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Posts Tagged: Frank Zalom

A True Success Story

Eggs of Virginia Creeper leafhoppers. (Photo by Cindy Preto)
Meet Cindy Preto.

The new UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's graduate student is an incredible success story who hurdled the obstacles heaved in her path and lets nothing—absolutely nothing--block her education, enthusiasm, research or goals.

The first thing you notice is her unbridled enthusiasm, whether she's monitoring Virginia Creeper leafhoppers or  parasitized leafhopper eggs in a UC Davis research vineyard, or sharing insect photos of everything from assassin bugs to praying mantids.

Preto, a former foster care youth, turned a disadvantaged childhood into a college diploma, and a college diploma into graduate school. 

“I'm the first in my family to graduate from college and to attend graduate school,” said Preto, who calls Los Angeles “home.” 

In June, UC Davis awarded her a bachelor's degree in viticulture and enology with an entomology minor in agricultural pest management. Now she's studying for her master's degree in entomology with major professor and integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

A Virginia Creeper leafhopper nymph. (Photo by Cindy Preto)
Despite his heavy schedule of teaching, research, public service and administration, Zalom-- president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America and gearing up for the national meeting Nov. 16-19 in Portland, Ore.--opted to take “one more graduate student.” 

“I first met Cindy in my Entomology 110 class, Arthropod Pest Management,” Zalom recalled. “She was usually the last student to leave the diagnostic labs each week, and one time she apologized to me for staying so long. She said that she had been out of school and working for a while so she wanted to get the most out of her classes.” 

“She was a viticulture and enology major,” Zalom said.  “We discussed having her do an undergrad research project on grapes, so she applied for and received a MURALS (Mentorship for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters and Science) scholarship which allowed her to conduct a project in my lab.” 

 Her project? The development of the invasive European grapevine moth. Preto conducted her research in the Contained Research Facility on campus with co-advisors Spencer Walse and Dave Bellamy of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Like Zalom, they praised her “excellent work ethic and enthusiasm.” 

Preto has presented her research at the UC Davis Undergrad Research Conference and at the ESA's 2013 national meeting on “The Effects of Temperature on the Chronological Distribution of European Grapevine Moth's (Lobesia botrana) Life Stages from Egg Eclosion.”  Next she'll present her undergraduate research at the ESA's 2014 meeting and is currently preparing a manuscript as a co-author for publication. 

On Saturday, Sept. 27 Preto will represent the Zalom lab at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on “How To Be an Entomologist” from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.” She'll show visitors what leafhoppers and parasitized eggs look like. 

“I am currently doing a biological survey of Virginia Creeper leafhopper in vineyards, looking at the population dynamics of all life stages, egg, nymphs, and adults,”  Preto said. 

The Virginia Creeper is one of three leafhoppers that she's studying in her population dynamics research. The others are the Western grape leafhopper and the Variegated leafhopper. They're all about the same size: 2 millimeters. In rearing eggs from nymphs to adults, she knows the distinguishing characteristics of each.

Zalom admires her enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism. “I was not seeking another grad student, but I couldn't help but accept Cindy into my lab when she decided that she would like to pursue a master's degree,” Zalom recalled. “Her project on leafhoppers associated with grapes fits her goals of working again in the grape industry when she completes her degree. Her enthusiasm for learning hasn't changed, and her research has been proceeding very well.” 

Indeed it has. She's also drawing widespread attention as a scholar. She received a Peter J. Shields Scholarship in September 2011; a Wine Spectator scholarship in September 2012; the MURALS research scholarship in November 2012; a Syngenta Scholarship, June 2013; a Wine Spectator Scholarship in October 2013; and an Orange County Wine Society Scholarship in October 2013.

