courses offered. 

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Even when not studying, almost all the free time I get is spent outdoors, still looking for and watching insects, spiders and other animals. I really enjoy doing photography of what I find. 

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Taking photos of insects is a great way to explore their beauty, and to try to communicate that to others. In the pursuit of a good photograph, I learn a lot about the habits of local insects. 

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Now, I make a living studying animal behaviour. At the moment I am working with Catherine Scott studying spider behaviour at a local beach in Victoria BC. 

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We are studying black widows, one of the most beautiful and intriguing spiders. Of course I bring my camera along, to document the cool things we are learning about their behaviour!

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Studying insects and spiders is not only my job, it is what I most love to do. There is just so much to learn and explore. I think that getting out and experiencing the natural world this way is one of the most rewarding things someone of any age can do!

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Organizations like the Entomological Society of Canada, as well as the Entomological Society of Ontario, and the Toronto Entomologist’s Association form a community of people I can talk to and share my discoveries with. I highly recommend getting together with other insect lovers! Trading ideas and anecdotes and learning more together are some ways we can improve knowledge of insects and other arthropods.  

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OK! I have said my piece. I would welcome any other ESC members, or other entomologists out there to do likewise! What have you been doing this summer? What are some of the cool things you have seen? Share them with us here at the ESC blog!