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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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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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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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ESC Blog Classifieds – MSc opportunity for prairie ecosystem research

 MSc – Role of dung-breeding insects in pasture ecosystems

Applications are invited for an MSc position to begin January or May of 2017.  Research will examine the role of dung-breeding insects in pasture ecosystems in southern Alberta.  This is a collaborative project between Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the University of Lethbridge (U. of L.), both based in Lethbridge, Alberta.

The project will include insect surveys using dung-baited pitfall traps from May through September on native pastures in southern Alberta, Canada. The role of dung insect activity will be assessed for effects on dung degradation, soil nutrients and micro-fauna, and greenhouse gas emissions.  Dung beetles will be examined as potential vectors of parasites affecting livestock.

The ideal applicant will have recently completed an undergraduate degree in biology or related program with courses in entomology and ecology.  They will be enthusiastic, innovative, and have excellent communication skills (written, oral) in English.  They must be able to work independently and as part of a team.  They must have a valid driver’s license and meet the scholastic qualifications required for acceptance into Graduate Studies at the U. of L.

The successful applicant will be jointly supervised by Drs. Kevin Floate (AAFC) and Cam Goater (U. of L.).  Under the supervision of Dr. Floate, the student will be based at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre (AAFC), where they will perform the main body of their research.  The Floate lab studies diverse aspects of insect community ecology with particular emphasis on prairie ecosystems (https://sites.google.com/site/dungins/homepage). Under the supervision of Dr. Goater, the student will be enrolled in an MSc program in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lethbridge.  Research in the dynamic Goater lab focuses on the ecology and evolution of host/parasite interactions, and on prairie biodiversity and conservation (http://scholar.ulethbridge.ca/cpg/home).

Informal communication with Dr. Floate prior to application is encouraged.  To apply, please send a cover letter detailing your fit to the position, a CV, a copy of your most recent transcripts, and the names and contact details of three referees to Dr. Kevin Floate (Kevin.Floate@agr.gc.ca).  The deadline for application is November 1, 2016.

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Canadian Entomology Research Roundup: September 2015 – January 2016

(version française)

As part of a continuing series of Canadian Entomology Research Roundups, here’s what some Canadian entomology grad students have been up to lately:

From the authors:

Finn Hamilton (University of Victoria)

It is now well known that the majority of insects host symbiotic bacteria that have profound consequences for host biology. In some cases, these symbioses can protect hosts against virulent parasites and pathogens, although in most cases it remains unclear how symbionts achieve this defense. In this paper, we show that a strain of the bacterium Spiroplasma that protects its Drosophila host against a virulent nematode parasite encodes a protein toxin. This toxin appears to attack the nematode host during Spiroplasma-mediated defense, representing one of the clearest demonstrations to date of mechanisms underpinning insect defensive symbiosis. Article link

Drosophila

This is a Drosophila falleni fly infected by the nematode, Howardula aoronymphium, which Spiroplasma protects against. Photo credit: Finn Hamilton.

Lucas Roscoe (University of Toronto)

The Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, EAB) is a buprestid pest of ash trees in North America. As part of the development of long-term management plans for EAB, several projects detailing the biology and ecology of poorly-known, yet indigenous parasitoids associated with EAB were initiated. One project concerned the mating sequences of the chalcidid parasitoid, Phasgonophora sulcata Westwood. Many insects undertake repeatable actions prior to mating. These are commonly mediated by pheromones. The results of this research were the description of the mating sequence of P. sulcata, and evidence of female-produced pheromones that initiate these actions. Article link

sulcata

Phasgonophora sulcata, an important parasitoid of the emerald ash borer. Photo credit: Lucas Roscoe.

Marla Schwarzfeld (University of Alberta)

The parasitic wasp genus Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) is almost entirely unknown in the Nearctic region, with the vast majority of species undescribed. In this study, we published the first molecular phylogeny of the genus, based on COI, ITS2, and 28S gene regions. While focusing on Nearctic specimens, we also included representatives of most known species from the western Palearctic region and several sequences from other geographical regions. We delimited 13 species groups, most recognized for the first time in this study. This phylogeny will provide an essential framework that will hopefully inspire taxonomists to divide and conquer (and describe!) new species in this morphologically challenging genus. Article link

Ophion

A parasitoid wasp in the genus Ophion. Photo credit: Andrea Jackson

Seung-Il Lee (University of Alberta)

Seung-Il Lee and his colleagues (University of Alberta) found that large retention patches (> 3.33 ha) minimize negative edge effects on saproxylic beetle assemblages in boreal white spruce stands. Article link    Blog post

beetle

A saproxylic beetle, Peltis fraterna. Photo credit: Seung-Il Lee.