Preto also participates in the new UC Davis program, Guardian Professions Program or GPP, which is open to Masters/Ph.D students who are former foster care youth. And, she continues to participate in the Guardian Scholars Program or GSP, open to all UC Davis students who were cared for in foster homes. GSP students offer support for one another and also to current and former foster care youth in local high schools and community colleges by offering UC Davis campus tours, outreach, interactive activities, and speaking on panels to share their story in hopes of encouraging former foster care youth to seek higher education.

A world traveler, she has journeyed to all seven continents, all 50 states, and to 59 countries. "It can be inexpensive," she said. Along the way, she's taken scores of images of insects.

Preto takes a multi-disciplinary approach to not only her research but life in general, eager to know, learn and share.  She figuratively skips to work, excitedly looking forward to new entomological finds.  She's recorded and photographed not only leafhoppers, but assassin bugs, minute pirate bugs, stink bugs, lace bugs, mites, thrips, damselflies, dragonflies, moths, bees, wasps, spiders (jumping spiders and black widows), whiteflies and praying mantids.

 When Preto is not out in the field monitoring insects, you'll usually find her reading about them or studying them in the lab—weekends included.  “It's extremely fascinating,” she said. 

Her career goal? To work for a vineyard in a pest and disease management position, preferably in an organic grape or sustainable vineyard. Another goal:  to receive her Pest Control Adviser license.

 “I love it,” she said. 

UC Davis graduate student Cindy Preto is studying vineyard leafhoppers. (Photo by Liam Swords)
UC Davis graduate student Cindy Preto is studying vineyard leafhoppers. (Photo by Liam Swords)

UC Davis graduate student Cindy Preto is studying vineyard leafhoppers. (Photo by Liam Swords)

Cindy Preto, shown here in a UC Davis vineyard, is the first in her family to graduate from college. She's now a master's student, studying with Frank Zalom. (Photo by Liam Swords)
Cindy Preto, shown here in a UC Davis vineyard, is the first in her family to graduate from college. She's now a master's student, studying with Frank Zalom. (Photo by Liam Swords)

Cindy Preto, shown here in a UC Davis vineyard, is the first in her family to graduate from college. She's now a master's student, studying with Frank Zalom. (Photo by Liam Swords)

Sticky traps in the vineyard. (Photo by Cindy Preto)
Sticky traps in the vineyard. (Photo by Cindy Preto)

Sticky traps in the vineyard. (Photo by Cindy Preto)

Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 5:48 PM

Medflies: Permanent Residents

James R. Carey in front of a California map. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Breaking news shook the agricultural world today.

The Mediterranean fruit fly, considered the world's worst agricultural pest, is one of at least five fruit flies established in California. It cannot be eradicated.

So says entomologist James Carey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who has been dogging medflies since his faculty appointment in 1980. (See what drove him.)

Carey and UC Davis-affiliated colleagues Nikos Papadopoulos and Richard Plant wrote the eye-opening research piece, "From Trickle to Flood: The Large Scale, Cryptic Invasion of California by Tropical Fruit Flies" in the current edition of the renowned Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Their work "clearly demonstrates that at least five and as many as nine species of tropical fruit flies, including the infamous Medfly, are permanently established in California and inexorably spreading, despite more than 30 years of intervention and nearly 300 state-sponsored eradication programs aimed at the flies," wrote Pat Bailey in a UC Davis News Service story released today. 

The findings, Bailey pointed out, have "significant implications for how government agencies develop policies to successfully manage pests that pose a threat to California's $43.5 billion agricultural industry."

Carey, an international authority on fruit-fly invasion biology, told her that "Despite due diligence, quick responses, and massive expenditures to prevent entry and establishment of these insects, virtually all of the fruit-fly species targeted by eradication projects have been reappearing in the same locations — several of them annually — and gradually spreading in the state."

Carey, Papadopoulos and Plant detailed the problem in the opening paragraph of their meticulously researched paper: "Since 1954 when the first tropical tephritid fruitfly was detected in California, a total of 17 species in four genera and 11,386 individuals (adults/larvae) have been detected in the state at more than 3348 locations in 330 cities." That's three out of four California cities.

