Lepidopterists honor Jerry Powell

Speakers from the Powell symposium (l-r): Dave Wagner, Frank Hsu, Felix Sperling, Eric Metzler, Dan Rubinoff, Jerry Powell, Jim Kruse, Kelly Richers, Peter Oboyski, John Brown.

Dr. Jerry Powell was honored on July 30, 2017, at the Lepidopterist Society annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona, with a symposium organized by John Brown, Dan Rubinoff, and Dave Wagner. Speakers included students and colleagues who roasted and toasted Jerry, who sat with his wife Liz in arm chairs at the front of the room. A general theme throughout the presentations (besides Jerry’s demanding and often gruff facade) was how he influenced the trajectory of each person’s career. Others who chimed in remotely, either by Skype or email, included: Dan Janzen, Jim Liebherr, Cheryl Barr, and John De Benedictis. 

Jerry and Liz with front row seats to the roastng.

Jerry is known largely for his work in Lepidoptera, particularly microlepidoptera (ie. small moths). His publications (>240) include Moths of Western North America, (Field Guide to) California Insects, the biology and systematics of spruce budworm, Lepidoptera of the California Channel Islands, yuccas and yucca moths, insects of California sand dune habitats, and a long list of collaborations on various moth groups, including the taxonomy, systematics, and biology of Tortricidae, Heliodinidae, Ethmiidae, Prodoxidae, Pyralidae, and many others. He described as new 227 species of Lepidoptera, and collected over 440 holotypes in various groups. Over 40 species of insects have been named for Powell in seven orders to-date (Hemiptera x1, Neuroptera x1, Diptera x9, Coleoptera x4, Hymenoptera x5, Trichoptera x1, Lepidoptera x22). A true “vacuum cleaner” collector, Powell has contributed many hundreds of thousands of specimens to the Essig Museum of Entomology, where he still curates the Lepidoptera collection a few hours every day.

Comic on Powell’s office door.

Speakers also reminded the audience of their favorite Powell quotes and phrases: “If it was easy someone would have done it already”, “Science moves forward by creeps and jerks”, “chowdered”, “corked”, “good grief”, “One larva; two larvae / NO EXCEPTIONS”, Powell’s Law: “No biologist studies anything found within 100 miles of where they live.”

Although Jerry’s main research focus has always been the insect fauna of western North America, especially California, what was evident from the comments of speakers and other contributors is Jerry’s depth and breadth of knowledge in both insects and plants (and their interactions), and his influence on the careers of entomologists throughout the country and on most continents. Perhaps just as telling is a comment made by a citizen scientist helping to digitize label data from the Essig Museum specimen collection through our Notes From Nature portal who quipped, “Who is this Jerry Powell? Is he some sort of vampire? He has been collecting for over 60 years!”

Jerry Powell collecting in Anza Borrego, March 2017.

 

“Bugged” – California Alumni Magazine, Fall 2017

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The Essig Museum of Entomology was featured in the fall 2017 issue of the California Alumni Magazine. The issue explores the many different uses of the word “bug”, as best explained by UC Berkeley School of Information professor, Geoffrey Nunberg, in Krissy Eliot’s article An Entomological Etymology. The feature article on the Essig Museum, by Pat Joseph, explores the past, present, and future importance of The Bug Collection. The magazine also includes For Love of Roaches: confessions of an entomophile (not yet online), by Kaitlyn Kraybill-Voth, a recent UC Berkeley graduate that spent over three years working as a collections assistant in the Essig Museum.

As if the words and photos are not enough, video journalist Marika Petrey created four short videos that are available below: Introducing Bugged, How to Mount a Moth, How to Kill the Specimen, and Why Entomology? These videos provide a sneak peak into the daily activities of the Essig Museum. Enjoy!

 

 

Butterfly workshop – May 20/21, 2017

The Jepson Herbarium & Essig Museum
Co-Present: 

Butterflies: Biology, Behavior & Identification

May 20-21, 2017
 

Led by the Essig Museum of Entomology’s Dr. Peter Oboyski, this workshop is open to anyone who is curious about butterflies: perfect for naturalists, gardeners, and enthusiasts alike, in this course we will explore the diversity of butterflies, their life cycles and host plants, behaviors, and identification, with a special focus on California and the Bay Area. We will also discuss how to promote butterflies in your own neighborhood by providing resources for both larvae and adults. This workshop includes a tour of the Essig Museum, a field trip to nearby native butterfly habitats, and a visit from some guest speakers!

Visit the Jepson Workshops website for registration information

Enrollment is still open for this course! For more information or to register, contact Allyson Ayalon, Public Programs Coordinator at the Jepson Herbarium. Phone: 510-643-7008. Email: alayalon@berkeley.edu.

Sulawesi Expedition 2016

The island of Sulawesi (aka. Celebes) is nestled between Borneo, Papua, and the Philippines in a region of Indonesia known as Wallacea. It was formed by a collision of the Asia plate, Australian plate, and a system of island arcs, each contributing their fauna and flora. The resulting complex biogeographical patterns were a fascination to Alfred Russel Wallace and continue to be for modern biologists. Thanks to an NSF Biodiversity: Discovery & Analysis grant (DEB 1457845) led by Jim McGuire of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ), and co-PIs Rauri Bowie (MVZ), Rosemary Gillespie (Essig), and Susan Perkins (AMNH), a multi-taxon team of biologists will survey an elevation gradient across nine volcanoes distributed throughout the island.