Paul Abram (Université de Montréal)

The relationship between insect body size and life history traits (e.g. longevity, fecundity) has been extensively studied, but the additional effect of body size on behavioural traits is less well known. Using the egg parasitoid Telenomus podisi Ashmead (Hymenoptera: Platygastridae) and three of its stink bug host species as a model system, we showed that body size differences were associated with a change in a suite of not only life history parameters (longevity, egg load, egg size), but also several behavioural traits (walking speed, oviposition rate, host marking speed). Our results highlight how the entire phenotype (behaviour and life history) has to be considered when assessing associations between body size and fitness. Article link

Telenomus

The parasitoid Telenomus podisi parasitizing eggs of the stink bug Podisus maculiventris. Photo credit: Leslie Abram.

Delyle Polet (University of Alberta)

Insect wings often have directional roughness elements- like hairs and scales- that shed water droplets along the grain, but why are these elements not always pointing in the same direction? We proposed that three strategies are at play. Droplets should be (1) shed away from the body, (2) shed as quickly as possible and (3) forced out of “valleys” formed between wing veins. A mathematical model combining these three strategies fits the orientation of hairs on a March fly wing (Penthetria heteroptera) quite well, and could readily be applied to other species or bioinspired materials. Article link

Winghairs

Hairs on a March fly (Penthetria heteroptera) wing. Photo credit: Delyle Polet.

In-brief research summaries

Taxonomy, Systematics, and Morphology

Thomas Onuferko from the Packer Lab at York University and colleagues carried out an extensive survey of bee species in Niagara Region, Ontario. Onuferko et al. collected over 50 000 bees and discovered 30 species previously not recorded in the area. Article link

Christine Barrie and colleague report the Chloropidae flies associated with common reed (Phragmites) in Canada. Article link

 Behaviour and Ecology 

Blake Anderson (McMaster University) and colleagues investigates the decoupling hypothesis of social behaviour and activity in larval and adult fruit flies. Article link

Susan Anthony from the Sinclair Lab at Western University, along with Chris Buddle (McGill University), determined the Beringian pseudoscorpion can tolerate of both cold temperatures and immersion. Article link

A study by Fanny Maure (Université de Montréal) shows that the nutritional status of a host, the spotted lady beetle (Coleomegilla maculata), influences host fate and parasitoid fitness. Article link

Is connectivity the key? From the Buddle and Bennett Labs at McGill University and the James Lab at (Université de Montréal), Dorothy Maguire (McGill University) and colleagues use landscape connectivity and insect herbivory to propose a framework that examines that tradeoffs associated with ecosystem services. Article link

 Alvaro Fuentealba (Université Laval) and colleague discovered that different host tree species show varying natural resistance to spruce budworm. Article link

Insect and Pest Management

Rachel Rix (Dalhousie University) et al. observed that mild insecticide stress can increase reproduction and help aphids better cope with subsequent stress. Article link

Lindsey Goudis (University of Guelph) and others found that the best way to control western bean cutworm is to apply lambda-cyhalothrin and chlorantraniliprole 4 to 18 day after 50 % egg hatch. Article link

Matthew Nunn (Acadia University) and colleague document the diversity and densities of important pest species of wild blueberries in Nova Scotia. Article link

Physiology and Genetics

Does heterozygosity improve symmetry in the Chilean bee, Xeromelissa rozeni? Margarita Miklasevskaja (York University) and colleague tested this hypothesis in their recent paper. Article link

Xeromelissa

A Chilean male Xeromelissa rozeni. Photo credit: Margarita Miklasevskaja.

Recent University of Alberta graduate Jasmine Janes and others explored the mating systems and fine-scale spatial genetic structure for effective management of mountain pine beetle. Article link

Also from the Sperling Lab at the University of Alberta, Julian Dupuis and Felix Sperling examined the complex interaction of hybridization and speciation. They characterized potential hybridization in a species group of swallowtail butterflies. Article link

Marina Defferrari (University of Toronto) and colleagues identified new insulin-like peptides in Rhodnius prolixus and that these peptides are involved in the metabolic homeostasis of lipids and carbohydrates. Article link

Techniques

Crystal Ernst (McGill University) and colleague sampled beetles and spiders in different northern habitats. They found that the diversity of beetles and spiders are affected by habitat and trap type. Article link

 


We are continuing to help publicize graduate student publications to the wider entomological community through our Research Roundup. If you published an article recently and would like it featured, e-mail us at entsoccan.students@gmail.com. You can also send us photos and short descriptions of your research, to appear in a later edition of the research roundup.

For regular updates on new Canadian entomological research, you can join the ESC Students Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @esc_students.