Frank Zalom, incoming ESA president. (Photo by Kathy Garvey)
Among those who weighed in on the research paper: 

Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: "The study has dramatic implications for California agriculture and the state’s international trading partners, and speaks to the urgent need to alter current eradication policies aimed at invasive species."

Frank Zalom, UC Davis entomology professor and incoming president of the 6500-member Entomological Society of America: “This study deserves serious consideration, and I hope that it helps lead to new discussions on a long-term approach for dealing with fruit flies and similar exotic pests by the United States and international regulatory authorities."

Former UC Davis chancellor Ted Hullar (1987-1994), one of the first to believe in "the science" that Carey presented, said:  “From our first conversation, Jim struck me as a serious-minded guy, with strong ideas and clear focus, pursuing his insights and beliefs no matter the struggle. Good science and progress comes from that, making new paths in tough terrain, believing in the power of journey, as well as goal.”

Former UC Davis Chancellor Ted Hullar
The Medfly, smaller than a house fly, was first detected in California in 1975. It's considered the world's worst agricultural insect pest due to its wide distribution, wide range of hosts (its larvae infest more than 260 fruits and vegetables), and its ability to tolerate cool climates. 

The Medfly prefers such thin-skinned hosts as peach, nectarine, apricot, avocado, grapefruit, orange, and cherry. The female may lay one to 10 eggs per fruit or as many as 22 eggs per day. She may lay up to 800 eggs during her lifetime, but usually about 300. 

We remember when the Medfly wreaked economic havoc in the Solano County city of Dixon in September 2007. We were there.

At the time, Carey told us that "this may be just one of many isolated pockets of medfly infestations in California. This is really serious because the invasion process is so insidious."

The Medfly has been multiplying and spreading undetected--like cancer--for years, he said.  "It may be a symptom of a much larger problem. But any way you look at it, this is the first really big outbreak in the Central Valley."

CDFA set up a command center at the Dixon May Fair and imposed a 114-mile radius quarantine of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Dixon was deep in the throes of tomato and walnut harvesting. The owner of a 65-acre organic produce farm that ships to 800 clients worried  that he might lose $10,000 a week in potential sales.

Among the actions that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) took at the onset:

  • Stripped all fruit from trees within a 100-meter radius of all Medfly finds
  • Ground-sprayed the organic compound Naturalyte (the active ingredient is Spinosad, a naturally occurring product of a soil bacteria) within a 200-meter radius of all Medfly finds
  • Set 1,700 fruit fly traps within an 81-square mile grid in all of Dixon and the surrounding area from near the Yolo County border to Midway Road
  • Began aerially releasing 1.5 million sterile male medflies (dyed pink for easy detection) over a 12-square mile area on Sept. 14, with weekly releases of 3 million medflies scheduled for at least nine months
  • Set up a yearlong command center, with four portable buildings and a task force of 25, on the Dixon May Fair grounds

Fast forward to today. Now that the Medfly has been declared a "permanent resident," what's next?

Carey agrees that “CDFA needs to continue to respond to outbreaks as they occur, but he advocates long-term planning based on “the science” that the insects are established. This includes heightened monitoring levels for the agriculturally rich Central Valley, an economic impact study, risk management/crop insurance, cropping strategies, fly fee zones/post harvest treatments, emergency/crisis planning, genetic analysis and a National Fruit Fly Program.

“Inasmuch as the Mediterranean, Mexican, Oriental, melon, guava and peach fruit flies have all been detected in the Central Valley, monitoring this incredibly important agricultural region should be increased by 5 to 10-fold in order to intervene and suppress populations and thus slow the spread,” Carey says.

“These pests cannot be wished away or legislated out of existence. Policymakers need to come to grips with this sobering reality of multiple species permanently established in our state in order to come up with a long-term, science-based policy for protecting agriculture in our state.”

