Differentiating between scavengers and entomopathogenic nematodes

Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) are a special guild of insect-parasitic nematodes. What sets them apart from other insect-parasitic nematodes are their ability to rapidly kill their host, and their use of bacteria to facilitate their lifestyle. There are an increasing number of species descriptions that include new species of EPNs, even when the newly described species is not in fact an EPN.  A recent study on how to differentiate between EPNs and scavengers was recently published. This work was done by Tiffany Baiocchi, Dennis Chang, and Dihong Lu, in collaboration with visiting scholar Keyun Zhang. Congratulations to the authors, this is a nice study that should prove useful to researchers describing new insect-associated nematodes.

Paper on EPN Response to Prenol Published

A study done by recent graduates Kassandra Kin and Dr. Tiffany Baiocchi was recently published in Biology. The study investigates the behavioral response of several entomopathogenic nematodes to the odor prenol, which is associated with nematode-infected insects. Since performing this work these scientists have moved on in their careers:
After graduating from UCR in June of 2019 Kassandra has accepted a position at NYU’s Stienhardt Teacher Residency program. Tiffany graduated with her Ph.D. in June of 2019 and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at Cal State Northridge in the Hong Lab.

Tiffany Baiocchi Awarded Outstanding Student Award

Congratulations to Dr. Tiffany Baoicchi!! The Nathan A. Cobb Foundation and the Society of Nematologists awards Tiffany Baiocchi the John M. Webster Outstanding Student Award for 2019. This is the highest award given to a PhD student by the the Society of Nematologists.

Tiffany received her award at the 2019 annual Society of Nematologists meeting in Raleigh, NC.

Tiffany & Dennis Graduate!

Dennis Chang and Tiffany Baiocchi walked and were hooded at UCR’s graduation this summer. They are the first graduate students trained in the Dillman Lab to earn a Ph.D. Dennis will defend his thesis later this year. Tiffany will begin her postdoctoral research in the Hong lab at Cal State Northridge later this summer. Congratulations!

2019 GSA Drosophila Meeting & Molecular Helminthology Meeting


Sophia & Valentina attended the 60th annual Drosophila Research Conference in Dallas. Adler attended the 2019 Molecular Helminthology conference in San Antonio. We received some positive feedback and new ideas that look forward to working on.

Proof of Concept Funding

We are excited to learn that our work on nematode-derived toxins will be supported by proof of concept funding by UCR. “We look for projects that promise to solve one or more urgent problems. We help those researchers with a little seed funding to move their work closer to commercialization,” explained Mark Leibowitz, interim director of UCR’s Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Center, or EPIC.”

“Adler Dillman, an assistant professor of nematology, received $30,000 to identify the proteins some nematodes secrete when they infect an insect and kill it. Dillman plans to use the toxin in a pesticide, or genetically modify crops to produce the protein and become naturally insect-resistant. Most corn and cotton in the U.S., for example, has been genetically modified to produce a protein called BT toxin, originally found in a type of bacteria. But insects are starting to resist BT toxin, and the nematode-derived toxin could serve as a supplement or alternative.”

https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2019/01/10/awards-help-faculty-commercialize-inventions

Sand cricket resistance to EPN infection


Congratulations to Sudarshan, Dihong, Kathleen, Lauren, and Carter on the recent publication of their work on sand crickets. We are excited that this paper includes 3 undergraduate students as co-authors. We are eager to continue our research on S. scapterisci and its relationship with its bacterial symbiont X. innexi. This specialist parasite is becoming more interesting the more we learn about it.

Collaborative R21 Funded

Our collaborative R21 with the Nair lab was recently funded. This proposal is focused on investigating the tissue tropism of nematode parasites and to increase our understanding of their ability to adapt to host immunity. We excited to continue our collaboration with the Nair lab and to be performing more work with nematode parasites of mammals.