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Rassemblement de la recherche entomologique canadienne: Septembre 2015 – Janvier 2016

(English version here)

Cet article fait partie d’une série continue de rassemblement de la recherche entomologique canadienne (Canadian Entomology Research Roundups). Voici ce que les étudiants de cycle supérieur canadiens ont fait récemment:

De la part des auteurs:

Finn Hamilton (University of Victoria)

C’est bien connu que la majorité des insectes sont hôtes à des bactéries symbiotiques qui ont de profondes conséquences sur la biologie de l’hôte. Dans certains cas, ces symbioses peuvent protéger l’hôte contre de virulents parasites et pathogens, même si dans la plupart des cas planent encore un mystère sur la façon dont les symbionts réussissent à atteindre cette défense. Dans cet article, nous avons démontré qu’une souche de la bactérie Spiroplasma qui protège son hôte drosophile contre un nématode parasitaire virulent encode une toxine sous forme de protéine. Cette toxine semble attaquer l’hôte du nématode durant une défense induite par Spiroplasma. Ceci représente, à ce jour, une des démonstrations les plus claires des mécanismes sous-jacents de la symbiose promouvant la défense des insectes. Lien vers l’article

Drosophila

Voici une mouche Drosophila falleni infecté par le nematode, Howardula aoronymphium, dont Spiroplasma  la protège. Crédit phot: Finn Hamilton.

Lucas Roscoe (University of Toronto)

L’agrile du frêne (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) est un buprestide ravageur s’attaquant aux frênes d’Amérique du Nord. Dans l’optique du développement de plans de gestion à long-terme de l’agrile du frêne, plusieurs projets détaillant la biologie et l’écologie de parasitoïdes indigènes peu étudiés auparavant ont été amorcés. Un des projets s’intéresse à la séquence de reproduction d’un parasitoïde, Phasgonophora sulcata Westwood. Plusieurs insectes entreprennent des actions répétées avant la reproduction qui sont souvent induites par des phéromones. Les résultats de cette étude sont la description de la séquence de reproduction de P. sulcata et la preuve que les phéromones produites par les femelles sont à la base de ses actions. Liens vers l’article

sulcata

Phasgonophora sulcata, un parasitoïde important de l’agrile du frêne. Crédit photo: Lucas Roscoe.

Marla Schwarzfeld (University of Alberta)

Les guêpes parasitiques du genre Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) sont presqu’entièrement inconnu dans la région Néarctique, où la majorité des espèces ne sont pas décrites. Dans cette étude, nous publions la première phylogénie moléculaire de ce genre, basé sur les régions COI, ITS2, and 28S. Bien que nous mettions l’accent sur les spécimens Néarctique, nous avons aussi inclus des représentants des espèces les plus connus de de l’ouest de la région Paléarctique et plusieurs séquences d’autre régions géographiques. Nous avons délimités 13 groupes d’espèces, la plupart étant reconnu pour la première fois dans cette étude. Cette phylogénie nous fournit un cadre essentiel qui pourra, nous espérons, inspirer les taxonomistes à divisier et conquérir (et décrire!) de nouvelles espèces dans ce genre qui présente de grands défis morphologiques. Liens vers l’article

Ophion

A parasitoid wasp in the genus Ophion. Photo credit: Andrea Jackson

Seung-Il Lee (University of Alberta)

Seung-Il Lee et ses collègues (University of Alberta) ont trouvé que de larges territoires de rétention (> 3.33 ha) minimisent “l’effet de bordure” négatif sur les coléoptères saproxyliques dans les peuplements boréals d’épinette blanche. Liens vers l’article  Billet de blogue (EN)

beetle

Un coléoptère saproxylique, Peltis fraterna. Crédit photo: Seung-Il Lee.

Paul Abram (Université de Montréal)

La relation entre la taille des insectes et certains traits distinctifs (tel que la longévité, la fécondité, …) a été largement étudié, mais l’effet additionnel de la taille sur les traits comportementales sont moins bien connus. En utilisant le parasitoïde d’oeuf  Telenomus podisi Ashmead (Hymenoptera: Platygastridae) et trois de ses hôtes punaises comme système modèle, nous avons démontrés que la différence de taille était associé a un changement dans la plusieurs traits distinctifs (longévité, masse d’oeufs, taille des oeufs), mais aussi de certains traits comportementales (vitesse de marche, taux d’oviposition, taux de marquage des oeufs). Nos résultats mettent en relief comment la phénotype complet (comportement et traits distinctifs) doivent être considéré quand nous évaluons l’association entre la taille et la condition physique. Liens vers l’article

Telenomus

Le parasitoïde Telenomus podisi parasitisant les oeufs de la punaise Podisus maculiventris. Crédit photo: Leslie Abram.