(See James Carey's website for links to his work on fruit fly invasion.)

Mediterranean Fruit Fly. (Photo by Jack Kelly Clark)
Mediterranean Fruit Fly. (Photo by Jack Kelly Clark)

Mediterranean Fruit Fly. (Photo by Jack Kelly Clark)

Posted on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 9:46 PM

Good Job!

Daren Harris (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's a fantastic project.

The UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA) has decided to provide travel funds to entomology undergraduates who want to present their research at entomological associations.

So EGSA has established the Jude Plummer Travel Grant, so named because Plummer, a pest control manager in Florida, donated $50 “to be used for such a cause,” said EGSA president Jenny Carlson, a Ph.D. candidate in the Vector Genetics Lab.  

This week EGSA announced the first recipient of the Jude Plummer Travel Grant: Daren Harris,  who received his bachelor of science degree in entomology from UC Davis in December. 

Harris will receive a travel grant of $300 to present his poster on the spotted wing drosophila at the 2013 meeting of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, set April 6-11 at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Nev. 

Harris' poster is titled “Seasonal Trapping of Drosophila suzukii (Diptera:  Drosophilidae) in a Multi-Crop Setting.” He works as a lab assistant in the Frank Zalom lab, studying with professor Zalom and Ph.D candidate Kelly Hamby.

“We will be providing an opportunity for UC Davis undergraduates to apply twice a year for a total of $300, depending on funds,” Carlson said. “We will have one in the winter and one in the fall.” Those who want to support the project can donate to the EGSA fund or buy entomology t-shirts. 

Harris, who minored in fungal biology and ecology, plans to pursue a master’s degree in forest entomology. “I would like to study insect-fungus interactions with a  focus on inoculation of forest pests with entomophagous fungi,” he said. “Many of these pests are gregarious so capture, inoculation and release of a few  individuals may disseminate the pathogen to a large population.” 

“My  ultimate  goal is to work with the USDA forest service. I would love nothing more  than to make my living tromping around in beautiful north American forests." 

Harris said he initially wanted to be a taxidermist. “As a child I had bookshelves filled with biological oddities  and ‘specimens,’ including dead animals in jars of formaldehyde. My collection included everything from pet rodents to road kill. A high school biology teacher turned me on to entomology and I was hooked. The capture  and curation of insects satisfied that childhood collection impulse, with  the added bonus of frolicking through fields with a net.”

This tiny spotted wing drosophila is what Daren Harris is studying. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This tiny spotted wing drosophila is what Daren Harris is studying. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This tiny spotted wing drosophila is what Daren Harris is studying. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Our Man (Entomologist) in Washington

Frank Zalom in strawberry field in Watsonville.
It's going to be a busy year for UC Davis integrated pest management specialist/professor Frank Zalom.

Make that several years.

Zalom, who just completed a year as the vice president-elect of the 6000-member Entomological Society of America (ESA), was installed as vice president of the organization at its meeting last month in Knoxville, Tenn. and is in line for the presidency.

So, his ESA commitment totals four years: first as vice president-elect, then as the vice president, then as president, and finally, past president. Each is a one-year term.

ESA, founded in 1889 and now headquartered in Lanham, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., draws members from all over the world. They're primarily in educational institutions, health agencies, private industry and government.  

Zalom will be the second UC Davis entomologist to serve as ESA president. The first was Donald McLean, who held the top ESA office in 1986. Now an emeritus professor, McLean chaired the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1974 to 1979 and served as dean of the Division of Biological Sciences from 1979 to 1986. 

As ESA's new VP, Frank Zalom is already assuming a myriad of duties. He participated in the 2012 Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP) conference held Dec. 8-10 in Washington, D.C.

ESA president Robert Wiedenmann, professor and head of the University of Arkansas Department of Entomology, and Zalom represented ESA at the meeting. The Council membership is comprised of presidents, presidents-elect and recent past presidents representing some 60 scientific federations and societies. The combined membership totals more than 1.4 million scientists and science educators. 