The first expedition in July-August 2016 was to Latimojong in the northern part of South Sulawesi. Six researchers from the Berkeley Natural History Museums: Peter Oboyski (Essig), Jim McGuire, Rauri Bowie, Luke Bloch, Alexander Stubbs, Jeff Frederick (MVZ),  along with Heidi Rockney (SF State) met with colleagues from Australia and the Indonesia Research Center for Biology in Bogor, West Java to organize the inaugural trip. Permitting and other paperwork took two weeks onsite, and this was the expedited processing! Fortunately we were able to visit the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriensis and the Bogor Botanical Garden, and buy field supplies while we waited. The entomology collection is extensive with butterflies and other macrolepidoptera, beetles, bugs, bees, and flies well represented. Not so well represented are microlepidoptera and spiders – two of the targets of this expedition. The facilities are modern with good climate control. The well-educated and knowledgeable curators and staff prepare and database accessions, conduct research, and train students. Although there were some language barriers, there were enough people from each team that spoke the others’ language, which greatly facilitated our collaboration.

Two weeks later, over 20 biologists flew from Jakarta (Java) to Makassar (Sulawesi) to purchase final supplies and make the ten hour drive to the town of Belopa where we spent the night. The next morning we made our final push, by 4WD vehicles to the village of Gamaru – our first field camp. The village, at 1350m elevation, included ~20 simple wooden houses within a matrix of coffee plantations, small gardens, ponds, and secondary native forest. Our home for the first few days was the house of one of the village leaders, while a team of local villagers begin building our field camp and porting gear and supplies.

The first week was rainy and muddy, but the new moon was optimal for UV light collecting. On the first night, a sheet hung under the house with a view into the valley below was one of the best nights of moth collecting.

The next camp was at 1730m along a trail leading from Gamaru village. More secondary forest with a lot of invasive plant species along the trail, but native forest off the trail. We set up pitfall traps, malaise tents, and sifted leaf litter to put in winkler funnels at 100m intervals from 1800 to 2400m, but did not acquire many specimens (possibly due to rain or poor timing). Hand collecting for spiders proved very productive. The highest field camp (2800m) was in a dwarf forest / bog along the upper ridge of the mountain – a distinctly different habitat with a unique insect fauna.

The last few days of the three-week field operation was spent in another village at 800m, which was in the process of being cleared for agriculture and development. Remnants of native forest remained and collecting was generally good. But it was clear that this area would soon be completely converted to agriculture, like many rural areas. After returning to Bogor and the museum, it was time to count specimens for export permits and pack our bags.

More images of Sulawesi Lepidoptera can be found at our Flickr site. We can use your help in identifying these species.

  • by Peter Oboyski

CalDay – April 22, 2017

CalDay is here! Join us on Saturday, April 22 for amazing arthropod displays, education, and fun. This year’s lecture series will focus on disease and feature Dr. Bob Lane (professor emeritus) talking about ticks and tick-borne diseases in California in “California Tick Talk”. Other lectures include Dr. Matteo Garbalatto on “Invasion of the Tree Killers” including sudden oak death, Dr. Michelle Koo on “Amphibian Decline”, Dr. Michael Shapira on “Microbiomes in Health and Disease”, and PhD student Sara ElShafie on “Real World Fanastic Beasts”.

There will be live arthropods (stick insects, hissing roaches, and more) in the Valley Life Science Building courtyard, and displays of insects from around the world in room 3003 Valley Life Science Building. And don’t forget to visit the UC Berkeley Entomology Club between 11:00 and 1:00 for more displays, face painting, and information about the club.

There will also be behind the scenes tours of the Essig Museum in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. Find out more in 3003 VLSB.

See you at CalDay!

 

Darwin (Evolution) Day – February 10, 2017

Darwindday2007_frontFebruary 10th, 2017 (Friday) 12:00 – 5:30pm

Each year, the Essig Museum celebrates Darwin’s birthday on February 12th. Visit the Essig for special behind-the-scenes tours of our museum in the Valley Life Sciences Building; see specimens of Galapagos finches, iguanas, and tortoise shells; herbarium specimens, live orchids and insectivorous plants; and learn how Darwin and other naturalists improved our understanding of how evolution works in the natural world. RSVP to essig.museum@gmail.com for tours at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00pm.

Lepidopterists Aggregation – January 27, 2018

Lepidopterists Aggregation – January 27, 2018

SilveryBlueYou  and your guests are invited to UC Berkeley for the annual mid-winter gathering of Northern California Lepidopterists and Essig Museum of Entomology open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 27, 2018. As in previous years, you need not be a Northern Californian or a Lepidopterist to attend.

Visitors are encouraged to bring specimens, photos, Power Point presentations or slides from collecting trips, and tales of collecting triumphs to share with others. There will be no formal program. There is no charge. Attending lepidopterists may be able to help you identify specimens, and the museum collection will be open for your inspection. For further information, contact your hosts – Peter Oboyski and Jerry Powell, essig.museum@gmail.com, 510-643-0804.

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