Delyle Polet (University of Alberta)

Les ailes de insectes ont souvent des éléments directionnels rugueux – comme des poils et des écailles- qui perdent des gouttes d’eau dans le sens des éléments, mais pourquoi ces éléments ne pointent pas toujours dans la même direction? Nous avons proposé que trois stratégies sont en jeu. Les gouttes pourrait être (1) évacuer loin du corps, (2) être perdues aussi vite que possible et (3) évacuer de “vallées” formés entre les veines des ailes. Un modèle mathématique combinant trois de ces stratégies concorde avec l’orientation des poils sur un taon (Penthetria heteroptera) assez bien et pourrait être appliqué à d’autres espèces ou à des matériaux inspirés par la biologie. Liens vers l’article

Winghairs

Poils sur l’aile d’un taon (Penthetria heteroptera). Crédit photo: Delyle Polet.

Résumés bref de recherche

Taxonomie, Systématique, and Morphologie

Thomas Onuferko du laboratoire Packer à York University et ses collègues ont réalisé un vaste étude sur les espèces d’abeilles dans la région de Niagara, Ontario. Onuferko et al. ont collecté plus de 50 000 abeilles et ont découvert 30 espèces qui n’avait pas été rapporté dans la région. Liens vers l’article

Christine Barrie et ses collègues ont signalé que des mouches de la famille Chloropidae sont associés aux phragmites au Canada. Lien vers l’article

Comportment et écologie

Blake Anderson (McMaster University) et ses collègues ont étudié l’hypothèse du découplage du comportement social et de l’activité dans les mouches larvaires et adultes. Lien vers l’article

Susan Anthony du laboratoire Sinclair à Western University, ainsi que Chris Buddle (McGill University), ont déterminé que le pseudoscorpion de Béringie peut tolérer tant les basses températures et l’immersion. Lien vers l’article

Une étude par Fanny Maure (Université de Montréal) démontre que le status nutritionnel d’un hôte, la coccinelle maculée (Coleomegilla maculata), influence le destin de l’hôte et condition physique du parasitoïde. Lien vers l’article

Est-ce que la connectivité est la clé? Des laboratoires Buddles et Bennet à l’Université McGill et du laboratoire James à l’Université de Montréal, Dorothy Maguire (Université McGill) et ses collègues ont utilisé la connectivité du paysage et les insectes herbivores pour proposer un cadre pour examiner les compromis associés aux services ecosystèmiques. Lien vers l’article

 Alvaro Fuentealba (Université Laval) et ses collègues ont découvert que différentes espèces d’arbres hôtes montrent des variations à la résistance naturelle à la tordeuse du bourgeon de l’épinette. Lien vers l’article

Gestion des insectes ravageurs

Rachel Rix (Dalhousie University) et al. ont observé qu’un stress modéré induit par l’insecticide pour augmenter la reproduction et aider les pucerons a mieux se débrouiller avec le stress subséquent. Lien vers l’article

Lindsey Goudis (University of Guelph) et ses collègues ont découvert que la meilleure façon de contrôler Striacosta albicota (Smith) est d’appliquer de la lamba-cyhalothrine de la chlorantraniprole 4 à 18 jours après l’éclosion de 50% des oeufs. Lien vers l’article

Matthew Nunn (Acadia University) et ses collègues ont documenté la diversité et densité d’importantes espèces ravageuses des bleuets sauvages en Nouvelle-Écosse. Lien vers l’article

Physiologie et génétique

Est-ce que l’heterozygositie améliore la symétrie de Xeromelissa rozeni?  Margarita Miklasevskaja (York University) et ses collègues ont testé cette hypothèse dans leur plus récent article. Lien vers l’article

Xeromelissa

Un male Xeromelissa rozeni. Crédit photo: Margarita Miklasevskaja.

Jasmine Janes, récemment graduée de University of Alberta, et d’autres ont exploré les systèmes de reproduction et de structure génétique à petite échelle pour la gestion efficace du Dendroctone du pin ponderosa. Lien vers l’article

Du laboratoire Sperling à University of Alberta, Julian Dupuis et Felix Sperling ont examiné l’interaction complexe de l’hybridation et de la spéciation. Ils ont caractérisé le potentiel d’hybridation dans un groupe de Papilonidae. Lien vers l’article

Marina Defferrari (University of Toronto) et ses collègues ont identifié un nouveau peptide similair à l’insuline dans Rhodnius prolixus. Ses peptides sont impliqués dans l’homéostasie métaboliques des lipides et carbohydrates. Lien vers l’article

Techniques

Crystal Ernst (McGill University) et ses collègues ont collecté des coléoptères et des araignées dans différents habitats du Nord. Ils ont trouvé que la diversité des coléoptères et des araignées par habitat et type de trappes. Lien vers l’article


Nous continuous à aider à divulguer les publications des étudiants de cycle supérieur à la plus vaste communauté entomologique grâce aux rassemblement de recherche. Si vous avez publié un article récemment et souhaitez le divulguer, envoyez-nous un email à entsoccan.students@gmail.com.  Vous pouvez aussi nous envoyer des photos et une courte description de votre recherche dans le but apparaître dans notre prochain rassemblement de recherche.

