Emily Bick: Entomologist Extraordinaire Off to University of Copenhagen

It's difficult to believe that it was four years ago--four years ago!--that Emily Bick, entomology student extraordinaire, joined the doctoral program in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

How fast time passes.

Bick will present her exit seminar at 3 p.m., Monday, Aug. 5 in Room 158 of Briggs Hall. Her topic: "Evaluating the Relative Importance of Mechanisms for Diverse Plant Use in Agroecosystem Herbivore Mitigation: an Example in California Strawberries."

"As pest management strategies shift away from agrochemical use, practitioners aim to implement more ecologically friendly practices," Bick writes in her abstract. "One such practice uses diverse crops placed in an agroecosystem to mitigate pest damage. There are many possible mechanisms which facilitate this phenomenon. Knowing a diverse plant's mechanism(s) allows for more efficient field implementation."

"This presentation will evaluate the mechanism of the economic benefit of planting alfalfa in a California strawberry monoculture. Using a novel CO2 based sampling method, spatially explicit samples were taken at three sites over two years. We found that alfalfa did not act, as previously identified, a trap crop, but rather its presence actually increased natural enemies. This work serves as a framework for evaluation of the mechanism for use of diverse plants in agricultural landscapes."

Bick, who has accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Copenhagen, specializes in integrated pest management (IPM). She received her bachelor's degree in entomology in 2013 from Cornell University, and her master's degree in entomology in 2017 from UC Davis. She joined the doctoral program in September 2015.

Bick served as an emergency medical technician from 2008 to 2017 and gained her pesticide applicator's license in 2013. She was singled out to receive the Student Certification Award at the Entomological Society of America (ESA) meeting in 2018. In 2014, she was named a Board-Certified Entomologist, a honor bestowed on her at the ESA meeting.

Bick helped anchor the UC Davis Linnaean Games Team that won the national championship at the ESA meeting in 2016, and the University of California (UC Davis and UC Berkeley) Linnaean Games Team that won the national championship again in 2018. (See Bug Squad blog.) The Linnaean Games, launched in 1983, are lively question-and-answer, college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts and played by winners of the ESA branch competitions. The teams score points by correctly answering random questions. (Watch the 2016 championship round on YouTube).

Bick was also active in the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association (EGSA), serving as vice president.

A person of many talents, she wrote a highly praised review of the San Francisco-staged play, An Entomologist's Love Story, published in May of 2018 in Entomology Today. Tweeted the San Francisco Playhouse: “Quite possibly the coolest review we've ever received.”

In her review, Bick wrote that the play “shows that life imitates art and art imitates life, with insect mating rituals serving as a proxy for human dating behavior.”

“The well-known antagonistic insect mating behavior of bed bugs' traumatic insemination, praying mantids' sexual cannibalism, and honey bees' mating plugs are all accurately described and then used to represent adversarial (human) dating behavior. Fireflies' bioluminescence, meanwhile, is cast in a romantic light.”

“The play brims with entomological humor, from anthropomorphizing bed bugs to a running joke that sometimes volunteers actually make life harder for researchers,” Bick noted. “While the public will be entertained by the gross descriptions of entomological behavior (pun intended), only we insect scientists will know that the 'Lou' the protagonists keep referring to is actually Dr. Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (and that, yes, he does keep a bed bug colony there). Or, for those of us who have been lucky enough to take a tour, you know the Museum's offices really are that difficult to get to.”

Now it's off to the historic University of Copenhagen for the next chapter of her entomological life. "I am moving to Copenhagen on Aug. 31 but moving out of Davis the week before," she says.

That would be as Dr. Emily Bick...entomologist extraordinaire.