Among the many speakers were Paula Apsell, senior executive producer of NOVA-TV, who led a discussion on “Building Pubic Appreciation for Science”; Ian Shipsey, physics professor at Purdue University, who spoke on “Higgs Boson: How It Imparts Mass”; Lori Garver of NASA, “Mars and Beyond—Exploring the Endless Frontiers”; and Millie Dresselhaus, professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Nanoscale Carbon Electron-Phonon Interaction.” Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering, keynoted the awards banquet on Dec. 9.

The CSSP contingent also met for a breakfast on Capitol Hill, interacting with congressional leaders, including chiefs of staff and senators.

According to a CSSP brochure, “The Council regularly develops national policy coordination recommended by its committees on issues of importance to the scientific community.” 

Among those issues are science and mathematics education; university-based research; federal research and education budget; responsible conduct of science; merit review of federally supported science; unimpeded exchange of scientific information; magnifying public science literary; research on teaching and learning; and directions for 21st century science.

Now the ESA governing board is gearing up for its 61st annual meeting, set Nov. 10-13, 2013 (initially set for Nov. 17-20) in Austin, Texas.  Also on the governing board from UC Davis is Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, who represents the ESA's Pacific Branch.

Theme of the 61st annual meeting? “Science Impacting a Connected World.”

ESA vice president Frank Zalom (far right) of UC Davis with ESA president Robert Wiedenmann (far left) of the University of Arkansas, and Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). (Photo courtesy of ESA)
ESA vice president Frank Zalom (far right) of UC Davis with ESA president Robert Wiedenmann (far left) of the University of Arkansas, and Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). (Photo courtesy of ESA)

ESA vice president Frank Zalom (far right) of UC Davis with ESA president Robert Wiedenmann (far left) of the University of Arkansas, and Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). (Photo courtesy of ESA)

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11:19 PM

Turning Over a New Leaf (Footed Bug)

When you first see the leaffooted bug, you know immediately how it got its name.

The appendages on its feet look like leaves!

This morning we saw one in our catmint (Nepeta) patch. It crawled beneath the tiny leaves, sharing space with honey bees, European wool carder bees, butterflies and assorted spiders.

Tonight scores of them stormed our pomegranate tree.  In fact, they made the immature  fruit their kitchen, living room and bedroom. 

Although the leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus clypealis) is a pest of pistachios and almonds,  we've never seen it on our pomegranate tree until today. Our tree, planted in 1927--back when Herbert Hoover was the U.S. president--has few pests. One year white flies attacked it mercilessly. Tonight leaffooted bugs claimed squatters' rights.

The adult bug is about an inch long with a white or yellow zigzag across its back. Shades of Zorro! Its most distinctive feature, however, are the leaflike appendages on its feet.

Back in 2009, integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, co-authored UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines on the leaffooted bug as it pertains to almonds. Zalom and his colleagues called attention to their needlelike mouthparts. The adults feed on young nuts "before the shell hardens." And after the nut is developed,  "leaffooted bug feeding can still cause black spots on the kernel or wrinkled, misshapen nutmeats."

As for our pomegranate tree, we're not sure how well these leaffooted bugs can probe the tough, leathery fruit. 

We open the pomegranates with a serrated knife...

Close-up of leaffooted bug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of leaffooted bug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of leaffooted bug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Leaffooted bugs making pomegranates their kitchen, living room and bedroom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Leaffooted bugs making pomegranates their kitchen, living room and bedroom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Leaffooted bugs making pomegranates their kitchen, living room and bedroom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Beady eyes, colorful antennae and appendages on its feet that look like leaves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beady eyes, colorful antennae and appendages on its feet that look like leaves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Beady eyes, colorful antennae and appendages on its feet that look like leaves. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:17 PM

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