Pour des mises à jour régulières sur la nouvelle recherche entomologique canadienne, vous pouvez joindre la page Facebook de ESC Students ou nous suivre sur Twitter @esc_students (EN) ou @esc_students_fr (FR).

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Musings about statistics by a statistics-phobe

By B. Staffan Lindgren, Professor Emeritus

A while back, a paper accepted by The American Statistician entitled “The ASA’s statement on p-values: context, process, and purpose” was posted to the American Statistical Association website. The gist of the paper was that many disciplines rely too much on the p-value as the sole indicator of research importance. Not surprisingly, the paper received considerable attention.

Over my career, I had a love-hate relationship with statistics, knowing just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to really understand what I was doing. Consequently I relied on packaged software and/or colleagues or students who were more quantitatively minded than myself. For example, I generally made sure that a graduate student committee had at least one member with some strength in statistics to make sure I would not leave the candidate stranded or led astray. So if you read my thoughts below, keep in mind that I tread on very thin ice here. I fully expect some disagreement on this, but that is the way it is supposed to be. Ultimately it is your responsibility to understand what you are doing.

The approaches and tools for statistical analysis have changed a lot since my student days, which was at the dawn of mainframe computers for general use, on which we could use a software package called Textform rather than typing the thesis on a type writer as I (read “a secretary I hired and almost drove to depression”) did for my masters. My first visit to a statistical consultant at Simon Fraser University ended with the advice that “This data set can’t be analyzed, it contains zero values.” The software of choice was SPSS, which did not allow for any complexity, so I did a fair bit by hand (which might have been a good thing since it forced me to think about what I was doing, but certainly did not prevent errors). Later in my career it was sometimes a struggle to decide among differing opinions of statisticians what was and was not appropriate to use, but with a little help from my friends I think I managed to negotiate most of the pitfalls (no pun intended) fairly well.

The author with his eponymous insect trap, sometime after struggles doing statistics with room-sized computers. Photo: Ron Long

The statistic-phobic author with his eponymous insect trap, preparing to gather data and test hypotheses. Photo: Ron Long.

One of the issues with our reliance on p-values is that it is tempting to do post-hoc “significance-hunting” by using a variety of approaches, rather than deciding a priori how to analyze the data. Data that show no significance often remains unpublished, leading to potential “publication bias”. In part this may be the result of journal policies (or reviewer bias), which tends to lead to rejection of papers reporting ‘negative’ results. We have also been trained to use an experiment-wise alpha of 0.05 or less, i.e., a significant result would be declared if the p-value is lower than 0.05. There are two problems with this. First, it is an arbitrary value in a sense, e.g., there really is no meaningful difference between p=0.049 and 0.051. Furthermore, the p-value does not really tell you anything about the importance of the result. All it can do is give some guidance regarding the interpretation of the results relative to the hypothesis. I have tried to make students put their research in context, because I believe the objective of the research may dictate whether or not a significant p-value is important or not. I used to work in industry, and one of the reasons I left was that recommendations I made based on research were not always acted upon. For example, pheromones of bark beetles are often synergized by various host volatiles. But whether or not they are may depend on environmental factors. For example, just after clear cutting the air is likely to have high levels of host volatiles, thus making any host volatile added to a trap ineffective. However, a company may make money by selling such volatiles, and hence they would tend to ignore any results that would lead to a loss of revenue. On the other hand, one could argue that they have the customers’ best interest in mind, because if host volatiles are important under some circumstances, it would be detrimental to remove them from the product.

This leads to my thoughts about the power of an analysis. The way I think of power is that it is a measure of the likelihood of finding a difference if it is there. There are two ways of increasing power that I can think of. One is to increase the number of replications, and the other is to use a higher alpha value. It is important to think about the consequence of an error. A Type I error is when significance is declared when there is none, while a Type II error is when no significance is found when in fact there is one. Which of these is most important is something we need to think about. For example, if you worked in conservation of a threatened species, and you found that a particular action to enhance survival resulted in a p-value of 0.07, would you be prepared to declare that action ineffective assuming that it wasn’t prohibitively expensive? If you have committed a Type II error, and discontinue the action, it could result in extinction of the threatened species. On the other hand, if you test a pesticide, would a significant value of 0.049 be enough to decide to pursue the expensive testing required for registration? If you have committed a Type I error, the product is not likely to succeed in the market place. If the potential market is small, which tends to be the case for behavioural chemicals, it may not be feasible to use this product because of the high cost, which has nothing to do with statistical analysis, but could be the overriding concern in determining the importance of the finding.

One area where the sole use of p-values can become very problematic is for regressions. The p-value only tells us whether or not the slope of the line is significantly different from zero, and therefore it becomes really important to look at how the data are distributed. An outlier can have a huge impact, for example (see figure). As an editor I saw many questionable regressions, e.g., with single points driving much of the effect, but which in the text were described as highly significant.

Fig. 1. An example of where a single point is driving a linear regression. Take it away and there is no apparent relationship at all. Figure from http://www.stat.yale.edu/Courses/1997-98/101/linreg.htm

Finally, we need to keep in mind that a significant p-value does not indicate certainty, but probability, i.e., at p=0.05, you would expect to get the same result 19 of 20 times, but that still means that the result could be the result of chance if you only ran the experiment once. (If you run a biological experiment that yields a p-value close to 0.05 a number of times, you would soon discover that it can be difficult to get the same outcome every time). Depending on the context, that may not be all that confidence inspiring. For example, if someone told you that there was only a 5% probability that you would be get seriously sick by eating a particular mushroom, wouldn’t that make you think twice about eating it?? On the other hand many of us will gladly shell out money to buy a 6/49 ticket even though the probability of winning anything at all is very low, let alone winning the jackpot, because in the end we are buying the dream of winning, and a loss is not that taxing (unless you gamble excessively of course). I consider odds of 1:8000 in a lottery really good, which they aren’t of course, evidenced by the fact that I have never won anything of substance! So relatively speaking, 1:20 is astronomically high if you think about it!

Why am I bothering to write this as a self-confessed statistics phobe? I have mainly to emphasize that you (and by “you” I primarily mean students engaged in independent research) need to think of statistics as a valuable tool, but not as the only, or even primary tool for interpreting results. Ultimately, it is the biological information that is important.

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Entomologist Survey: Life & Living in Academia

This is a guest post by Dr. Laurel Haavik, post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University.

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I am a post-doc. I’ve been one for nearly six years. Like many other post-docs, I have been working for over a decade towards my goal: a tenure-track position at a research-intensive academic institution. I enjoy research and teaching, and so a career including both seemed like a logical pursuit. I must be good enough to succeed in this pursuit, otherwise someone would have told me to opt for a different path by now. After all, only a small percentage of Ph.D.s actually become professors. I must be pretty close to achieving this goal, because lately I’ve had several interviews – no offers yet. By now, most of my peers have secured permanent positions, although some have gone on different paths. It must be my turn soon. I had faith in the system; confidence in myself.

Earlier this summer, I was invited to give a talk at a conference, in a session on women in science. I accepted willingly; the subject seemed challenging and relevant. As I began to prepare, I realized I knew nothing about it. So, I did what any scientist would do: I turned to the primary literature on women in science. What I found changed my whole perspective on academia, my career, and most importantly: my life.

I learned that the tenure system is outdated, and filters out many creative and talented people. It was established ca. 1940, when those entering academic careers were mostly men. Assistant professors were expected to live on campus, and work intensively, around-the-clock, on establishing themselves until achieving tenure. Sounds a lot like graduate school, or a post-doc, doesn’t it? There’s not much room in that scenario for having a life outside of this pursuit. It turns out that not much has changed about this in the intervening 70+ years. To make it worse, there are now few jobs and too many of us with graduate degrees competing to fill them. It turns out that women, more often than men, are willing to forgo their academic dreams because of this ridiculousness, in favor of something better – probably a happier life. It seems that there are two issues. One: is it even possible? Women are confronted with the complications of basic biology at the very same time as they would be embarking on a demanding academic career. Most of us are well into our thirties, near the end of our child-bearing years, by the time we’re on the job search. Two: they’re exhausted, wondering if an academic career is akin to never-ending graduate school. In the academic atmosphere, there is intense pressure to do more; for example, publish or perish, fund or famish. Talent and creativity that science badly needs is undoubtedly lost as women and men continue to opt out of this outdated system, and for very reasonable grounds.

I took a long, hard look at my career so far. I’m on my third post-doc. I’ve had two failed relationships and a third that might not make it if I have to move again. I’m not married. I don’t have children. I’m in my mid-thirties, meaning that if I want to have children, I better get situated and do it soon. Maybe academia isn’t for me after all, even though my interests, teaching and research, are so well-aligned with the academic mission. I realized that my adult life so far, 90% career and 10% life outside of work, is a direct product of what I like to call our broken academic system. We need to better understand and voice our discontent with the broken academic system, or it won’t change.

I wondered if others feel the same way. In my field, had others thought of leaving science? And if so, why? Has the disparity in numbers of women and men graduates vs. those occupying professional positions actually changed in recent decades? Most importantly, what allows people to cope with such a rigorous career? I’ve been lucky to have had some great mentors, support from my family, and support and encouragement from the scientific community in my field. Have others had the same kinds of emotional support systems?

My study pursues these questions among three related fields: Forestry, Entomology, and Forest Entomology. In all three of these fields women are not historically well-represented, but this has changed in recent years, especially in Entomology. There are still few women in Forestry. Forest Entomology is a small field with a very inter-connected community, which I hope will provide an interesting contrast to its two larger, sister fields.

Please follow the link below to participate in my study, by completing my survey.

I invite men and women at all stages in their careers, as well as those who are no longer in science, to participate. Please forward this invitation to anyone you know who is no longer in science, but completed graduate school (M.S. or Ph.D.). The results of this study will be published in the primary literature.

Please follow the link below to complete the brief, 28-question survey by September 30, 2015

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/forestry-entomology

It may take 10-15 minutes to complete. I apologize for any cross-posting of this survey. No personal identifying information will be collected as part of the survey, and your participation will be completely anonymous. Answering questions in the survey will indicate consent. Participation is voluntary and you may withdraw at any time without penalty, and there are no incentives to participate. Participation will have no effect upon your relationship with the Entomological Society of Canada. This study has been determined Exempt from IRB review.

Please contact me if I can provide any additional information regarding the aims of or your participation in the survey (Laurel Haavik, 479-422-4997, haavik.1@osu.edu). For questions about your rights as a participant in this study or to discuss other study-related concerns or complaints with someone who is not part of the research team, you may contact Ms. Sandra Meadows in the Office of Responsible Research Practices at 1-800-678-6251 or hsconcerns@osu.edu.

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Emerald Ash Borer – marking 10 years of research

Emerald Ash Borer. Credit Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service. Bugwood.org

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis). Credit: Debbie Miller USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

To mark the publication of the Emerald Ash Borer special issue from The Canadian Entomologist, guest editors Chris MacQuarrie and Krista Ryall from Natural Resources Canada have co-authored this blog post about the issue.

In 2002, residents of Detroit, Michigan noticed something was killing their ash trees. Ash trees in North America are susceptible to some diseases that can result in decline and mortality, so a forest disease specialist was dispatched to investigate why these trees were dying. It was soon determined that the culprit was not a disease, but an insect: a shiny, metallic-green, buprestid beetle not previously known from Michigan, or anywhere else in North America. Authorities in Michigan notified their Canadian counterparts who soon discovered numerous ash trees dying in Windsor, Ontario from damage caused by the same beetle. Eventually, with the help of a European systematist the insect was determined to be the previously described (and previously rare) Agrilus planipennis. Today, this insect is better known by its common name:  the emerald ash borer.

To commemorate the discovery of emerald ash borer in North America, we organized a symposium and workshop at the 2013 Entomological Society of Canada’s and Ontario’s Joint Meeting in Guelph, Ontario. The timing and location of this workshop seemed appropriate because 2013 marked 10 years of research on the emerald ash borer and Guelph is located only a few 100 kilometres from where emerald ash borer was first found, and is now well within the insect’s Canadian range. Our goal with this symposium was to review the state of knowledge on emerald ash borer after ten years of research, and look ahead to the questions that researchers will be asking as the infestation continues to grow and spread. We were fortunate that many of the researchers who have contributed so much of what we know about emerald ash borer were able to participate.

We were quite pleased with how well the symposium turned out. However, information presented in a symposium is ephemeral and fades away as soon as the last talk is over. To prevent this, we imposed upon our presenters to also prepare written versions of their presentations. It took some time, but now these papers are all complete, and have been put together to form a special issue of The Canadian Entomologist dedicated to the emerald ash borer.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer.  Image credit: Chris MacQuarrie

Ten years is a long time in research. We estimated that over 300 papers on emerald ash borer had been produced over that period, with more being produced every month. It is our hope that this special issue can serve as an entry point into this literature for researchers new to the field. We also hope that this issue can be valuable to more established researchers as well, to use as a resource and a touchstone in their own work. This special issue can also serve as a reminder of how much effort is required (in both research and by people) to understand a new pest. What we have learned about emerald ash borer over the past ten years (well, 13 years now) is immense. There is still much to learn though.”

The Emerald Ash Borer special issue is the free sample issue of The Canadian Entomologist for 2015.

Access the special issue for free until 1st January 2016 here.

Main image credit: Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

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Canadian Entomology Research Roundup: January 2015 – March 2015

As a graduate student, publishing a paper is a big deal.  After spending countless hours doing the research, slogging through the writing process, soliciting comments from co-authors, formatting the paper to meet journal guidelines, and dealing with reviewer comments, it’s nice to finally get that acceptance letter and know that your work is getting out there.

We are continuing to help publicize graduate student publications to the wider entomological community through our Research Roundup. The ESC Student Affairs Committee is happy to be posting a second roundup of papers authored by Canadian graduate students. If you published an article recently and would like it featured, e-mail us at entsoccan.students@gmail.com.

For regular updates on new Canadian entomological research, you can join the ESC Students Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @esc_students.

So, what’s hot off the press, you ask? Here’s what some entomology grad students have been up to between 31 January 2015 and 4 March 2015:

Systematics and Morphology

Piophilidae is an important family of flies to forensic entomology: their occurrence on a corpse can help determine post-mortem interval and assist legal investigations. Sabrina Rochefort (McGill University) and colleagues provide an updated key to the forensically pertinent Piophilidae in the Nearctic Region. Article link

Read more in a post on the ESC Blog

Physiology

Enrique Rodriguez (University of Ottawa) and colleagues put the membrane pacemaker hypothesis to the test for the first time in invertebrates. They found that membrane composition of flight muscle in tropical orchid bees varies with body size and flight metabolic rate. Article link

Behaviour and Ecology

How do bumblebees deal with flowers that are blowing in the wind? Hamida Mirwan (University of Guelph) and colleague found that one species of bee showed no preference between mobile and immobile flowers but motion may be a factor in terms of foraging performance. Article link

Bombus impatiens

Bombus impatiens – By [1] [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Raphaël Royauté and colleagues found that the personality of a jumping spider was affected by sublethal insecticide exposure. Royauté wrote to us,

Jumping spiders exposed to low doses of insecticide show changes in their personalities. Insecticides alter behaviours by jamming neural transmission. Most studies on insecticide toxicity compare how behaviours differ in average between insecticide-exposed and control groups, but they don’t take into account how insecticides affect variation in behaviour (aka personality). Bronze Jumping Spiders exposed to the insecticide had lower amount of personality differences in activity and prey capture behaviours and exposed spiders were in general more “unpredictable”. These effect also varied by sex. Activity differences were more strongly affected in males while prey capture capacities were more strongly altered in females. 

These results suggest that the effects of insecticides on personality differences may manifest before any effects on the population as a whole are detected, in which case scientists may be frequently underestimating the toxicity of insecticides. Spiders play an important role in agricultural fields as they help regulate pest outbreaks. These personality alterations may affect spiders’ capacity to provide this important ecosystem service.

A more detailed explanation of this research is available here” 

Eris militaris

A female jumping spider, Eris militaris (Araneae: Salticidae). Photo by Crystal Ernst; provided by Raphaël Royauté

Matt Yunik (University of Manitoba) and colleagues discovered that unfed American dog ticks have the ability to survive an additional winter. Prior to this research, it was thought that these unfed ticks searching in spring died before the next winter. Article link

Fanny Maure (Université de Montréal) and others found and characterized a new RNA virus of Dinocampus coccinellae, a parasitoid of the ladybird beetle Coleomegilla maculata. The virus appears to be a symbiont of the parasitoid which is stored in the adult wasps’ oviducts and is transmitted by the parasitoid larva to its ladybird host. The virus then moves to the ladybird’s brain and replicates, inducing paralysis and twitching, around the same time that the parasitoid larva emerges and spins a cocoon between the legs of its host. The infected ladybird then acts as a twitchy bodyguard against predators while the parasitoid develops. Then, amazingly, when the adult parasitoid emerges from the cocoon, the viral infection in the ladybird’s brain clears and the host resumes normal behaviour! Article link

A ladybird "bodyguard" protecting its parasitoid from predators.  Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

A virally-manipulated ladybird “bodyguard” protecting its ‘puppet master’ from predators. Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

Former UdeM student Fanny Maure with her PhD work featured on the cover of National Geographic! Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

Former UdeM student Fanny Maure with her PhD work featured on the cover of National Geographic! Photo provided by Jacques Brodeur.

Megan McAuley (University of Guelph) and colleagues found that repeated conditioning with a floral scent is needed for long-term memory establishment in bumblebees. Article link

Murali-Mohan Ayyanath and colleagues show that sublethal doses of an insect growth regulator stimulate reproduction in the green peach aphid. Article link

Myzus persicae

Myzus persicae – By Scott Bauer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Do different pollen-packing behaviours by bees affect the functional value of pollen? PhD student Alison Parker and colleagues found that the pollen transported by non-corbiculate bees remains fully functional whereas the packing behaviour by corbiculate bee species can decrease the functionality of their pollen. This research suggests that non-corbiculate bees may be more valuable pollinators. Article link

A study by Lorraine Adderly and colleague finds that solitary bees are important for pollination in seablush plants in the Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island. Article link 

Insect Management

Chaminda E. Amal de Silva helped provide evidence for there being high rates of blueberry spanworm parasitism in lowbush blueberry fields in eastern Canada. De Silva and colleagues suggest using augmentative or conservation biological control as a management technique against spanworm. Article link

For a forest moth, colouration is costly—especially under poor conditions (Article link). Coming soon, we will be featuring a post by Jessica Ethier (Concordia University), who took the lead on this long-term project.